The cannabis industry has seen some players make big bets on beverages, but so far it hasn’t paid off. The market is definitely growing, just not at the rate many had hoped for. Plus, the slow growth of this form factor is not an indication that it won’t continue to increase and eventually gain even more market share.
Cannabis tracking firm Headset recently released a report on the cannabis beverage industry and found that in the U.S., “The beverage category’s market share has held fairly steady between 0.85% and 1.1% over the last several years. In fact, market share to the category was slowly decreasing through late 2019 and early 2020 before maintaining just below 0.9% during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Despite consumers tapping the brakes on beverages, the category has begun a turnaround and Headset believes the products are poised to reach an all time high as pandemic restrictions ease. The report also noticed that consumers are at least giving the products a try as basket data is showing more people are tossing some beverages in the bag. The report said, “We can see a relatively steady march upwards over time rising from 1.6% in January 2018 to 2.8% in February 2021. Even though market share hasn’t drastically increased, Beverages are making their way into more and more baskets each month, indicating that more customers than ever are trying THC-infused Beverages.”
A little more than 20% of the shopping carts are filled with only cannabis beverages, meaning the other almost 80% are adding beverages to a larger order. By contrast, a third of edible consumers are buying just edibles when they go to the dispensaries.
It’s A Girl Thing
What has been revealed is that women are the big buyers of cannabis beverages. In every single age category, women outspent men when buying cannabis-infused beverages. So, hands down, the main consumer for cannabis-infused beverages are women.
Where things get even more interesting in the report is when Headset dives into dosage. The two main categories for purchases are on either side of the spectrum — either low like a microdose or very high for maximum effect. The report stated, “In fact, most of the growth in the 10mg or lighter section over the last few years has come from the 0-5mg ‘microdosed’ cohort of beverages, which has risen from 14.4% category share to more than 18% of sales this year to date.” For example, so far in 2021 beverages with over 100mg accounted for 59.8% of the market share, while products with less than 5 mg were the second-largest category with a 19.5% market share.
The report stated that “California beverage sales in January 2021 clocked in at $15.5M, nearly six times greater than the $2.7M recorded during January 2018, the first month of recreational sales.” Also, since the competition is heating up and there are more beverages to choose from, the top three selling brands in 2018 have seen their market share decline. The data showed that some brands, like Kikoko and Cannabis Quencher, have held firm in the market even though new brands have entered the space. “Legal beverages, on the other hand, was unable to keep up, falling from the third top selling Beverage brand in 2018 to a market exit in 2020.”
Headset also determined that there are some newer success stories like Lagunitas Brewing Company’s ‘Hi-Fi Hops’ which sells only products containing 10mg of THC or less per serving. Heineken (OTC: HEINY) owns Lagunitas and so the beer is no longer considered a “craft beer”. “Keef Cola, a legacy brand originating way back in the medical cannabis markets, was relaunched in California in 2019 and quickly rose to a prominent position by offering affordable soda, mocktail, and flavored water products in both 10mg and 100mg package sizes.”
Just like the alcohol industry has seen a big move towards hard seltzers, cannabis beverages have also dipped into the bubbly category. CANN Social Tonics has made a quick splash by using celebrity investors to get attention. The report stated that “Despite extremely high EQ (price per milligram of THC) prices, and with less than a year and a half in the market, CANN has pulled away as California’s top Beverage brand by an increasingly wide margin.” That doesn’t mean it’s alone in the space, Pabst Blue Ribbon recently launched a 5mg seltzer in California, and cannabis-infused wine-like product Rebel Coast left the vineyard to focus on canned seltzer products.
The cannabis beverage is still only a tiny part of the market, but it is slowly growing. Women seem to be the dominant consumer along with Gen-Xers. The desired dose is either maximum effect or just a light buzz. The in-between products aren’t generating as much interest and cannabis seltzers could become just as big as alcoholic seltzers.