The Buyer
How OTO CBD is bringing legal cannabis to non-alcoholic drinks

How OTO CBD is bringing legal cannabis to non-alcoholic drinks

The market for legalised CBD cannabis products in the UK has an estimated 1.3m users, and could be worth £1bn by 2025. New products across the health and beauty sectors have caught on to the trend, and the drinks industry is not far behind. The Buyer sat down with OTO CBD, one of the many new companies that have been set up to launch their own range of CBD products, or in its case non-alcoholic CBD infused bitters which it hopes opens up a new avenue for consumers to enjoy the increasingly popular cannabis compound.

Bettina Hepburn
30th July 2019by Bettina Hepburn
posted in People,People: Supplier,

Bettina Hepburn looks into the opportunities there are for legal CBD cannabis products in the UK and how companies like OTO CBD are potentially in the right place at the right time.

Cannabis was the word on everyone’s lips when last year Canada decided to legalise marijuana in October, and then in November the UK permitted the prescription of cannabis for medicinal purposes in extreme cases. There was also the rumour that Diageo was lining up plans to enter the cannabis market, although the drinks giant is yet to confirm any concrete plans.

All this hype has led to a rise in the consumption of cannabidioil, a compound found in cannabis. Cannabidioil, or CBD, is legal in the UK as it does not contain THC, the psychoactive constituent in cannabis which produces a high. 2019 has seen the CBD market sky rocket and it seems like every week there is a new CBD infused water, coffee, or essential oil on the market. In fact, CBD Research by the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis reveals that there are 1.3 million users of CBD in the UK, and the market is expected to be worth £1 billion by 2025.

So if there is a market for CBD infused products, how is the drinks industry tapping into the trend? OTO CBD is a company that started by producing CBD infused essential oils, and has recently launched what it claims is Europe’s first non-alcoholic bitters.

Gemma Colao, managing director at OTO CBD, says the company started with a group of passionate friends who wanted to tap into the benefits of CBD to help themselves and to help others. OTO means ‘sound’ in Japanese, and Colao explains that OTO CBD stands for “the space between sound and silence”.

Gap in the market

The group saw a gap in the market and to offer an alternative to most CBD products in the market that Colao claims “lacked efficacy, beauty, enjoyment, or understanding.”After launching a popular range of CBD essential oils, OTO conducted consumer research that revealed people wanted CBD in their drinks too. In fact the research showed drinks was their second preference for experiencing CBD. It then looked to introduce its own range of non-alcoholic cocktail bitters infused with CBD. The bitters can be used to enhance cocktails, or as a flavourful alternative to alcohol in a drink.

OTO CBD bitters are made from natural ingredients which combine pure CBD from organically grown hemp plants with a top secret mix of botanical extracts. The botanicals have been selected not only for their flavour profile, but also to complement the effects of CBD. For example, cardamom is one of the botanicals used as it has antioxidant properties which help reduce anxiety.Liquorice and cacao are also in the mix, as these help reduce stress and improve mood and contentment. The resulting flavour profile is herbaceous, citrus and with a hint of floral.

The bitters retails at £98 (£48 wholesale) for 100ml with 2,600mg of CBD. According to OTO, the 100ml should give you 50 – 75 functional drinks.

Health conscious

OTO is targeting health conscious consumers with its key brand messages of ‘Amplify, Balance, and Focus’ and sees a growing target audience of mindful consumers interested in exploring different non-alcoholic drink options.

Recent consumer trials conducted by OTO showed that regular use of their optimum strength CBD products helped reduce anxiety in 86% of respondents, while 67% said it helped them to feel less fatigued and boosted their energy levels.

Antonia Jamison, director of OTO, adds: “The drinks market is entering a really interesting stage where the non-alcoholic alternatives are now just as exciting and complex as their alcoholic counterparts. However, just because people are adopting a more balanced approach to drinking, doesn’t mean that they don’t need a bracer to help them unwind and socialise. This is where OTO’s non-alcoholic CBD bitters come in.”

Road to the on-trade

Camille Vidal of La Maison Wellness is working with OTO on some low and no-abv cocktails

Soon, consumers will be able to enjoy OTO more widely as the company is currently in discussion with distributors and venues in London, New York, Hong Kong, and Ibiza. In order to gain visibility amongst trade and consumers alike, the brand has partnered with mindful drinking expert and ‘Healthy Hedonist’ Camille Vidal of La Maison Wellness to create a range of no and low-abv cocktails and host a series of events for both trade and consumers. It is also looking to publish and promote its research and background information about the brand on its website to act as a reference point.

OTO believes that the on-trade can lead the way in helping people discover CBD as it is such a natural alternative to alcohol. But Colao believes “only the thoughtful, effective and delicious [products] will last”. “The rest will fizzle like fad. Customers want it. In fact, generally, the people long for the potential benefits of CBD – the trend in wellness, and away from high-alcohol points to this.”

  • If you are interested in talking to OTO about its range of CBD bitters then email its sales director Rosie Joley on