As companies inside the beverage industry grapple with declining sales and less interest from younger generations in the consumption of alcoholic beverages, cannabis companies are vying for beverage consumers. Curaleaf — a notable player in the space with dispensaries in 19 states — believes its latest product line will attract this growing demographic.
Zero Proof Squeeze is a cannabis-infused beverage enhancer that can be squeezed into any liquid to add THC to drinks, the company said in the press release announcing the products. According to Curaleaf, the effects of the drug can be felt faster than regular edibles, in roughly 15 to 30 minutes. The compact designed bottles deliver 2.5mg THC per squeeze.
The product line is available now in Illinois at Curaleaf’s retail locations as well as at wholesale dispensaries. It is launching in four varieties, each containing a hint of different flavors, including Lime, Sweet, Orange and Cherry. While each 40 milileter squeeze bottle contains 100 miligrams of THC.
It is the first product being sold under the Zero Proof brand, with a suite of other beverage products to follow in the coming years. Kate Lynch, Curaleaf’s executive vice president of marketing, told Food Dive, the product is already showing signs of selling well in the state.
“The value proposition that led to its creation was a tasty product that is low dose, discreet and portable,” Lynch said. “We’ve seen that these types of products, low dose edibles and beverages, are actually bringing new consumers into the space.”
In creating the product, Curaleaf said it utilized nanotechnology to allow the THC to dissolve into beverages, turning the concentrated cannabis oil into molecules that are soluble in water.
Consumer feedback has already informed the company’s approach to beverage products, according to Lynch. Zero Proof Squeeze is an improved version of a previous product Curaleaf launched in 2021, Select Squeeze, and the company said it made changes based on what input from drinkers.
The packaging now contains a dispenser which makes pouring it into drinks easier. And the product was reformulated with a natural sweetener to improve its flavor profile when mixing it into drinks, the company said in the press release.
Aiming for drinkers straying from alcohol
Poaching millennial and Gen Z consumers who are looking to cut back on their drinking is a crucial part of Curaleaf’s strategy. In the press release, the company cited a recent Gallup poll which found the number of people under 35 who regularly drink alcohol has declined by 10% over the past two decades.
Kate Lynch, Curaleaf’s executive vice president of marketing, told Food Dive the better-for-you elements of Zero Proof Squeeze has the potential to attract consumers who want to avoid the after-effects and high amounts of calories in alcohol.
“There’s no hangover associated with this product, so if you are replacing your glass of wine or case of beer, there are some key benefits for using Zero Proof,” Lynch said.
The marketing executive said reaching younger consumers as a cannabis company can be challenging because of the regulatory roadblocks that come with advertising. Curaleaf has found leveraging influencers, who talk about the product in social media posts and videos, has proven beneficial in some markets.
The company has plans to sell its beverage products in each of the states it is legally allowed to. Given the current mixed patchwork of states who permit cannabis-infused products to be sold, Lynch said the company is intentional about where it chooses to pilot its cannabis products, initially opting for states with more lax laws to test them in their “truest form.” It also varies its assortment of flavors based on differing consumer tastes.
“We also look at market-level nuances outside of regulatory nuances,” Lynch said. “Specifically, we may lean more toward citrus flavors in Florida versus the Northeast.”
Curaleaf sees high — no pun intended — potential for its Zero Proof brand, with plans to expand the kinds of beverage products it sells. Some other formats the company has its eye on are powder that can be poured into drinks and ready-to-drink canned beverages, according to Lynch. But selling RTD products is currently challenging, she said, because of low storage at dispensaries and the fact that companies can’t cross state lines with its products.
“Right now, you have to be a bit more creative when you commercialize a beverage, but when and if the regulations change and states open up a bit, I think you’re going to see more and more ready-to-drink brands pop up and that category will grow,” Lynch said. “That’s obviously going to go right after the traditional beer and seltzer drinker.”