Cannabis Sparks a Beverage Revolution

The infusion of cannabis into beverages is transforming the beverage industry and consumers’ drinking habits.

Consumers today can find THC and CBD infused into beers, wines, coffees, teas, sodas, waters, elixirs, and energy drinks.

Wellness drinks, in particular, is a significant new category that is bringing  the health benefits of CBD to consumers.

This first wave of cannabis drinks is only the beginning, as many of the big guns in the cannabis and beverage industries have set their sights on what promises to be a huge cannabis beverage market.

Next Big Thing in Cannabis

The first phase of legalized recreational cannabis in Canada did not include beverages and edibles. With the next phase set for the fall of 2019, the major Canadian cannabis producers are forging partnerships with beverage, bio-research, and alcohol companies to bring cannabis beverages to market.

Among the big players is Canopy Growth, which made headlines as the recipient of a $4 billion investment from liquor giant Constellation Brands. Canopy CEO Bruce Linton believes cannabis beverages “represent the next big opportunity.”

Edibles and infused beverages might have a wider appeal than smoking cannabis, Linton said, because consumers might consider eating and drinking the products to be more socially acceptable than smoking them.

Likewise, Tilray CEO Brendan Kennedy believes beverages will ultimately dominate the cannabis market, with only 10% of cannabis being smoked and 90% being consumed as cannabis beverages.

Cannabis Chemistry

Although many players recognize the commercial potential of cannabis beverages, there are significant challenges involved in producing them. Because cannabinoids are fat soluble rather than water soluble, as beveragedaily notes, “beverage producers are left with the age-old problem of trying to mix oil and water when creating cannabis beverages.”

Another problem with oil-based cannabis absorption is that the effects are not felt for 90 minutes or more, in contrast to alcoholic beverages that are absorbed quickly.

Among the companies that are developing ways to make cannabis water soluble and more easily absorbable are Trait Biosciences, Vitality Biopharma, Lexaria Biosciences, Ascent Industries, Chemesis International, Tilray, Sproutly Canada, and Emerald Health Therapeutics.

Ascent Industries CEO Philip Campbell said his company’s Agrima Botanticals subsidiary has developed a compound that can be added to drinks to make cannabinoids water soluble and quickly absorbable, with the effects felt in 15 minutes.

Sproutly Canada announced that it has developed a portfolio of cannabis beverages based on its water-soluble MisT and Infuz2O cannabinoid technology.

Among Lexaria’s innovations is a new water-soluble hemp powder called ChrD+ that comes in packets and can be added to any hot or cold drink to infuse hemp oil.

The Green Organic Dutchman (TGOD), which created a global division to focus on the beverage industry, has forged an exclusive agreement with Stillwater Brands to license its RIPPLE SC (Soluble Cannabinoids) technology to create soluble and fast-acting cannabis beverages.

Taste Appeal

Besides solubility, the taste of cannabis can be a problem, with many people finding cannabis to have an unappealing skunky flavor. Thus, cannabis producers are partnering with biotech research companies to acquire the know-how to create more palatable cannabis beverages.

Terpenes are cannabis components that impart flavors and mood enhancements to cannabis products, and research is being devoted to infusing terpenes into beverages. NaPro Research, Flowr, and Yofumo are among the companies developing techniques to isolate terpenes and breed cannabis strains with particular aromas and tastes. As Mashable reports, a number of brewing companies are adding cannabis terpenes to their beers to produce various flavor profiles.

Lexaria Bioscience has developed delivery technology called DehydraTECH that can be used to infuse cannabis in food and beverages. The technology enhances the taste, smell, speed of action, and absorption. Lexia has introduced a line of cannabis-infused tea, coffee and hot chocolate products, as well as an energy drink.

Expanding into Cannabis Territory

Among the beverage companies expanding into the cannabis market is Lifford Wine & Spirits. Lisa Campbell, CEO of the company’s Lifford Cannabis Solutions subsidiary, said many cannabis companies are in talks with food and beverage manufacturers that want to extend their brands into the cannabis space.

Campbell said her company was working with a number of partners—including WeedMD, TerrAscend Canada, and Token Naturals—to bring “premium infused products” to market as soon as Canada officially permits edibles and beverages.

Token Naturals focuses on extracting and refining cannabis oils, and CEO Keenan Pascal said his company was working with food and drink manufacturers to design formulas to bring cannabis-infused products to market. Among Token Natural’s products are bitters for infusion into beverages.

Cannabis Brews

Studies show that cannabis sales are growing at the expense of alcohol in states in which cannabis becomes legal. To hedge against a decline in their revenues, major beer brands are launching non-alcoholic cannabis beer lines. New companies also are sprouting up to bring cannabis craft beers to market.

Constellation Brands, the company behind Modelo and Corona beer, has tied its wagon to Canopy Growth Corp. through a $4 billion investment.

Molson Coors followed suit by announcing a joint venture with The Hydropothecary Corporation to develop non-alcoholic cannabis-infused beverages for the Canadian market.

Heineken created a subsidiary called Lagunitas and teamed up with AbsoluteXtracts to create cannabis-infused sparkling water beverages called Hi-Fi Hops that are being sold in California.

Most recently, Budweiser maker AB InBev forged a $100 million deal with Tilray to research cannabis-infused beverages.

Keith Villa, who invented Blue Moon beer for MillerCoors, has launched a new company called Ceria Beverages that will focus on producing a line of non-alcoholic cannabis-infused craft beers.  Villa has partnered with Ebbu, a cannabis company that will provide the extract for beers with or without the skunky cannabis taste. As Villa notes, “It’s tough to make good tasting non-alcoholic beer.”

Also pioneering new beer brewing methods is Province Brands, which has developed a unique method of brewing beer from cannabis rather than barley or grain. The process involves milling and “mashing” to extract fermentable sugars from the cannabis plant, an operation that requires specialized equipment and technology that would not be found in a normal brewery. In November 2018, Province Brands announced agreements with Lost Craft Beer and Brock Street Brewing Company to brew beers from cannabis and hemp.

Cannabis Goes Pop

Coca Cola originally contained cocaine, which was replaced by caffeine, so it’s no large stretch to infuse soda pop with cannabis. Rumors are rampant that Coca Cola and Pepsi are planning to introduce cannabis beverages. Bloomberg reported that Coca Cola was “in serious talks” with Aurora Cannabis.

Meanwhile, a new wave of companies is already fielding a variety of cannabis sodas, including Keef Brands, California Dreamin’, Cannabis Creations, Canna Cola, Dixie Brands, and Sprig.

Erik Knutson, founder and CEO of cannabis-infused drink manufacturer Keef Brands, believes that “cannabis beverages are the new soda.” Keef produces a line of cannabis beverages, edibles, and additives that includes Keef Cola, Keef Sparkling Blood Orange, and Keef Sparkling Lemon.

Cannabis Elixirs

The cannabis boom has unleashed a wave of research aimed at discovering the medical benefits of cannabis. As Raphael Mechoulam, the father of cannabis research notes, cannabis is a “medicinal treasure trove waiting to be discovered.”

Among those leading the charge is Mindful CEO Phillip Hague, who observes that marijuana contains numerous substances—cannabinoids, flavonoids, terpenes—that have never been investigated in depth. Mindful and other cannabis producers are cultivating CBD-rich strains of cannabis to help unlock the medical potential of cannabis.

Lauren Rudick, a partner at cannabis-focused law firm Hiller, says CBD could become an even bigger mainstream ingredient than THC for the beverage industry. “It’s the perfect wellness product, and there are going to be many CBD-fortified foods and beverages,” she says.

As consumer demand for CBD products rockets, companies like Lexaria, Zoots, High Performance Beverage Co., and Sprig are racing to create CBD formulas and bring CBD-infused health drinks to market.

We are witnessing an incredible turnaround in which the once-forbidden cannabis plant is bringing entirely new types of beverages to market—beverages that are revolutionizing not only the beverage industry, but consumer health, drinking habits, and lifestyles.

As the maker of the most modern, integrated, and scalable cannabis manufacturing solution, MaxQ has deep cannabis industry expertise. Contact us to learn more about the latest trends and management solutions in the cannabis manufacturing industry. 


As Legalization Looms, Canadian Cannabis Players Make Moves

With recreational cannabis on the brink of becoming legal in Canada, major Canadian cannabis companies are making strategic moves to strengthen their positions.

While the Canadian market for recreational cannabis will be sizable, big Canadian cannabis producers like Aurora Cannabis, Canopy Growth Corp., Tilray, and Aphria are positioning to become leading suppliers of cannabis products worldwide.

Cannabis being illegal on the federal level has hampered the industry’s growth in the U.S., whereas Canadian cannabis ventures have benefited from the support of the Canadian government.

“Our government embraces us, and we are seeing a boom in entrepreneurism in this industry,” said Rob Anderson, the former CEO of The Green Organic Dutchman (TGOD).

The cannabis-friendly environment has led to Canada become an international cannabis hub and a hotbed of cannabis cultivation and investment. “Weed is to Canada what Silicon Valley is to the U.S. We will see a lot more money flowing in,” said Jason Spatafora, co-founder of Marijuanastocks.com.

The New York Times echoed this view, asserting that “a financial boom not seen since the dot-com mania of the late 1990s has overtaken Canada.”

TGOD Wheeling and Dealing

Among the Canadian cannabis ventures making waves, The Green Organic Dutchman (TGOD) has received kudos from analysts for “executing flawlessly.” An organic-only business strategy and series of shrewd deals has helped catapult TGOD to the top tier of cannabis ventures in a short span of time.

In June 2018, TGOD announced that it had created a new global division to focus on the beverage industry. To execute this plan, TGOD is building a 40,000-square-foot state-of-the-art research and development facility and a 287,245-square foot cultivation facility capable of producing 40,000 kilograms of premium organic cannabis for its beverages.

To create cannabis-infused beverages, TGOD entered into an exclusive agreement with Stillwater Brands to license its RIPPLE SC (Soluble Cannabinoids) and other food and beverage technologies. RIPPLE SC makes it easier to infuse CBD oils into beverages and edibles.

TGOD also acquired HemPoland, a leading European manufacturer and marketer of premium organic CBD oils. Technical 420 called this acquisition “a game changer,” noting that HemPoland provides TGOD with a European gateway with distribution channels to over 750 million people and sales in more than 700 locations across 13 countries.

Power Cost Gambit

In a previous post, we discussed the critical importance of minimizing cannabis production costs as cannabis prices continue to decline. TGOD has devised a clever strategy to minimize power costs, which is, as US News relates, a major cost factor in growing cannabis.

To reduce its power costs to a fraction of what its competitors pay, TGOD has entered into partnerships with provincial power suppliers. A partnership with Hamilton Utility Corp. has enabled TGOD to reduce its power cost from 13 cents per kilowatt hour to less than 5 cents at its Hamilton, Ontario, facility. A partnership with Eaton Corp. is enabling TGOD to obtain power at 75% less than its competitors. At its Quebec plant, TGOD is paying less than 4 cents per kilowatt hour.

All of these moves have enabled TGOD to position itself as a platform to launch cannabinoid-infused food and beverage products globally as new markets legalize. As equities.com notes, this puts TGOD in a prime spot as more large-scale beverage and alcohol companies enter the market.

Aurora Roars

Another Canadian player making big moves is Aurora Cannabis, which in January took a 17.6% stake in TGOD with an option to increase its share to 51%. Aurora made news earlier this year by acquiring MedRelief for $2.5 billion in what Reuters called “the biggest deal yet to unify major Canadian cannabis growers.” The MedRelief acquisition followed on the heels of Aurora’s acquisition of CanniMed for $890 million, which made Aurora “the biggest pot producer, by market value, in the world.”

Aurora also expanded its cannabis production capability with the opening of two new state-of-the-art cannabis production facilities–Aurora Sky, capable of producing 8,000 kilograms of cannabis per month, and Aurora Vie in Montreal, capable of producing 4,000 kilograms per year.

To optimize its customer experience, Aurora inked a deal with Shopify to revamp its e-commerce platform, a move that will help Aurora sell its cannabis wares globally as legalization continues to spread. Canopy Growth and Hydropothecary also have employed Shopify e-commerce platforms to sell to medical patients.

Acting Locally and Globally

As Technical 420 notes, while the Canadian recreational market is a big opportunity for the cannabis producers, the global market represents an even more significant opportunity. This is why the major Canadian cannabis producers are taking a two-pronged approach by establishing production plants and retail outlets within Canada while expanding their reach beyond Canada into worldwide markets.

In an August post, we described how Canadian cannabis producers and alcohol distributers were making deals to establish cannabis retail outlets for the recreational market. Cronos Group has taken a similar route by forging an agreement with MedMen to establish retail stores for the recreational market in Canada.

To beef up its retail presence, Canopy Growth Corp. acquired Hiku Brands, which sells a number of leading cannabis brands and operates retail outlets in provinces throughout Canada.  Canopy Growth also extended its footprint in South America beyond Brazil and Chile by forging a deal with Spectrum Cannabis Columbia.

Aphria also made a move to expand into Latin America and the Caribbean by acquiring Scythian Biosciences Corp.’s  Latin American and Caribbean assets. The deal gives Aphria exposure to more than 300 million people in Colombia, Argentina, and Jamaica.

Aurora Cannabis obtained a 51% stake in Aurora Nordic that will help extend its reach into Scandinavian and broader European markets. Aurora Nordic has a license to produce cannabis in Denmark, which Aurora said will give the company a major advantage as one of few companies with a license to cultivate in Europe. Aurora has forged a number of international deals, including agreements to supply medical cannabis to Germany, Italy, and Australia.

Getting Listed

This past February, Cronos Group became the first cannabis company to be listed on Nasdaq in the United States. In May, Canopy Growth became the first cannabis company to list on the New York Stock Exchange. At the same time, liquor giant Constellation Brands invested $4 billion in Canopy Growth.

Tilray became the third cannabis stock to be listed on a U.S. stock exchange when it joined Nasdaq in July. Tilray went even further by being the first pure-play marijuana company to go public on a major U.S. exchange. Tilray grows Cannabis in Canada and Portugal and distributes medical cannabis products in 10 countries, including Australia, Canada, and Germany.

If Tilray CEO Brendan Kennedy is correct, the cannabis companies focusing on creating cannabis-infused beverages are on the right path. Kennedy said he sees a future in which only 10% of cannabis will be smoked, with the 90% lion’s share being consumed as cannabis beverages. “Instead of alcohol, they’ll have cannabis,” said Kennedy. “And they’ll have a low, or no-calorie product with no hangover.”

As the maker of the most modern, integrated, and scalable cannabis manufacturing solution, MaxQ has deep cannabis industry expertise. Contact us to learn more about the latest trends and management solutions in the cannabis manufacturing industry. 


Hemp Makes Legal Comeback as CBD Oil Demand Surges

“Reversal of fortune” is the perfect way to describe the legal and economic comeback of the hemp plant in the United States. Banned and abandoned by farmers for decades in the U.S., the legal resurgence of hemp coincides with an exploding demand for CBD oil, which is fueling what is being called a hemp gold rush.

The ability to grow and sell hemp legally also promises a reversal of fortune for farmers across the United States, including cannabis growers in states in which oversupply is squeezing margins and driving growers out of business.

Hemp also represents new revenue opportunities for marijuana manufacturers, which already have the know-how and infrastructure in place to extract CBD oil from hemp. Marijuana manufacturers could easily add hemp to their product lines, either growing hemp themselves or serving as the processing plants for the many hemp farms sprouting up across the country, or both.

Hemp Rebound

Hemp has a long history as a versatile plant with a great many uses. In the U.S., hemp was a lucrative and widely cultivated plant before it was declared illegal by the Marijuana Tax Act in 1937. Hemp made a brief legal comeback during World War II before being banned again. Even though it has been illegal to grow hemp in the U.S., it has been legal to import it.

Hemp’s current comeback stems from the 2014 Farm Bill, which legalized hemp growing in the U.S. in the form of state supervised research programs. The 2014 Farm Bill gave each state the power to set the parameters for their hemp programs.

Today, 39 states allow industrial hemp cultivation, meaning hemp with less than 0.3% THC content by weight. Some states only allow academic research, while others allow growing, marketing, and selling hemp and hemp-extracted CBD oil.

Hemp’s full legal comeback is on the verge of becoming a reality with the U.S. Senate passing the 2018 Farm Bill, which includes the Hemp Farming Act of 2018. The bill removes hemp from being designated as a controlled substance, legalizes the plant under federal law, and allows CBD to be sold legally in all 50 states.

As Canagreed reports, the legalization of hemp would open the floodgates for investment and market development. With the medical benefits of CBD fueling the demand, a host of industries are launching efforts to bring CBD drugs, beverages, edibles, and lotions to market.

Hemp Image Rehab

Hemp, which has for decades been lumped together with marijuana and stigmatized, is now being hailed as a “supercrop” and a savior for farmers across America. Republican leadership, which has been among the staunchest opponents of legalizing cannabis, has become a major hemp industry booster, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

As High Country News notes, conservative politicians from Oregon to Alaska are increasingly championing hemp “as a potential lifeline for struggling rural communities.”

States Embrace Hemp

The hemp movement is gaining momentum in states from coast to coast. Bob Crumley, president of Founder’s Hemp, expects hemp to be a $1 billion industry in North Carolina, surpassing the state’s $800 million tobacco crop. Nevada, Vermont, and Wisconsin also are hotbeds of hemp growing activity.

The Buffalo News describes how hemp is taking off in New York State, where more than 60 farms and businesses have received hemp research permits as part of a state pilot program. The Des Moines Standard describes how Iowa farmers are itching to grow hemp, a plant that was once widely farmed in the state. Oklahoma farmers also are bullish on growing hemp.

Hemp is seen as the salvation of cannabis farmers who have been suffering from declining cannabis prices. Reports describe how cannabis growers in Oregon are turning to hemp as cannabis prices continue to plummet and the demand for CBD oil explodes.

Hemp CBD Market Trajectory

Many industry observers believe the hemp CBD market will be huge. Among them is the Brightfield Group, which believes “the hemp CBD market is going to skyrocket and is here to stay.”

The Brightfield Group says its forecast of a $22 billion hemp CBD market by 2022 is conservative and is based on interviews with hundreds of people in the industry, surveys of thousands of consumers, and analysis of millions of data points.

According to U.S. News, CBD oil commands thousands of dollars per kilogram, and farmers can make more than $100,000 an acre growing hemp plants to produce CBD oil.

“Word on the street is everybody thinks hemp’s the new gold rush,” said said Jerrad McCord, a farmer who grows marijuana in Oregon.

The promise that people see in hemp is reflected in the many new hemp ventures, commissions, and societies that are sprouting as fast as the plant itself. Among those leading the charge is Shane Davis, an evangelist for hempenomics, the idea that hemp “can create massive streams of revenue, liberate communities, and create economies.”

As the maker of the most modern, integrated, and scalable cannabis manufacturing solution, MaxQ has deep cannabis industry expertise. Contact us to learn more about the latest trends and management solutions in the cannabis manufacturing industry.