For weed companies, an infused weed beverage that is as consistent as a glass of wine is something of a Holy Grail.
The biggest Licensed Producers in Canada – Canopy, Tilray and HEXO – have all struck up big partnerships with multinational beverage companies. Smaller firms have also been working to perfect their own infusion methods. With edibles now available to the Canadian public, the race to dominate the weed drink space is fermenting.
But the much-anticipated “beverage revolution” may be a little further off than first expected.
Earlier this month, Canopy Growth, the presumed front-runner in the race, pushed back its timeline for beverages indefinitely. The company recently announced that they are still working on developing production methods in their brand-new bottling facility.
Several beverage industry sources tell CannCentral that all three companies are delaying for technical reasons. Industry chatter has been that cannabis was leaching into the lining of aluminum cans. Meanwhile, the task of infusing these drinks without making them taste like soggy weed has been a challenge for others.
Tilray and AB InBev, who partnered to form Fluent in late 2018, currently only sell CBD-infused tea bags in just a few corners of the country.
Truss, a high-profile partnership between HEXO and Molson, has yet to put out any products. (Neither were willing to comment for this story.)
Other smaller companies who are more focused on weed drinks are only now starting to see progress.
Cole Miller of Iconic Brewing says they expect to have their drinks – two varieties of infused seltzer called Summit and Basecamp – on the shelves in the next three weeks. But it’s been a bumpy ride.
“We’ve had numerous delays, as anybody in this business has had,” Miller tells CannCentral. “The long process is micro testing. Cannabis beverages have a much higher standard than apple juice at the grocery store.”
Another highly anticipated beverage, a cannabis beer brewed by Province Brands, will also have to wait.
“We’ll likely not have anything on the shelves until the end of second or early third quarter,” says company founder Dooma Wendschuh.
“Beverage, in itself, is an interesting beast,” says Adam Kagan, who is directing Ontarieau’s cannabis beverage division. “Manufacturing is tricky, packaging is tricky.”
Even when the manufacturing is sorted out, there will be shipping logistics, which are reportedly already vexing wholesalers like the Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS) in Ontario. Kagan says he’s been told that OCS doesn’t plan on making beverages available through its online store.
At the retail store level, there’s the issue of space and the infrastructure needed to handle large volumes of beverage containers. So when beverages do hit the market, it’s likely that access will be unevenly spread across the country.
Kagan predicts “the market will loosen up” once we start to see cannabis beverages in restaurants and bars. He adds that “as the younger generations start to choose whether [weed] is something they’d like to do, more will move away from smoking.”