If you were to note one big trend in adult beverages over the past several years, it would have to be the boom in hard seltzers. Virtually every major brand has jumped on the bandwagon, resulting in an endless array of flavor choices in this calorie-friendly space.
So what’s next? How about a little cannabis in your drink instead of alcohol? Beverages with THC, while still a minor segment of the industry overall, saw year-over-year growth of about 40% from 2019 to 2020.
The advantages of drinking your cannabis are obvious: in the many places where smoking or vaping is not welcome, having a drink often is. Having a drink certainly lends itself more to socializing than gobbling a cookie, gummy or other edible. And cannabis beverages completely eliminate the calories from alcohol (since it’s illegal to combing alcohol and THC in the same drink), so they’re typically even more diet-friendly than hard seltzers.
There’s already a wide array of options in the cannabis beverage space, from seltzer-style drinks in a range of flavors to non-alcoholic THC ‘beers’ from bigger names like Lagunitas and Flying Dog. And it is permissible to combine CBD with alcohol, so there are even a few more traditional alcoholic beers with CBD added.
Yet the cannabis beverage space has grown much more slowly than many had expected relative to other options. There are a few reasons for this, including the fact that not all drinks have managed to work around the strong, weed-like flavor. And while the high from a drink kicks in faster than that from an edible, they’re both capped at 100 mg of THC, which may be on the low side for regular smokers who thus prefer to stick with their traditional ways of consumption.
It turns out that another issue is chemistry. Alcohol is water-soluble, but cannabinoids by themselves are not. They bind more readily to fatty substances, hence the popularity of brownies, cookies and the like. Solving this problem creates a new one, as the emulsions will tend to adhere to certain containers.
Perhaps the biggest roadblock is the continuing federal prohibition of THC. Some big players in the alcoholic beverage industry have THC drinks in the works, but distribution to only the patchwork of states where recreational cannabis is legal presents a big challenge. And so they stay on the sidelines for now.
As with seltzers, women have led the way in the purchase and consumption of cannabis beverages, so they’ll have a big say in how fast the segment will continue to grow. You have to like the potential of a low-calorie buzz without the hangover, though. And while continued alcohol use can fuel depression and anxiety, cannabis can have the opposite effect, improving sleep as a bonus. We think that points to a brighter future for cannabis beverages.
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