In the cannabis marketplace, beverages have come a long way in a relatively short amount of time. There are plenty of products on the market for consumers to choose from – still water, sparkling water, juice, tonic, seltzer, aperitifs, and mocktails, just to name a few. Some drinks are infused with CBD, some with THC, some with a pairing of CBD and THC, and others with minor cannabinoids. To differentiate themselves, many brands are creating unique flavor pairings, or putting their own spin on classic beverages like soda, seltzers, or cocktails. So many drinks – so little time!
This spring, Brightfield predicted that CBD drinks will reach $192M in annual sales this year, up 9.5% compared to 2021. That’s a significant amount of growth in a year. Another analytics group, BDSA, reported earlier this summer that the cannabis beverage category had 64% growth last year and 27% growth quarter over quarter. This growth begs the question — what’s driving consumers to try cannabis beverages?
REASON #1: CANNABIS DRINKS ARE A GREAT REPLACEMENT FOR ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES
In the past few years, we’ve seen a shift in consumer behavior around alcohol. More people are cutting back on the amount of alcohol they drink, and some are abstaining from alcohol altogether, especially as we learn more about the negative effects it has on the body and brain.
In 2021, a Nielsen survey reported that 22% of consumers were drinking less and cutting back on their alcohol consumption. When asked why they were doing this, consumers responded that they either wanted to have a healthier lifestyle, they had lost interest in drinking alcohol, they weren’t going out as much as they used to, or they were interested in NA beverages instead.
For those who are sober curious or those who have chosen to cut out alcohol altogether, cannabis beverages are great replacements for alcoholic beverages. Many can be used as a base for a mocktail or as a stand-alone drink over ice. For consumers who want an elevated experience without the headache the next day, THC infused drinks offer that lift with a gentle letdown.
REASON #2: CANNABIS DRINKS ARE A HEALTHY ALTERNATIVE TO EDIBLES
Cannabis edibles are a popular format for consumption – namely gummies and chocolate – which makes sense given how familiar consumers are with these formats. That said, edibles are often high in sugar, and in the case of chocolate, high in fat. In comparison, most cannabis beverages are low in sugar and have no fat in them whatsoever. Many drinks also offer other good-for-you ingredients like adaptogens, superfoods, and functional ingredients. When you drink a cannabis beverage, you’re not just ingesting the cannabinoids – you’re staying hydrated and reaping the benefits of other healthy ingredients.
REASON #3: CANNABIS DRINKS ARE GREAT FOR SOCIAL EXPERIENCES
Whether you are sharing a meal with friends, out at a park for a picnic, on a hike with your best friend, or doing movie night with your neighbors, cannabis drinks are great to share with others. It’s fun to offer a variety of different drinks for folks to try – ones with CBD, THC, or a CBD/THC combination — because everyone’s tastes and levels of interest in cannabis are different. Bringing a low-dose THC drink to an outing might give someone who’s canna-curious the opportunity to try a product that they might not otherwise be exposed to
Another fun event involving cannabis drinks is a Happy Hour Mocktail party. Invite a group of friends over, have them bring some of their favorite cocktail/mocktail ingredients, pull out the blender, fill up a bucket of ice, and get creative as you mix infused sparkling waters, seltzers, or tonics with your guests’ ingredients
REASON #4: CANNABIS DRINKS BRING VERSATILITY IN FORMAT AND DOSING
In 2022, we’re seeing more beverage companies getting creative with the products they are offering to the consumer. There are plenty of ready-to-drink items on the market sold in cans or bottles, but now we’re seeing more wellness shots and single serve, ready-to-mix packages like stick packs hitting the shelves. These are great for folks who are on the go since they don’t take up a lot of space and deliver a healthy dose of cannabinoids in a smaller, more compact format.
In terms of dosing cannabis drinks, typically, CBD beverages on the market offer anywhere from 20-40mg of CBD per 12-ounce container. The dosing with THC beverages is more varied – you can find low dose products with 2mgs THC per container, and at the other end of the spectrum, 100mg. While 100mg may sound like a lot, a beverage with this dosage is quite versatile; a consumer could drink 5mgs at a time, or 10 – it’s really up to the person and their level of tolerance
REASON #5: CANNABIS DRINKS OFFER CONSISTENT, QUICK ONSETS AND BETTER BIOAVAILABILITY THAN EDIBLES
Cannabis drinks that are made using water-soluble emulsions like SōRSE offer the consumers quicker onsets consistently. Someone who consumes an infused beverage will typically feel the effects within 8-12 minutes, which is relatively quick compared to an edible’s onset which can take upwards of an hour or two depending on a person’s body chemistry. Because every human body is unique and functions differently, no one person will metabolize and absorb or experience cannabinoids in the exact same way as someone else.
For those who wonder how beverages can deliver a quick onset in a repeatable manner, it’s because of the way the emulsion delivers the cannabinoids. When cannabinoids are enrobed in a water-soluble emulsion, they will be evenly dispersed throughout the beverage, which means there are the same amount of cannabinoids in the first sip as the last.
The body also has an easier time digesting cannabinoids in a water-soluble format compared to oil. When a person orally ingests CBD or THC in oil form, it can typically take 1 to 2 hours for the onset of effects, followed by a plateau between 2 and 5 hours, depending on how much a person has eaten. Emulsion technology breaks oil down into small particle sizes for even dispersal and stability, allowing for greater absorption in the intestinal tract for better bioavailability. Absorption actually begins in the mouth, before you even swallow your first sip of an infused beverage!
Infused beverage is definitely a category on the rise in today’s cannabis industry. For consumers looking for alternatives (or supplements!) to flower, tinctures, and edibles, cannabis beverages are a terrific option given the taste profiles being created by product producers, the variety of products on the market, and the consistent experience a beverage made with a water-soluble emulsion can deliver. If you are a beverage designer interested in creating a cannabis drink to launch, come to the SōRSE and book a call with our team today, a team well-versed in beverage formulation.