Cracking a cold one is set to take on a whole new meaning. As legalization of recreational cannabis becomes the norm instead of the exception, it’s helping pave the way for a new frontier of cannabis products: cannabis-infused beverages, or CIBs, are coming, and the market is already looking extremely promising.
In May of this year, Cannabis-infused beverages were predicted to become a massive market by 2026 — and already dozens of companies are jumping into the fray. Everything from cannabis-infused beer and spirits to spring water is set to drive over $4 billion dollars in growth in the United States alone. Health Canada has stated that they’ll allow for cannabis-infused beverages a limit of 10mg of psychoactive ingredients per package, but it isn’t out of the ordinary to see infused beverage products in the American market with up to 100mg dosages.
You might ask, why beverages? There’s probably no limit on ways to infuse products to consume cannabis the most traditional of consumption methods, smoking, may not be as popular among newer users. Many of those users — including a great many who are older — see an odd juxtaposition between legalisation and the health risks associated with tobacco that they’ve seen and heard for years. The bottom line: all smoke inhalation can be harsh on your lungs, making other smoke-free products — tinctures, edibles and, of course, beverages — with little to no drug interaction that much more attractive, and thereby reach a much larger number of people.
So what can we expect from drinkables? As the buzz builds, new brands, new labels and a whole product marketing boom could change the way you get lifted.
New Partnerships & Purveyors
At the forefront of the infused beverages revolution are Canadian companies making landmark partnerships with some of the oldest beverages manufacturers in the business. Among those brands who have thrown their hats in the ring are …
- Constellation Brands — makers of Ballast Point, Pacifico and Modelo beers, as well as SVEDKA vodka, Robert Mondavi wines and Black Velvet rum — began investing in medical marijuana in 2017, and recently teamed up with Canadian international mega-producer Canopy Growth to debut it’s line of infused drinks. Canopy’s CEO Mark Zekulin has hinted that the company’s foray into new product formats will offer “sophisticated taste, better bioavailability and dose control” with minimal or no calories.
- Molson Coors, the multinational Canadian/American partnership brewing company behind flagship brands like Molson Canadian & Coors Light, teamed up with Quebec’s own award-winning cannabis producer Hexo Corporation to create Truss Beverages Co. This colourfully stylish line of cartoned, non-alcoholic cannabis beverage products give the typical bougie carton water brands you’ve probably seen at your local Starbucks a major glow-up.
- Anheuser-Busch, makers of Budweiser, Stella Artois and Beck’s, partnered with British Columbia-based cannabis and pharmaceutical giant Tilray in 2018. Tilray has spent considerable time and resources into studying new methods of cannabinoid delivery, that CEO Brendan Kennedy says will take the form of an iconic new line of drinks, among others.
Cannabis & Craft Brewers
Those companies listed above account for a great deal of domestic beer brands on the market. With major heavyweights like these all poised to drive the surge in infused beverages, it begs the question: will smaller, independent craft brewers be able to keep up? You bet they can. So far, several Canadian brewers are ready to step up to the plate, particularly in Ontario, with some exploring more than just a wide range of products and flavours. So which craft brewers have their eyes on cannabis beverages?
- Hamilton’s wildly popular Collective Arts Brewing Co. has created Collective Project which, apart from providing a memorable artistic experience, also aims to sell a line of high quality infused beverages to legalised markets in the United States. Not much has been revealed about the project thus far, but given the brewery’s innovative approach, this would definitely be one to watch in the near future.
- Bell City Brewing of Brantford are not afraid of doing things differently, and neither is Lost Craft. Small wonder that both breweries partnered with Canadian startup Province Brands to create their own lines of infused beverages. Province’s approach uses only the parts of a cannabis plant with no commercial value — stalks, stems and roots — to develop their unique products, which definitely sound promising. Province has been applying their unique craft to produce an infused pilsner that the company says actually tastes like real beer. Cambridge Bay Imperial Pilsner is well-known; you would’ve had to take a jaunt north to the Yukon in the first half of this year in order to try it, but Province aims to sell the 7% pilsner to the rest of Canada soon (it’s already available in legal states like Colorado).
- Most recently Health Canada awarded Waterloo Brewing a research license to begin brewing their contender for the cannabis-infused craft space this past summer. The largest Canadian-owned brewery will be on track for mass production of infused beverages by early next year.
- British Columbia’s Tantalus Labs is a cannabis company with an outdoorsy, West Coast vibe perfectly suited to Vancouver craft brewer Postmark Brewing. Known for collaborations with popular local brands like Lululemon and the Pacific Salmon Foundation, Postmark’s partnership with the smoothly branded Tantalus Labs promises to be legendary.
- While not technically a craft brewery, Moosehead does however happen to have more than a 100 years of independent brewing behind it’s name. And with a legacy like that it was only a matter of time before they announced their own cannabis producer partnership: this time with Sproutly Canada, whose patented water-soluble cannabinoid technology has lead to the creation of the alcohol-free Infuz2O.
The next several years will reveal what exactly the space will look like for CIBs, though the noise surrounding their long-awaited market debut is already deafening. We at CalmCollectiv are super excited to see what is next for the Canadian market — and just how they will measure up to products in the same category elsewhere.