People like weed. In fact, the global commercial cannabis market is predicted to reach $7.7 billion in 2017 and then grow 60 percent to hit $31.4 billion in 2021. That’s a lot of pent-up pot. The United States makes up some 90 percent of that commercial market today, and eight states and Washington, D.C., have already given the “green light” to recreational sales. On top of that, 20 states have legalized medical marijuana. So, how can brewers tap into this emerging market? Or, maybe first, should you want to?
Some folks (like GlobalData) say yes and suggest there are opportunities in cannabis-infused beverages like beer, which they say tends to attract and retain younger consumers, according to its latest report. In fact, large beer companies have been itching to experiment with the sector — perhaps you saw Constellation buy a stake in a commercial marijuana operation the other day; Constellation is an alcohol beverage rollup that owns Ballast Point, Corona in America and a zillion other beer, spirits and wine brands. To the press release!
Tom Vierhile, Innovation Insights Director at GlobalData, says: “The threat of lost sales from marijuana and marijuana-laced products has been on big beer’s radar for years. Brewers also understand if they want to grow the market, they need to win with younger consumers. But younger consumers are straying from beer in worrying numbers.
“In sales collateral for its soon-to-be-launched Two Hats Pineapple Light Beer, MillerCoors says that 40 percent of its ‘beer losses’ come from consumers aged 21 to 24. It also says that consumers who drink beer at the age of 21 are twice as likely to stick with beer. With support rising for legalizing marijuana use in the US, cannabis-infused drinks may be one new way to hang onto younger consumers.”
Early sales numbers on marijuana edibles suggest that the sector isn’t going anywhere, especially since a lot of folks don’t like to smoke. According to a GlobalData survey, 54 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds globally say they have never smoked (the highest response by age) compared to just 33 percent of those over 65.
Of course, eating or drinking products infused with marijuana or THC can easily turn into a shit show. The euphoric effects can take well over an hour to kick in, so people often consume too much, which can cause some serious paranoid drug tripping (it is the exact opposite of fun). That’s not really the case when smoking a lot, so education will be critical as well as restrictions — Colorado has just phased in a dosing size restriction. Back to the press release:
Vierhile adds: “This delayed effect proved to be problematic for marijuana edibles in first-mover states like Colorado and Washington, which experienced some public health concerns after the legalization of marijuana edibles earlier this decade.
“Colorado has just phased in a dosing size restriction of 10 milligrams of THC per serving of cannabis-laced foods and drinks and a universal THC symbol must now appear on each package. Players looking to enter this emerging market will need to consider health and legal factors when designing products and packaging.”
Some recent cannabis-infused beverage introductions in the markets include California Dreamin’ cannabis-infused sparkling fruit juices and Cannabis Quencher Sips, which may demonstrate how beer companies could innovate.
Maybe a thing, but maybe a risky thing too.