Will Cannabis Drinks Change the Beer, Wine and Spirits Market?


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Less than 40 years later anti-drug campaigns enlisted everyone from Zack Morris at the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to scare children away from marijuana, cannabis products are legally available in 19 states, Washington, DC, and Guam. And, in places where recreational cannabis is legal, THC-infused drinks like Wunder, Cann, Keef, Kalo, and Hi5 line up on store shelves, often alongside beer, wine, and other drinks. .

Should alcoholic beverage producers be concerned about competition from weed infused drinks? Or will weed’s market share be constrained by legacy stigmas?

Colleen McClellan is the Regional Director of Customer Solutions for Datassential, a leading food and beverage information platform, and a Qualified Sommelier. She has high hopes for the future of THC infused drinks, as long as they taste great.

“I think as more states relax the regulations, we’ll continue to see an increase in interest and use,” McClellan said. “The critical aspect of adoption will be the taste of the product. Taste is extremely important for a repeat purchase.

Michelle Mendoza, Chief Producer, Sweet Flower Dispensary / Photo courtesy of Sweet Flower

McClellan predicts that brands will continue to enter the cannabis drink space, eventually leading to consolidation.

“There are consumers who enjoy consuming cannabis or THC-infused products because they provide a functional benefit without a hangover effect,” she says. According to a recent Datassential report, in the United States, consumer awareness of THC drinks increased by 9% in 2021, and 51% of adults over 21 now report knowing them. The company has also found that THC drinks generate the most interest and notoriety among Gen Xers.

This could be due to the advancements made by the marketing of the cannabis industry over the past decade. In many American cities, walking into a dispensary is like walking into an Apple Store or a fancy cafe. Weed has never been so personalized. You can choose the strain, strength, and method of consumption just as you would a bag of coffee beans.

To succeed in this market, some producers are experimenting with the promised effects.

“I think the most interesting development for infused drinks lately is the expansion of the minor cannabinoids that are present in these drinks,” says Michelle Mendoza, chief producer at Sweet Flower, a California dispensary. “We’re going to continue to see more of these minor cannabinoids as the industry star. “

Wunder cannabis drinks
Wunder Higher Vibes / Photo by Chris Greenwell

Mendoza says to keep an eye out for cannabinoids like THCV (tetrahydrocannabivarin), which are believed to help increase focus and suppress appetite, and Somewhat controversial Delta-8, which she says will appear in more drinks.

Delta-8 is used in Wunder’s selections. Its Sessions line contains two milligrams each of Delta-8 and Delta-9 TCH, as well as four milligrams of CBD, while its Higher Vibes drinks combine 10 milligrams each of Delta-8 and Delta-9 THC, positioned to provide a lighter weight. , high without paranoia.

“Targeted products are the wave of the future,” says Travis Tharp, CEO of Keef Brands, a Colorado-based cannabis drink company. “These products are based on a lot of data and appeal to consumers and patients looking for specific desired effects. We’re starting to see drinks move beyond THC to incorporate lesser-known, but therapeutically promising alternative cannabinoids. “

Earlier this year, Keef Brands launched a new line of targeted cannabis drinks that look to cannabinoids like THCV, CBG and CBN to give consumers a taste of something different. All inherently non-psychoactive, THCv is known for its stimulating and energetic effect, while CBG and CBN are on the relaxing and analgesic side of the spectrum.

In many American cities, walking into a dispensary is like walking into an Apple Store or a fancy cafe. Weed has never been so personalized.

Morgan McLachlan is the Co-Founder, Product Manager and Master Distiller at AMASS, a beverage company specializing in botanical-based adaptogenic beverages. She recently participated in the development of Afterdream, a cannabis-infused alcohol-free spirit that blends 14 plants with cannabis-derived terpenes such as limonene, beta-myrcene and eucalyptol as well as emulsions of THC, CBD and Delta- 8. It is designed to produce what the company describes as “a relaxing and calming effect on the mind” that reflects the feeling that emanates from a strong cocktail, which McLachlan says might appeal to those who also drink alcohol. alcohol.

“The Afterdream consumer is someone who considers drinking alcohol to be an important part of their social life, but who seeks alternatives to their standard alcohol or glass of wine,” she says. “They want to bring the cannabis experience, something they know less about and try to get to know better, closer to the evening cocktail ritual that they already know.”

According to McLachlan, cannabis drinks and non-alcoholic beverages are the fastest growing sectors of the beverage market, with sales increasing from $ 67.8 million in 2019 to $ 95.2 million in 2020.

“The recreational use of marijuana by adults is a rapidly growing market, and non-alcoholic beverages are growing even more dramatically,” she says. “Sectors with low and low VBAs have grown by 506% since 2015 and are expected to reach $ 280 million in revenue this year. “

Distill Ventures analysts report that 58% of consumers drink more non-alcoholic drinks than last year. To reach them, McLachlan aims to continue working with cannabis development studio, OpenNest Labs, to help brands educate consumers and de-stigmatize the plant.

Jim Higdon's Cannabis Drinks
Jim Higdon / Photo courtesy of Cornbread Hemp

Despite this market growth, Jim Higdon, co-founder and communications director of Cornbread Hemp, a Kentucky company that produces full-spectrum hemp oils, doesn’t think traditional wine, beer and liquor producers need to be. ‘worry.

“THC drinks have their place, but that place is probably not in the hands of a wine lover with a sophisticated palate,” Higdon explains. “The ideal customer for a THC drink is either someone trying to cut down on alcohol consumption or a first-time user looking for a non-smoking option for consuming cannabis.”

Like Datassential’s McClellan, Higdon believes that the success of THC-infused drinks ultimately depends on their taste. He also believes that cannabis drinks may not be the best way to get wine lovers to weed.

“There is no idea of ​​the terroir of the cannabis flower in the finished beverage product,” he says. “For a wine lover looking to savor the full complexity of the terpene profile of a cannabis strain, there is no substitute for a well-dried flower. “

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