Daniel Torres on growing Cannabis Beverage Category
Customers have to be made aware of the advancements in modern cannabis beverages. They have to feel reassured that they are getting a consistent, quality product that works the same and tastes the same every time.
Your Place Of Work
Tell us a little about your background and journey into Cannabis
I've been smoking marijuana since I was 13 years old. I got into sales at the age of 16, back in 1998. At 21 years of age, I began cultivating cannabis indoors in rented homes, then eventually in warehouses. I have worked in the sales of retail and wholesale equipment used to cultivate cannabis. I have seen everything from 1-gram baggies to 100lb box sales of weed, marketing, planning, and execution in every facet of the business. I have literally lived it all.
What trends do you see in cannabis beverages?
I see the cannabis beverage space embrace new product lines that more closely resemble the typical CPG industry of drinks. You will see a more varied product offering and with that more brands entering the space.
Image: Daniel Torres
What tips do you have on growing the category when it comes to product development?
Above all, making a product that actually tastes good. The second part of that is making a product label that is appealing and intriguing to the customer. They have to first become curious about the product. It has to stand out to them on the shelf or in the refrigerator at the dispensary. Once you have their attention, and the customer makes the purchase and takes the product home to consume, it MUST taste good. They have to like the product or they will not buy it again and they will not recommend it to others.
What are the 3 things that we can educate end consumers more on in growing end-consumer awareness?
Customers have to be made aware of the advancements in modern cannabis beverages. They have to feel reassured that they are getting a consistent, quality product that works the same and tastes the same every time. You have to remind the consumer that it is a common thing to consume beverages. They do it every single day, at all times of the day. Once they recognize the familiarity in their daily habits and understand the cannabis delivery method is not much different than other forms of cannabis, they will give it a shot, no pun intended. Consumers have to also be made aware that as the beverage category expands and grows, the efficiencies will carry over to cost savings for the consumer and these beverages will be much more affordable than they already are. When the consumer goes into the store to purchase their flower or wax, adding a beverage or two into their shopping basket should be second nature and done without hesitation knowing that the complimentary product will only enhance the user experience without breaking the bank.
Which states / markets do you think present good growth opportunities for cannabis beverages in 2023-2024
Well, at least from our perspective in terms of our target market demographic, we foresee the Southwest states to be a great market for expansion mainly for two reasons: (1) the large percentage of Latino consumers and (2) the warmer weather patterns which coincide with typically increased beverage consumption.
What do you think are the current challenges in the cannabis beverage category
The current challenge we see, mainly, is capital acquisition. Because investors have had a bad taste in their mouths due to negligent MSOs' misuse of funds, the overall market fluctuation due to market conditions outside of cannabis (recession), and the over-saturation of cannabis brands/cultivators/products, it's a difficult time to raise capital. In addition, institutional money and banks are not cannabis friendly so the options are even far fewer as it stands. I believe and have my money riding on the cannabis beverage space. I think in due time, it will show to be a profitable endeavor for those that risk riding the wave through and to.
Image: Daniel Torres
If you were to give advice to a first-time cannabis beverage consumer, what tips would you give?
Start low and slow! THC in beverages has a slightly different onset experience than smoking dried flowers or vaping concentrates. My advice, regardless of your tolerance, is to start with a 10mg beverage, drink half, and see how it affects you in 20-30mins. If you can handle the punches, next time drink the whole bottle. But definitely, don't jump into the deep end on your first shot!
Your favourite cannabis beverage brands?
Mine of course! Mari y Juana Beverages Co. Special shoutout to Uncle Arnie's too though. We would not be here had it not been for Ave Miller reaching out and Matt McGinn, my Partner in MJ Foods Co. and MJ Beverages Co. convincing me to take a chance at the category. Matt McGinn is the founder and product formulator of Uncle Arnie's and he product formulates all of our beverages. The man is a LIVING LEGEND and I am honored to call him my friend.
What do you look for when you purchase a cannabis beverage brand?
If I were to purchase at a retail level, my attention to detail would be drawn first to the label. The graphics, colors, and fonts. That would be my first observation. The presentation of the brand on the shelf. Down to the most minute details. Flavor profile/offerings would be the next thing. What is being offered? Is it something usual/typical or is it something unique. Price point is also on the list, albeit not the deal breaker but it definitely has to make $en$e.
Any out-of-the-box ideas you have for bud-tenders in promoting and educating the cannabis beverage category?
I think the best approach would be a simple "Have you tried any of our cannabis beverages?" That leading question opens up the conversation to then educate and inform the customer as to what's available. Even in 2023, there are STILL people that have a very little clue there are beverages that can get you high and are surprised to learn that there are so many offerings that can actually do the trick.
If you were to make a new cannabis beverage today? What sort of product would you make and why
I can't share all my secrets! Ha! We are working on some unique offerings for our brand. I have mentioned them before. An energy drink, a coffee-flavored drink, or a non-alcoholic drink. Stay tuned for more! We are coming strong all of 2023.
If you were to market and distribute that cannabis beverage, what would be your top 3 areas you would focus on?
We do market and distribute our current offerings. Our top 3 areas of focus are (1) marketing/branding and how those interactions relate to our target demographic. (2) New store/territory acquisition. (3) Customer retention, return/repeat customers.