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Grass Into Glass: Tapping the Market for Cannabis Beverages

Bill Silver of CannaCraft will explain how to tap into fast-growing consumer demand for cannabis-infused beverages

30/11/2018

The legalization of recreational marijuana in states like California has the potential to open up an entirely new consumer product category: cannabis-infused beverages. Thus far, there has been tremendous innovation within the cannabis beverage space, with several beer companies trying to get ahead of this trend toward cannabis-infused, non-alcoholic beverages that taste like hoppy sparkling water. Sonoma-based CannaCraft, for example, has partnered with California beer maker Lagunitas Brewing on a beer-inspired HiFi Hops project that could break the category completely open.

At the upcoming Cannabis Drinks Expo, Bill Silver, the CEO of CannaCraft, will explain exactly what his company is doing to bring this unique product to the market. The product is nonalcoholic, but it provides a slight buzz due to the fact that is infused with tiny amounts of THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana. Silver describes the HiFi Hops drink as “a smidge of California cannabis in every sip.” It will be sold in aluminium cans, just like beer, and it will have a distinct hoppy taste that beer drinkers love. But, unlike beer, it will have zero calories and zero carbs.

Thus, HiFi Hops is most likely to appeal to the casual beer drinker who is more health-conscious and is looking for a lighter, more social buzz. That presents a number of challenges, though, as Silver will describe in his presentation. For one, how do you market and distribute this product? There are many legal challenges in redefining not just one, but two, highly regulated industries (both beer and cannabis). As a result, the HiFi Hops product will initially only be sold in California (where recreational marijuana is legal), and will only be available at dispensaries (not at the corner liquor store). It will also come in two different dosages (10 mg THC or 5 mg THC), much like a medical cannabis product.

As Silver points out, HiFi Hops is really a response to changing industry dynamics and shifting consumer preferences. For example, younger people are not drinking as much beer as the previous generation – and when they do, they are looking for lower-alcohol beer. Moreover, they are much more aware of the health risks associated with traditional beer consumption. Thus, for young consumers already used to drinking energy drinks out of small aluminium cans, the idea of drinking hop-flavoured sparkling water is not nearly as radical as it might sound.

What Silver’s team at CannaCraft has found is that younger consumers are also much more experimental, willing to try a range of new products. CannaCraft, for example, offers everything from high-quality CBD oils to artisanal cannabis chocolates. There is particularly pent-up consumer demand for cannabis-infused beverages, which could be the primary way that young consumers experiment with cannabis.

And that’s good news for craft brewers racing to get ahead of the cannabis-infused beverage trend. Lagunitas, for its part, has already released a product called SuperCritical Ale, which is a hoppy crossover product that does not contain any THC, as well as Lagunitas Hop, non-alcoholic sparkling water.

So how will consumers react to beverages that look and taste like beers, but without any alcohol? It might lead to new innovations in how products are packaged, marketed, and distributed. For example, it is possible to see how these new hoppy non-beer beers might actually be marketed more like natural CBD oils, and not like alcoholic beverages. At some point, once these products are more widely distributed, they might be marketed just like sparkling water or carbonated drinks.

To understand where this exciting cannabis-infused beverage space is headed in 2019, you will want to attend Bill Silver’s presentation at the upcoming Cannabis Drinks Expo. He will highlight key changes in the cannabis drinks space, discuss the market influences and industry dynamics that could determine the success of any new product launch, and share his insights on the best ways to bring these new products to market. In the legal cannabis marketplace, things move quickly, and Bill Silver will be there to help break it all down for you.