Cannabis Beverage Sales Sparkle


This overview is the first of two articles. Next, we’ll go behind-the-scenes with two beverage makers to understand more about the opportunities and challenges they face.

Let’s face it, popping a cannabis gummie into your mouth when you’re hanging out with friends doesn’t have the same social feeling as chatting over leisurely sipped cocktails. That may be one of the reasons that cannabis-infused beverages have been experiencing such strong sales.  According to industry researcher Headset, it was among the fastest growing segments in marijuana last year in the U.S., taking market share from other cannabis categories. California, the largest U.S. market, sold more than $64 million worth of cannabis-infused beverages last year according to wholesale platform LeafLink, about a 50% growth over 2020.

Potency varies dramatically so there are options for the new canna-curious consumer who is following the classic “start low, go slow” dosage advice, and choices for those seeking out a stronger (or much stronger) effect. A lower-dose offering might contain 2 to 10 mg of THC per twelve ounce bottle (10mg is generally considered a THC dose or serving). On the more potent end, a small container of “shots” may have 100mg of THC, the legal limit of THC in a single container.

Flavors run the gamut. Major brands’ fruit drinks come in varieties like Orange Mango and Sacred Grape. MXXN offers a replacement for gin, bourbon and tequila in 750ml bottles, with instructions on the number of capfuls to mix into a drink in order to achieve the desired THC level. Stillwater Brands sells Ripple, a THC product that can be dissolved in any drink.

The category is young and expanding with new entrants. The number of unique beverage products available in California on the LeafLink platform more than doubled from January to December of 2021 according to Alex Feldman, general manager of Insights & Marketing Services at LeafLink. Of those, carbonated beverages were the most popular subcategory, contributing more than one third of beverage sales there. In Colorado, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington, carbonated beverages make up about a third of infused beverage sales with the other two thirds going for Drops, Mixes, Elixirs, Syrups, Iced Tea, Lemonade, and Fruit drinks. 

The vast new supply in California has benefited consumers both in variety and cost, with category prices down 9% for the year in that state. In more mature markets with fewer new entrants, prices tend to stay more stable. Colorado had fewer new cannabis-infused beverages come to market, and prices there increased by 5% for the year.

Comparing the popularity of different brands or segments in the category across states can be challenging because each state is still its own unique market, according to Cooper Ashley, senior data analyst at Headset. There are a few multi-state brands in the beverage category, he said, but like most of the cannabis industry, the majority of companies operate in just one state. As more states relax cannabis laws though, infused beverages are predicted to keep growing strong.



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