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Brief Published: 19 Nov 2020

Cannabis Companies Embrace Low-Dose Beverages

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Pabst Blue Ribbon

A duo of cannabis-infused drinks from US brewery Pabst Blue Ribbon and Canadian cannabis company Canopy Growth are looking to popularise the format among first-time consumers. Will low-dose formulas be enough for cannabis to capture the booming beverage market?

We’ve covered infused foods since our 2014 report Cannabis: The Culinary Opportunity, but the drinks market has struggled to gain traction. Stymied by ultra-potent doses, consumers have bypassed beverages for other edibles, which now account for 20% of purchases on Californian delivery platform Eaze (Eaze, 2020). 

To overturn the category’s fortunes, Pabst Blue Ribbon launched an infused seltzer in California, which contains five milligrams of THC (cannabis’ psychoactive component) per can – half the state-mandated serving-size dose. While the low dose makes the drink approachable to less-experienced cannabis consumers, the seltzer base shrewdly addresses the health-conscious imbibers we profile in Tomorrow’s Soft Drink Consumer, who are driving sales of low-calorie hard beverages (though there is no alcohol in Pabst’s infused seltzer).

Canopy Growth will be targeting a similar market with its low-dose infused beverages, launching in summer 2021 in Illinois and California (two markets with recreational cannabis sales). The company is betting that its experience selling 1.7 million infused ready-to-drink beverages in Canada will prime it for US success. While details are sparse, Canopy Growth says that the beverages will come in small packs to promote moderate consumption and prevent most people from feeling too high should they consume multiple. 

Despite a reported increase in alcohol consumption during the pandemic – a topic we explore in The New At-Home Drinking Occasion – there’s still a significant cohort of younger consumers looking to decrease alcohol consumption. As we explain in THC Beverage Buzz, low-dose cannabis beverages are targeting this cohort, who see infused drinks as a social alcohol alternative.

For more on halfway-teetotal consumers, see Future Thinking Episode 46 and Selling to the Sober Curious Consumer. For more on cannabis, see our Spotlight Trend Commercialising Cannabis.

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