Athletes who want hydrating drinks with less sugar. Coffee lovers who want a lift in the afternoon with the added bonus of functional ingredients. Cocktail drinkers who want to shift to mocktails for a healthier lifestyle. Outdoor enthusiasts who want refreshing sparkling waters to fill their coolers. Cannacurious consumers who want flavorful, low dose beverages to elevate their experiences. Veteran cannabis users who want a beverage or shot that will pack a punch.
Cannabis-infused beverage consumers come in all shapes and sizes, with different interests, hobbies, tastes, and passions. For companies looking to create an infused beverage, knowing the person who will be holding and consuming the product inside and out is critical for that drink’s success in the marketplace.
Here are four important steps for identifying and connecting with your beverage’s target consumer with the goal of developing a loyal, repeat customer.
Before Getting Started
Most successful beverages on the market have been created by a person or a group of people motivated to share it with a wider audience – and they’ve identified a hole in the marketplace that needs to be filled. There’s no doubt that a beverage – or any consumer product for that matter — will be more successful when you are passionate about that idea and believe others will benefit from consuming it.
That said, it’s important to ask yourself why you want to make this beverage and what you will bring to the table. What is your niche, and how will you differentiate it from other drinks? What unmet need or gap does your beverage fill in the current marketplace? What’s the story you plan to tell that will resonate with your audience? Having clear answers to those questions will help you better envision your target consumer.
Step 1 – Create a Profile of Your Consumer
So, you’ve generated the idea for your beverage — perhaps inspired by a product or flavor you loved as a child or something you experienced in another town, state, or country. The next thing you need to do is figure out who is going to buy this beverage and where they will buy it; in other words, you need to identify your audience.
When you create an image and a profile of your target consumer in your head, that profile should be as specific as possible. You should be able to picture what that person looks like, what kind of clothes they shop for, what kind of food and beverages they buy, and where they buy them. To figure out what they really want from the beverages they drink, you need to imagine the world from their perspective. If you can picture them reaching for your product on a store shelf for a certain reason, then you’re on the right track.
The narrower you can make that profile of your consumer, the better – because you will know exactly what that person wants and needs. It’s also important to visualize what your consumer is doing after purchasing the product, when they are consuming your beverage, because this will inform other decisions you make down the road, such as the format you choose, the packaging, and the branding.
Step 2 – Study the Infused Beverage Marketplace and Trends
Knowing the current infused beverage marketplace will help you make the best product possible for your target audience. This involves doing in-depth research on market trends and the growth and changes in the infused beverage sector over the past few years.
For example, interest in CBD rose 24% in 2019 – and with the pandemic in 2020 and 2021, we saw consumers become more interested in functional ingredients and healthy ingredients paired with CBD since they were more focused on health and wellness. Now, in 2022 with inflation rising, we see consumers being more careful with their spending, and as a result, they are focused on getting the most bang for their buck with their purchases.
When you look at beverages currently on the market, you should take note of how many milligrams of CBD or THC are in the product, what flavor profiles are being offered, what functional ingredients or minor cannabinoids are being incorporated, and what size bottles or cans are being utilized. You not only want to understand the current trends, but how those trends apply to your desired customer.
As you conduct market research, don’t simply focus on how your product is going to appeal to a consumer; focus on how your product will stand out from the rest for your desired consumer – in the short term and in the long term. Make sure an aspect of your beverage is something that no other producer can talk about. Solve a problem or fill a void so that the consumer keeps coming back for more.
Step 3 – Explore Current Flavor and Ingredient Trends
Adding cannabinoids to a beverage formula that already exists is relatively easy; starting the process from ideation requires some dedicated research into food and flavor trends. These trends tend to start at restaurants and eventually trickle down to other areas of the industry. Make sure to differentiate the emerging microtrends and mainstream trends from those that are on their way out.
Most of today’s consumers are exposed to different types of food and are generally open to trying new flavors. That said, it’s wise to consider using a base flavor for your beverage that is transferable and versatile in almost any recipe. The secondary flavors are the ones that might be more adventurous, ones that you wouldn’t expect to see paired with the base flavor. For example, citrus is a common base flavor, and it pairs well with other secondary flavors like mint or berry. As you consider flavor pairs, think about your audience. Are they adventurous when it comes to food and beverage or more conservative? Do they love tropical flavors or prefer berries? The key is to always focus on how an ingredient trend may or may not appeal to your target audience.
Step 4 – Seek Out Feedback on Your Beverage from Your Target Audience
Once you have a clear picture of your drink’s consumer, studied the beverage market, explored ingredient and flavor trends, and developed an initial formula, the next step to finalize your formulation and ingredients and test that recipe with your potential consumer and gather feedback on it from them. Consider what kind of feedback will be helpful to you moving forward – perhaps that is on flavor, mouthfeel, level of effervescence, or the packaging. Whatever the case, the more specific the questions you ask of your product testers, the more comprehensive and helpful the feedback you receive will be. Gather this type of feedback each time you change or tweak your formulation so you can track how your consumer reacts and interacts with each iteration of your drink.
Sourcing Your Active Ingredient
You’ve identified your target consumer. You’ve got a base formulation (or a few). Now it’s time to find a supplier who can deliver an emulsion that can be seamlessly integrated into your beverage. When you start evaluating suppliers, ask to taste not only their emulsions, but their customers’ drinks as well. That will give you an idea how your beverage might taste should you use their product, but also how consistent their active ingredient is in a finished product. It’s important to find a supplier who has a lot of experience working with beverage companies – especially if this is the first beverage you’re launching. An experienced supplier will be able to help you with your formulation and your flavor profile, as well as connect you to other suppliers and co-packers.
The SōRSE R & D team is not only a group of experienced food scientists, but they have helped many of our customers bring new beverages to market. If you are looking to launch an infused beverage in 2023, let us be your RESōRSE. Book a meeting with our team today to talk about your product development needs!