This Bud’s For You: Marijuana’s Entry into Beer May Be Path to Broader Alcohol Market

Coors, Lagunitas, Corona – all major beer  brands whose owners are entering the cannabis space – might be the vanguard of a movement that helps shape both industries for years to come.

Denver, Colo.-based Molson Coors Brewing Co. is considering getting into the cannabis market in Canada, which is set to legalize recreational use in October 2018. BNN Bloomberg reported that the brewer has held talks with several Canadian-based marijuana companies to invest and collaborate in cannabis-infused beverages in an effort to halt declining beer sales.

Lagunitas Brewing Company also announced in late June 2018 its latest creation, Hi-Fi Hops, an IPA-inspired sparkling water made with hops and infused with cannabis, that was expected to hit dispensaries by July 30, 2018.

Last year Constellation Brands, the maker of Corona, took a $190 million stake in Canopy Growth Corp., which sells medical cannabis in Canada and plans to sell recreational marijuana there.

It appears alcohol makers are already positioning themselves to capitalize on the coming opportunity in Canada, and perhaps eventually in the US, said Jessica Lukas, vice president of consumer insights for BDS Analytics, a Boulder, Colorado-based data provider for the cannabis industry.

“A lot of them are choosing to get in and get in in a way that’s comfortable to them,” Lukas said. “It’s not super surprising to see these companies jumping in.”

The reasons for alcohol makers to get into the cannabis market are numerous.

The companies have the experience and framework to deal with complex alcohol regulations that vary from state to state, just as cannabis regulations are complex and vary by state.

They may also see cannabis as a natural extension of their products. Many offer beer, wine and liquor products. Now they’ll have cannabis products.

And there’s a risk that if they don’t offer, say a cannabis-infused beer or water line, they’ll fall behind their competitors, Lukas said.

“I see cannabis beverages as another offering in their portfolio,” she said.

The ongoing craft beer movement may have provided a nice segue into cannabis for the alcohol industry, which has come up with no shortage of hemp- or other marijuana derivative infused beer – or in some cases CBD-infused beer, which recently got one San Francisco craft brewer in trouble with the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.

“I don’t think it’s surprising to anyone when you think about craft beer and the lifestyle, that cannabis fits and has fit there for some time,” Lukas said. “Our data shows that more cannabis consumers drink craft beer than non-cannabis consumers.”

Alcohol and marijuana go together, but not how you may think.

In legal markets where recreational use is legal, 72 percent of cannabis consumers report also consuming alcohol, according to BDS Analytics.

On some occasions, people may consume one or the other, or sometimes both. Only 15 percent of people say they “often consume” the two together, according to BDS.

“Typically when alcohol and cannabis are consumed together in the same occasion, 55 percent of people claim they drink less when they pair the two,” Lukas said.

That may be a small consideration for alcohol sellers – those who used to have three craft beers, may now instead have two craft beers and a few hits on the vape pen.

Only about 50 percent of the consumer population claims the two fit similar occasions. Meaning, the other 50 percent of consumers do not see alcohol and cannabis as fitting for the same times of days, days of the week, according to Lukas.

“Every cannabis occasion is not an alcohol occasion,” Lukas said.

About 20 to 30 percent of people who have consumed both alcohol and cannabis in the past six months claim to have decreased alcohol consumption because of marijuana use, while more than 60 percent have not changed their alcohol consumption because of their cannabis use, according to BDS.

“It’s a tangled web in terms of how these two are going to interact, overlap over the coming months and even years,” Lukas said.

She also sees cannabis opportunities for not only alcoholic beverage companies, but also pharmaceuticals, skin care companies, and coffee companies as well.

“Cannabis isn’t just replacing one specific consumer product category, it’s really interacting with anything that you consume or ingest,” she said.

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