In some respects of the burgeoning cannabis industry, the possibilities are endless. There are so many ways in which companies can market cannabis to an eager consumer base. In other respects, though, the possibilities are strictly limited. Such is the situation faced by an industry that is federally outlawed and regulated in different ways from state to state.
One particular part of the cannabis market that faces this industry-specific dichotomy is the attempts at entry into the food and beverage space. There are many places where cannabis has already started to make its mark – and even more places where it hasn’t even had the opportunity to start.
Finding footing in a new market
Drinks that contain cannabidiol (CBD) have been around for a while. The new trend is around marijuana drinks, which contain tetrahydocannabinol (THC). CBD is the component of cannabis that does not provide a high, and THC is the intoxicating substance in cannabis.
With more states legalizing the use of recreational marijuana, companies have started to get creative. One space that has seen a big jump has been these marijuana beverages. The market research firm BDSA reports that dollar sales of marijuana beverages increased by about 65 percent between 2020 and 2021 in the 12 states it tracks.
Some of that growth is new companies looking to experiment in a space that shows potential, while some of it is other established companies, like Pabst, taking advantage of an opportunity to expand their brand.
The use of CBD in food is not legal according to federal law, but certain states allow it. Proof of the popularity of cannabis-infused foods is the fact that the 2022 International Baking Industry Exposition hosted its first Cannabis Central pavilion, allowing attendees to meet and hear from experts from the food part of the industry.
What can the data tell us?
Cannabis companies can use data to determine how deep they want to dive into the food and beverage side of the industry. Just as they would with any product, companies gauge customer interest. Is there a demand for the products, and if so, is there enough interest to make an investment worth it?
So much of the industry is so new – at least in certain states where legalization is more recent – that cannabis companies have yet to purchase an analytics solution. But this is the exact scenario where the right analytics solution can help a company make the decisions that can take it to the next level. When it comes to beverages, for example, it’s not a matter of suddenly just selling drinks. There are space considerations to take into account – does a dispensary have the room to display the drinks? Taking that point even further, is there room for a refrigerator so the drinks could be sold cold? And would the return on a refrigerator purchase be worth the investment? Those are all data points for a company to consider.
The fact that beverages can now even be infused with marijuana is a result of data collection. Until recently, THC’s makeup didn’t allow it to be mixed with liquid. But new emulsion technology has become more widely available, allowing creators to smoothly blend cannabinoids into a seltzer or a cocktail. The work with that data is bound to continue for companies as they try to stay a step ahead regarding exactly what the best blend can be.
The right analytics solution can also provide you with the most up-to-date legal information. Cannabis is a complex industry because of the varying laws from state to state. Companies need to be able to track what is legal and where – just because recreational use is allowed doesn’t mean cannabis can be used in food. Analytics allows a company to weigh all aspects of that part of the business.
There are other parts of the food and beverage space that experts point to as potential issues. The drinks aren’t widespread enough yet for people to understand exactly how much marijuana they are ingesting with a particular drink in the same way they know how much alcohol is in one beer or a glass of wine. Also, cannabis drinks are sometimes touted as healthy alternatives to alcohol, with companies advertising less of a hangover. Health experts warn that while consumers might not get drunk in the same way, they could still be impaired in a different way.
The simple fact is that more research has to be done. There has been no federally funded research into marijuana drinks. The data can provide some answers to companies looking to become involved in this space. As with most industries, though, new data is always coming in that needs to be considered.
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