Following the Thai Government’s approval of the commercial growing and use of hemp and cannabis for consumer goods, soft drink manufacturers are scrambling to cash-in on the high potential of cannabidiol (CBD) beverages.

Thailand’s largest tea producer, Ichitan, aims to gain a first-mover advantage in this market. The company will launch Green Lab, a terpene infused beverage, in April marking its foray into functional beverages positioned for relaxation and stress relief. Terpene is a compound found in plants, which consumers associate with CBD due to CBD having a high concentration of terpene. This launch is set to begin the CBD movement in Thailand while awaiting regulatory approval for actual CBD infused beverages in the second half of the year. Aside from Ichitan, energy drink manufacturer Osotspa also sees a huge opportunity for hemp beverages, disclosing that it has been conducting research and development since 2019 and that it has personal care and beverage projects in the innovation pipeline. Other prominent beverage players such as Carabao and Sappe are also jumping on the bandwagon.

With this, Thailand is expected to witness a slew of CBD beverages introduced in the second half of 2021, which has the potential to propel soft drinks consumption after the slump brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. Cannabidiol unlocks opportunities for manufacturers to develop new products that appeal to untapped high-potential markets. Functional beverages experienced stellar performance and is the fastest-growing segment in Thailand soft drinks in 2020, and in 2021, functional beverages are expected to expand further as manufacturers exploit health benefits associated with CBD in their innovations.

According to GlobalData’s 2020 market pulse survey, in Thailand, nearly three in four (71%) respondents stated that they find food and drinks that contain Cannabidiol or CBD to be somewhat or very appealing. In the same survey, it was noted that CBD claims are most attractive to younger demographics, particularly individuals in the 25-34 years age group.

While hemp is known as a superfood, cannabis has been used in traditional Thai medicine for pain relief and as a condiment. Currently, Thai beverage manufacturers are keen to position CBD infused drinks for stress relief and relaxation. The market for these beverages remains niche but the foray of big players, which are expected to launch aggressive marketing campaigns and utilize their distribution network will push these products into the mainstream market. Furthermore, GlobalData’s 2021 Q1 consumer survey outlines that 50% of Thai consumers state that ingredients, which aid relaxation or improve mood are an essential or key driver of purchase, inferring that in the long-term, CBD infused beverages are likely to be a huge success factor.

With the Thai Government banking on cannabis as a cash crop, 2021 will undoubtedly be the year of CBD consumer goods. For beverage manufacturers, it opens doors for recovery and significant growth as they bat for mainstream consumption. The key challenge for manufacturers will be to stand out from the competition and win customers. This includes crafting a product that caters well to emerging consumer needs and communicates a campaign that emphasises health benefits from consumption.

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