Medahuman founder Adam Feldheim on "what to drink when you’re choosing not to drink"

The UK’s CBD market is now the second-largest in the world and following a period of regulatory red tape, the Association for the Cannabinoid Industry claims that the UK now has the most evolved regulatory framework for CBD in the world. Coupled with a growing consumer trend away from alcohol, CBD-infused functional beverages could be set to explode this year.

As modern as the term sounds functional beverages are no new thing. Energy drinks, isotonic sports drinks, and probiotic yoghurts are familiar to most, and for how long have people been drinking coffee and tea?

In recent years on the heels of wellness trends, a new breed has emerged toting adaptogens, nootropics, and health benefits proudly worn on their sleeves.

These functional beverages appear as the kind of retro-futuristic ideal of what drinks would become straight out of an 80’s sci-fi but given both the broadness and youthfulness of the category they’re difficult to place, seemingly with one foot in the health food aisle and another in the booze cabinet.  

Adam Feldheim launched the CBD-containing functional wellness drinks brand, Medahuman in 2019 with sights set on the bar world.

“I identified quite early on that there was a really good opportunity for CBD behind the bar in the hospitality industry,” says Feldheim.

“After the last two years, I would say nobody knows more about stress anxiety than people who work in the hospitality industry, and so many bartenders were also early adaptors to this proposition and its benefits. I regularly go in and teach bartenders about the product, I realised they’re the best brand ambassadors, and they will recommend my products to their guests.

“When I launched the brand there were fewer opportunities in retail than hospitality because of regulatory uncertainty. Within hospitality, we initially launched into the Annabel’s and there has certainly been a halo effect with subsequent partnerships.

“We’ve found that guests of prestige and premium bars, restaurants and hotels across London are the first movers in this emerging category. Many of them were already incorporating wellness supplements into their daily regimens, and so we recognised that a beverage with these same types of ingredients would see uptake, and this has been confirmed by strong sales performance across the likes of Chiltern Firehouse, The Ivy Brasseries, The Langham Hotel, the Berkeley Hotel and the NoMad Hotel.

“The bars we’ve partnered with were also chosen based on the creativity of the teams’ menus and we’ve loved seeing how the bartenders use our drinks as a new tool in their toolkit and come up with innovative new functional wellness cocktails.

In a recent survey conducted by the Portman Group, it was revealed that more UK drinkers than ever are cutting down and as many as a third of Brits are regularly choosing low or no alcohol options providing functional beverages with a real opportunity.

“Functional drinks are a great answer to the question of what to drink when you’re choosing not to drink, they present a new way to elevate drinking without the alcohol,” says Feldheim.

“Covid was also a positive catalyst in that more consumers are now consciously making healthier choices. In recent years we’ve obviously also seen the growing trend of avoiding high sugar and high-calorie products, so the trend is certainly our friend in that there is an increasing appreciation for healthy alternatives not just at home but also when you’re going out.”

We’re just at the beginning of a new category of innovative and elevated non-alcoholic drinks that are destined to reshape many a cocktail list.

“I think we can expect to see a lot of innovation in the functional drink’s category, as there is an increasing awareness in the ingredients and their benefits. I would argue that in many ways it’s the perfect remedy for the stress, anxiety and hectic lifestyles that many people are now experiencing.

“As the market matures people will look for new ways to integrate it into their daily regimens, and so we have some exciting things being developed for 2022.”