Cannabis-infused drink and food makers are high on grocery opportunities
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from the bi-monthly e-zine, CPGmatters.
For a peek at how the nascent market for cannabis-infused beverages is going to evolve, consider what’s happened to the cans of CBD-laced Sprig sparkling soda in the refrigerator cases at Bristol Farms supermarkets in southern California.
They’re still for sale. But Bristol Farms hasn’t placed any new orders because the California Department of Public Health has declared that it’s not going to allow beverages including hemp-derived CBD until the FDA takes an official position on it.
So it goes in the wild west category of CPG beverages: drinks infused with CBD, which stands for cannabidiol and can be derived from hemp or marijuana, and drinks infused with THC, the psychoactive component in marijuana. Legal liberalization, changing cultural mores and consumer demand are rapidly turning the fringe market into a mainstream pursuit — but the road to the general market could be rocky for all the parties involved.
Now that Coca-Cola and Constellation Brands have gone over to the hazy side by investigating the possibilities for the cannabis drinks market, the doors are expected to open for a wide range of CPG brands to consider beverages and foods infused with the active ingredients in marijuana — and for a wide range of grocers to consider retailing them.
Big retailers so far are largely staying away from what is already available. Said Ken Harris, Cadent’s managing director, “Since this is an evolution, the process will be slow at first and regulated by state. Some retailers will exhibit a lower threshold than others to stock the items based on consumer receptivity.”
Canadian companies and consumers have been leading on this new frontier largely because Canada is one of only two countries, along with Uruguay, that has legalized recreational marijuana. In the U.S., staunch opposition remains to easing of restrictions on any sort of CBD or THC consumption, both on practical and moral grounds.
But even in the U.S., Mr. Harris believes, “Over time, stigmas will be relaxed and the benefits of cannabis will be better understood by mainstream consumers and by retailers who carry the products.”
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What’s the likelihood that cannabis-infused food and beverages will be widely stocked in grocery stores within the next five years? Beyond the regulatory statutes, what other factors might influence a retailer’s decision to stock the products?