The legalization of cannabis and the growing acceptance of recreational cannabis use has led to a great number of business opportunities within the cannabis consumer goods sector.
Innovation in this space has largely been led by North American indie brands and new start-ups, which were quick to navigate the complex legal landscape surrounding cannabis-infused products soon after legalization, where larger multinational companies hesitated.
In the cannabis-based beverage space, this resulted in the establishment of several start-ups focusing specifically on the development of cannabis-based drinks. Only now are larger well-known beverage companies beginning to move into the sector — and this is largely through strategic partnerships with other large cannabis companies.
In Prohibition Partners’ latest consumer research report, “The Impact Series: Disrupting Drinks”, the leading cannabis market intelligence and strategic consultancy firm outlines the company and brand activity that is going on within the cannabis-based drinks space — highlighting the wealth of innovation and activity stemming from the US marketplace.
Key Brands In The U.S. market
With cannabis-based drinks tipped to heavily disrupt the traditional beer market, several well-known brewing companies have made moves into the cannabis drinks market, aiming to diversify their product offering while traditional beer sales are in decline.
While the majority of these partnerships have focused on making products available in the Canadian market— largely due to Canada’s federal legalization of recreational cannabis and cannabis-infused products — there are still a number of enterprising brands producing unique lines of cannabis-based drinks for the American audience.
- Heineken & CannaCraft
In June 2018, Heineken (OTCQX:HEINY) launched a joint venture with CannaCraft, a seed-to-shelf cannabis producer and distributor based in California. The joint venture markets a cannabis-infused sparkling water product via a Heineken subsidiary company, the Lagunitas Brewing Company.
The product is branded as an “IPA-inspired” non-alcoholic beverage named Hi-Fi Hops, and is available with three different ratios of infused THC and CBD levels. Currently, the Hi-Fi Hops products are only available through cannabis dispensaries in California and Colorado.
- Dixie Brands & Arizona Beverage Co.
Dixie Brands was one of the first major cannabis-infused product brands active in the United States. In 2019, the firm announced it had entered into a licensing agreement with Arizona Beverage Co. — the company behind the iconic beverage brand Arizona Iced Tea.
Under the terms of the agreement, Dixie Brands will manufacture relevant cannabis-infused products and distribute them through state-legal cannabis retailers across the United States.
Based in San Diego, Cannabiniers is a beverage, technology, and brand management company that owns three cannabis-infused beverage brands: Two Roots Brewing Company, Just Society Coffee & Tea Company, and Creative Waters Company.
Currently, only Two Roots Brewing Company has products available to purchase in the U.S.—a line of ‘de-alcoholized’ THC-infused craft beers. The beers are currently available in California and Nevada, and are made to mimic the character of five styles of beer: lager, blonde, wheat, stout, and IPA. Each of these beer styles is brewed using traditional methods before the alcohol is removed and the resultant alcohol-free beverage is infused with THC.
Just Society Coffee & Tea Co. will look to produce THC-infused cold-brew beverages. Creative Waters intends to offer a range of low-calorie THC and CBD-infused sparkling waters.
The Global Outlook For Cannabis-Based Drinks
The Disrupting Drinks report also notes that while the US and Canada have so far dominated innovation within the cannabis-based beverage market, there has been notable activity in many parts of Europe, with brands largely positioning themselves alongside the health and wellness market or targeting their products at millennials who are looking to unwind after work.
In North America, there has traditionally been a sizable gap between the interest in cannabis-based foods and the drinks market, although the current interest from major beverage brands is expected to close this gap significantly. In the more emerging European market, this gap may not even manifest itself, as CBD and hemp-infused beverages are already much more established at this early stage. In the absence of legalized recreational cannabis, hemp and CBD-infused drinks products could thrive.
For more information on cannabis’ impact in the drinks market, as well as on the key market players, innovations, and commercial opportunities, the full The Impact Series: Disrupting Drinks is available for purchase and download here.