By Nicholas De Rosa
While cannabis-infused beverages have been legal but marginal for a few years in a handful of US states, the Canadian cannabis industry is seeing big.
It relies on innovation to create drinks that move away from what is currently found in our southern neighbors, both in terms of taste and the content of THC.
Cannabis beverages will arrive on the tablets of the Société québécoise du cannabis (SQDC) in December. In the past year, alcohol giants like Molson-Coors and Constellation Brands (the maker of Corona) have put billions of dollars into the weed industry to be ready for this new competitor.
The first set up a joint venture with the Gatineau producer HEXO, dubbed Truss, and plan to produce 200 bottles per minute at their plant. The latter invested $ 4 billion in Canopy Growth, the largest cannabis company in the world, and currently have 120,000 m² of space to produce their beverages. It gives a little idea of the potential of the thing.
“For beer companies, it’s a financial hedge if people start drinking more cannabis and less alcohol. Of course, they see this as a serious threat to the social drink market, “says Lester Asset Management finance specialist, cannabis investor and CEO Ken Lester, with whom” Tabloid “spoke.
According to a survey conducted by Deloitte consulting firm with 2000 people, 37% of Canadians intend to taste it.
More like a beer than a brownie
Cannabis beverages will be different from other pot derivatives that will be available in the second phase of legalization as much by their shape as the effect they will provide to people who drink. The industry sees this as an opportunity to woo the uninitiated.
“Everyone knows what to drink. It’s an ubiquitous social rite, it’s everywhere, and I really think that beverages have the potential to better integrate cannabis into society and convert skeptics, “says Canopy Growth’s Business Development Manager Adam. Greenblatt.
His company and others who market pot-based beverages at SQDC want their products to take effect quickly. The goal is to avoid the bad surprises that are often associated with brownies or sweets, which are sometimes felt several hours after being ingested.
“We do not want to simulate the effect of alcohol, but the speed of the effect of alcohol to facilitate the dosage,” says Adam Greenblatt.
Some companies intend to make beverages that will simulate the flavor of different types of alcohol already well known. This is the case for Province Brands and Hill Street, which will brew non-alcoholic beers with cannabis. They will bear a name resembling “fermented fermented yeast yeast flavored with malt” since the regulations prohibit the association of any cannabis beverage with alcohol.
Tinley, an American company that already sells its beverages in California, offers a variety of bottles inspired by cocktails or strong alcoholic varieties. It also wants to enter the Canadian market in December and is currently trying to form a partnership with a Canadian licensed producer for the distribution of its products.
“Obviously, we want to convert people from alcohol to cannabis,” says company CEO Jeff Maser. Cannabis beverages do not cause a waking day, interact less with drugs, and have less sugar and calories than beer. We want to give people the chance to discover that they prefer cannabis to alcohol, “he says.
From its edge, Canopy Growth does not intend to create beverages that simulate the flavors of alcohol, opting instead for original creations. This is also the case for other major players in the sector.
“We are not interested in deallocating a red wine and adding THC, we want to create something new. We target down 100 calories per beverage and some will even have zero calories, “said Adam Greenblatt.
Organigram, a New Brunswick-based company, will instead opt for a colorless, tasteless dry powder formulation that can be added to any liquid. “There will be no oily residue or any nutritional value,” says marketing and communications president Ray Gracewood.
Find the right flavor
The taste of the product is the basis in development and innovation. However, the beverages currently available in the United States are far from all meet this basic criterion.
“What I tasted in the US was absolutely disgusting,” says Rishi Malkani, Deloitte’s Cannabis Partner. It’s oily and horrible. None of the people I got were good. “
Mr. Malkani believes, however, that the taste of beverages will not be an issue in the Canadian market. He explains by saying billions of dollars are invested in research and development here and that the big players involved have huge production chains.
In the United States, it is rather small companies that produce beverages and this category of products represents barely 1% of sales of legal cannabis.
“This is a sector that has enormous growth potential. Big guys like Molson will not miss, “he says.
Find the right buzz
The high concentration of THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis, in several beverages offered is another problem in the US market, according to the experts and producers consulted in this article.
“You buy a bottle of cola, there are 100 milligrams of THC in there. It comes with a shot glass. This is really not what we are aiming for. We would like people to drink more than one bottle if they want to, “says Adam Greenblatt.
One hundred milligrams is 10 times the Canadian federal limit per packet of oral cannabis and twenty times the limit established by the Government of Quebec. Canopy Growth plans to market portions with approximately 2 milligrams of THC, commonly referred to as a microdose.
The importance of dosing is something that Tinley has learned the hard way, confirms his CEO. “At the beginning, our products had 10 milligrams of THC and people told us that they drank half and kept the rest for the next day,” says Jeff Maser. Their bottles now contain 5 milligrams of THC.
Drinks at CBD, a cannabis component that does not produce psychotropic effects and has many therapeutic properties, will also be available in December. A recent survey indicated that 70% of Canadian adults would be interested in trying a CBD drink.
According to Rishi Malkani, the CBD drink market could even supplant the THC market, especially considering that it is legal in many jurisdictions where psychoactive cannabis is still banned.
At the restaurant and at the dep
For now, cannabis beverages will only be sold to the SQDC once they are legalized. They are one of the only products spared from the purge of sweets, sweets, desserts and topics announced by the Quebec government in July.
“There is less chance that children inadvertently taste or try to drink these drinks [than a jujube]. It is considered that parents will be more vigilant with these drinks, as they are already with alcohol, “says Maude Méthot-Faniel, the press secretary of the Minister for Health.
Quebec draws a parallel between cannabis beverages and alcohol, and is not the only one to do so. Adam Greenblatt of Canopy Growth wants brewed beverages to be a consumer option in restaurants, as well as beer and wine.
“Since it’s so familiar, I think it makes it easier to change the laws. It’s a different conversation to say “we want to smoke inside”, “he says.
Quebec retailers are also seeing an opportunity with cannabis beverages. At least that is suggested by Stéphane Lacasse, Director of Public and Government Affairs at the Quebec Food Retailers Association.
“Our employees already have training not to sell tobacco or alcohol to minors and we already have the infrastructure to sell alcohol in our stores. We are already a good fit, we are very open to doing this, but we just need the government is minimally open to discussion, “he says.
This hoped-for change in law is not likely to happen anytime soon, but the cannabis and restaurant industries may be trying to make representations to the government hoping to make things happen in the long run.
This is already being done by the Cannabis Beverage Producers Alliance, which is asking Health Canada, for example, to be in favor of brand-name liquor legislation. According to the current law, the packaging of drinks should be neutral, have health warnings and be child-proof, much like it is already the case with dried cannabis.
This represents a potential pitfall in the popularization of cannabis beverages in the country, although that will not prevent the products developed here from making a splash in other jurisdictions.
“A lot of cannabis companies are headquartered in Canada because it allows them to be listed on the stock exchange while [they] do not really care about the market because we have a small population. The Holy Grail to sell cannabis is the United States and soon, it will be internationally that everything will be played, “analyzes Ken Lester.
Like what the infused beverages may not be competing with here, but the story may be completely different elsewhere in the world.
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Original article by TVA