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Wine Or Weed? Experts Discuss The Future Of Cannabis-Infused Beverages

wine bottle among weeds

The adult-use of recreational marijuana is a fast-growing market, and non-alcoholic beverages have an even more meteoric rise.

In places where recreational cannabis is legal, THC-infused beverages often share shelves with beer, wine and other drinks. But, should alcoholic beverage producers worry about competition from weed-infused beverages? Experts in these industries answered these questions in a recent report published by winemag.com

Colleen McClellan, regional director of client solutions for Datassential, a leading food and beverage insights platform, expects business opportunities in the THC-infused drinks space. “I think as more states relax the regulations, we will continue to see an increase in interest and use,” said McClellan, who is a trained sommelier.

“The critical aspect to adoption is going to be the taste of the product. Taste is extremely important for repeat purchase,”noted McClellan who predicts brand consolidation in the cannabis beverage space.

 

The data expert highlighted that “there are consumers who enjoy the use of cannabis or THC-infused products, as it provides a functional benefit without the hangover effect” and stressed the centrality of marketing in driving consumers to dispensaries. “Weed has never been so bespoke. You can choose the strain, strength and method of consumption as you would a bag of coffee beans.”

Purpose-driven products are the wave of the future

Michelle Mendoza, head grower at Sweet Flower, a California dispensary, said, “I think the most interesting development for infused drinks as of late is the expansion of minor cannabinoids that are being featured in these drinks. We are only going to continue to see more of these minor cannabinoids as the star of the sector.”

Meanwhile, Travis Tharp, CEO of Keef Brands, a Colorado-based cannabis beverage company, said purpose-driven products are the wave of the future.

“These products are based on extensive data and appeal to consumers and patients looking for specific intended effects. We’re starting to see beverages move beyond THC to incorporate lesser known, but therapeutically promising, alternative cannabinoids.”

According to Morgan McLachlan co-founder, chief product officer and master distiller at AMASS, a beverage company specializing in botanics-based adaptogenic drinks, “the adult-use of recreational marijuana is a fast-growing market, and non-alcoholic beverages have an even more meteoric rise. No- and low-ABV sectors have grown 506% since 2015, and are anticipated to reach $280 million in revenue this year.”

Despite what seems like meteoric market growth, Jim Higdon, cofounder and chief communications officer of Cornbread Hemp, a Kentucky-based company that produces full-spectrum hemp oils, doesn’t think traditional wine, beer and alcohol producers need to worry.

“THC beverages have their place, but that place is probably not in the hand of a wine lover with a sophisticated palate,” Higdon opined.

He notes that the ideal customer for a THC beverage is either someone trying to cut down on drinking alcohol or a new consumer wanting a non-smoking cannabis option.

“There’s no sense of the terroir of the cannabis flower in the finished beverage product,” Higdon said. “For a wine aficionado looking to savor the full complexity of a cannabis strain’s terpene profile, there’s no substitute for a well-cured flower.”

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