Sparkling, With A Twist: How Millennials Are Driving The Growth Of THC-Infused Seltzers
By Andrew Amend, CEO of Manzanita Naturals.
As Millennials’ preferences for marijuana over alcohol grows and with states expanding legalization, cannabis sodas and seltzers are the new crossover beverage. Can manufacturers keep up without sacrificing quality?
With sales approaching $3 billion, seltzers and sparkling waters are bubbling their way to the top of the beverage industry while soda consumption continues to decline. Today’s consumers are seeking healthier choices, and seltzers align with most dietary decisions—from keto to low-sugar to low-fat—while providing a fun, fizzy water alternative.
Additionally, the 2019 State of the Beverage Industry reportby Beverage Industry Magazine found that falling alcohol consumption suggests an opportunity for beverage makers to position themselves as an alcoholic beverage alternative.
Enter one of the fastest-growing segments of the marijuana industry: THC-infused seltzers.
Cannabis beverages are attracting a variety of adult consumers, though they’re striking a particular chord with Millennials, who range in age from 21-37 and make up nearly a quarter of the U.S. population.
A few reasons why:
- No smoking. Today’s consumers are looking for new ways to use cannabis. THC-infused seltzers are easy to enjoy socially, and, of course, don’t require lighting up.
- They’re alcohol-free. Millennials’ desire to veer from traditional beer, wine and spirits may contribute to their interest in THC- and CBD-infused products.
- Convenience. Consumers are increasingly interested in on-the-go, single-serving canned or bottled drinks. THC-infused beverages also require less time to take effect than most edibles.
- Medicinal purposes. THC and CBD products provide a fast-acting source of relief as people seek healthier, low- or no-alcohol beverage solutions for sleep, pain, stress and relaxation.
Eleven states and Washington, DC have legalized marijuana for adults over 21 to use recreationally, and 33 states have legalized medical marijuana. As the “green rush” takes hold in California and beyond, more and more companies are quickly entering the industry to capitalize on the potential market.
And while competition is good, a few downsides have surfaced: Many newcomers to the industry, for example, are cutting corners to get products to market faster and using one-size-fits-all emulsions that don’t necessarily take taste into consideration.
In 2019 alone, the choices have grown exponentially, but not always with desirable, quality products. For example, THC beverages with pre-made THC oils can produce the desired effect, but they don’t necessarily mask the unpleasant cannabis taste often found in edibles. Other companies put profitability above purity, which results in unhealthy products on shelves. And as large beverage corporations shift their production scope to include development of CBD and THC drinks, they often use their vast marketing budgets to mask poor product quality.
So why has the marijuana industry spent years struggling to produce a quality cannabis-infused sparkling water product? The main issue is emulsion: Any residual cannabis taste is easy to notice in water (as opposed to soda), and any textural abnormalities (e.g. uneven emulsion) stand out more in sparkling water than they do in soda.
Most early producers of THC drinks haven’t approached it as a craft, but this could be changing. Some small, craft-style manufacturers are aiming for thoughtfully sourced oils with quicker onsets and reliable absorption, ideally at an affordable price. They also understand that, since THC is highly lipophilic, using food science is crucial.
Paying close attention to hydrophilic-lipophilic balance can assist with reducing the cannabis flavor in THC-infused drinks, and employing a second emulsion process can create a more consistent taste. Food science is also helpful with flavor development and knowing which flavors
and sweeteners cut the cannabis taste while providing a final product with zero carbs and zero grams of sugar.
By using a small-batch, craft-beer approach to manufacturing, companies can create a cannabis-infused seltzer with that desirable clean, crisp taste and possibly jump on the bandwagon of this sector of the industry.
As for consumers, the growing number of folks looking for healthy beverage alternatives and innovative cannabis products get exactly what they came for—on top of a great-tasting, affordable product.
Andrew Amend is the CEO of Manzanita Naturals. After only two years in operation, Manzanita Naturals is leading the way in the cannabis edible space. The company has released a number of innovative products and developed ways to keep children safe from accidental use.
The preceding article is from one of our external contributors. It does not represent the opinion of Benzinga and has not been edited.
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