Cannabis Beverages: Raising a Glass to New Rituals and Disrupting Drinks Ecosystems

March 2023

Beverages have been at the nexus of social interactions and an essential lubricant facilitating cultural evolution for millennia. Brewing in Mesopotamia, wine symposia in Ancient Greece and a coffee takeaway in any contemporary metropolitan city have beverages as the common thread running through them ; Cannabis drinks, hold the potential to disrupt established drinks ecosystems and radically reshape the traditions surrounding them

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This report comes in PPT.

Key Findings

Great things have small beginnings

Still early in their nascent evolutionary cycle, cannabis beverages currently account for only a minor share of overall cannabis sales. The category is yet to realise its full potential, being limited by technological innovation only now beginning to catch up with the latest infusion and water solubility solutions, the still embryonic – or non-existent – state of the all important on-trade channel, logistics and merchandising shortcomings and barriers, and the lack of economies of scale. As most of these issues are gradually solved, however, performance will improve.

An alcohol industry already on the defensive provides an ideal environment for the category to thrive

While cannabis is increasingly establishing its role as a competitor with the alcohol industry, the latter’s shift towards non-alcohol adult beverage alternatives could turn such products into a huge opportunity instead of rapidly advancing competition. Cannabis beverages can provide functionality, responsible intoxication without a hangover, and low-calorie alternatives to alcohol offerings – all key attributes appealing to the rapidly advancing sober-curious cohort.

THC taps into recreational cues, while CBD embraces health and wellness positioning

Parallels and adjacencies in terms of branding, design and positioning are starting to emerge, with THC-forward infusions rising as an alcohol alternative, with parallels with beer, RTDs and wine, at the same time that CBD-forward concoctions are following in the footsteps of functional drinks in the soft drinks aisles. It is, however, more complex than that – additional functionalities and ingredients, ranging from other minor cannabinoids to adaptogens and from vitamins to mushrooms, will drive developments as the category comes of age.

Terroir, geographic identification initiatives and cannabis lounges will define the next stages of the category’s evolution

Accessibility, premiumisation and, ultimately, normalisation will be key to the category pivoting from niche territory into the mainstream. This shift is already beginning to take shape in places where legal frameworks allow and where the on-trade is beginning to be established, as in Minnesota. Drinking rituals have always been one of the most effective ways for humans to socialise, and allowing for such rituals to thrive around cannabis holds immense potential in the medium to long term.

Key findings
Deconstructing the cannabis beverages trend
Alcoholic drinks and the intoxicating allure of mindful drinking
The substitution question: Symbiotic or antagonistic?
Cannabis beverages: Reaching escape velocity?
Format breakdowns: Cannabis at a crossroads
Format breakdowns: Cannabis at a crossroads
Deconstructing the cannabis beverages storyline: From “bong water” to FMCG
Nano-emulsion: The key to unlocking beverages’ real potential?
High THC drinks: Dizzying highs, connoisseurship and value for money
Low THC drinks: Accessibility, demystification and outreach
In alcohol’s footsteps: Wine, RTD and beer alternatives
CBD drinks: Wellness, functionality and soft drinks parallels
Uncovering the “why” of cannabis beverage consumption
Mapping beverage usage occasions
Consumer demographics: Deciphering the “who”
Teething problems: The barriers to reaching escape velocity
Minnesota: A case study on the “new normal”?
From appellations to lounges
Harnessing the on-trade: Cannabis lounges


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