Kelly Ann Woods on Growing The Cannabis Drinks Category
The market for cannabis beverages is expected to grow as consumers, especially baby boomers, seek alternative methods of consumption beyond smoking.
Your Place Of Work
State B by Brujera Elixirs Incorporated
Tell us a little about your background and journey into Cannabis
Cannabis has been part of the fabric of my life since I was a little girl. My dad grew out by the pig shed and there was tell early in the life of a raid. Where I grew up in Quebec, there was "Gatineau Green", cannabis, and "Gatineau Gold" Maple Syrup. Into teenagehood, there were hot knives and bush parties, Jeep YJs, and bottle take on Du Maurier cigarettes. In college, I was making Christmas fudge while my buddy was weighing out grams so we tied both products up in aluminum foil with ribbon. In adulthood, cannabis was a major part of the underground arts and music scene from a "sponsorship" perspective. Then legalization happened and the bottom dropped out of the flower market. At the time I was working in the spirits and beverage industry in the roles of a mixologist and Sommelier. I was in the process of selling my distillery when the opportunity to participate in The Initiative in Portland came to pass. As a single mom, I knew this was an opportunity to merge my lifelong love for plants and cannabis and beverage so I did what it took to get there weekly from up in Squamish BC. From there I formulated and founded highly respected functional State B... and the rest is history.
Image: State B beverages; Source: Instagram
Explain your current role
I am the CEO, founder, and formulator of State B under the umbrella of Brujera Elixirs. We make the first-of-its-kind functional cannabis beverages combining terpenes, cannabinoids, minor cannabinoids, botanicals, and flower essences to "Elevate Your State".
What trends do you see in cannabis beverages?
A high dose is here to stay. It is critical for medical patients who need that level of care as well as for individuals with a high tolerance. That said, there is a world of health and wellness emerging. Alcohol use is declining and people still need to take the edge off. With new Health Canada guidelines of 2, yes, 2, alcoholic beverages per week, that guidance along with a large lean toward sober curiosity and damp lifestyles are shifting consumers. Further, there is an awakening toward self-care, respect for plants, and a desire to live well that is affecting trends. As a "woman of a certain age," I am seeing a massive trend toward wellness, stress relief, and self-care. Women need support that is not the 1-3 glasses of wine at the end of the day which is becoming harder to metabolize mind/body/spirit.
“The market for cannabis beverages is expected to grow as consumers, especially baby boomers, seek alternative methods of consumption beyond smoking.”, Source State B Beverages Instagram
What tips do you have on growing the category when it comes to product development?
Education is critical. Supporting the consumer to try new things experientially. Striving to reduce stigma. Keeping an element of class and finding ways to insert the category into ways, rituals, and habits that currently exist. As much as the cannabis industry wants to differentiate itself from the alcohol industry when it comes to beverages, I think that is extremely limiting. There are tried and true growth, consumer experience, and sales strategies that we would be silly not to pay attention to, learn from, and copy to a certain extent with our own glow.
What are the 3 things that we can educate end consumers more on in growing end-consumer awareness?
1) Cannabis in beverages behaves differently than consuming it in different ways. 2) Go slow. Really slow. Sip and feel. And remember that all drinks are not created equally and that the user experience may be different on a case-by-case basis. 3) Destigmatization. Banking, lack of federal legalization, old world views, and a smattering of racism shroud cannabis. Drinks are a wonderful way for people to start to have a healing conversation around cannabis use.
Which states / markets do you think present good growth opportunities for cannabis beverages in 2023-2024
Good question! It's all a bit of a hot mess with massive changes happening across the industry. While I don't feel that I can get specific on locations, I will say this: The growth of the beverage space is, in my opinion, dependent, in part, on consumption lounges. And normalization in hospitality environments. That is where the growth will happen. If there are places where drinks are on the menu and cannabis drinks are being mixed by professionals, these places are where the tipping point will happen.
What do you think are the current challenges in the cannabis beverage category
I think the challenges to the cannabis beverage space are the same challenges that the entire industry is facing primarily. And all of the things I mentioned previously.
Image: Kelly Ann Woods; Source: Instagram
If you were to give advice to a first-time cannabis beverage consumer, what tips would you give?
Go slow! Don't shun low to medium doses as not "being enough". This is a whole new experience. Get social. Try different ones. Look for the innovators!
Your favourite cannabis beverage brands?
I mean, State B obviously! I respect what Cann has done for sure. But I would be behooved not to mention women-owned brands: House of Saka, Mad Lily, et al.
What do you look for when you purchase a cannabis beverage brand?
Emulsion, Flavour, Low sugar, Cannabinoid types, Terpenes, and playing with botanicals. As a Sommelier and Mixologist, I want delicious innovation, not just water, sugar, and weed.
Any out-of-the-box ideas you have for bud-tenders in promoting and educating the cannabis beverage category?
This is a category that will explode. Be especially welcoming to women and encourage beverages. Bang for your buck isn't necessarily the play of the day. Luxury, finesse, "lipstick effect"
Image: Kelly Ann Woods; Source: State B beverages Company
If you were to make a new cannabis beverage today? What sort of product would you make and why
I would continue down the path of functionality. There is a massive opportunity for people, the planet, and profit in this arena.
If you were to market and distribute that cannabis beverage, what would be your top 3 areas you would focus on?
New York state.
Header Image: Kelly Ann Woods; Source: Instagram