Mary Jones brand is on a high — one Jones Soda is determined not to let federal regulations hinder.
The Seattle-based craft beverage company expanded its cannabis beverage line into Washington state early this year. Michigan and Nevada are slated to have the soda on its shelves in August — following its debut in California in June 2022.
Bohb Blair, chief marketing officer at Jones Soda, told Food Dive that Mary Jones is the number one carbonated cannabis beverage in its category and is now in 375 shops.
The THC-infused beverage’s debut in the three new states, all coming at the end of the summer, was a coincidence, he said, as the logistics of state launches can vary significantly.
“Those three markets have such different timelines, regulatory review and partner readiness,” Blair said. “It’s really interesting having this bigger footprint of availability, and the timing was really fun for us.”
The expansion of Mary Jones comes after the FDA failed to regulate cannabis in food and beverage products earlier this year, citing safety concerns. The federal agency said in January it aims to work with Congress to craft a new regulatory pathway for the product.
As of June, 10 states have passed laws allowing the use of low THC, high CBD products, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
But Blair said demand for the company’s cannabis-infused products has skyrocketed since launching last year, and Jones Soda plans to continue expanding the beverages in states where it is legally able to do so.
The beverage company is now being led by an experienced insider in the cannabis space. This month, the company tapped former PepsiCo executive David Knight as its new CEO. Knight recently worked as the chief beverage officer of CFH Ltd, where he oversaw a beverage division that included CBD beverages.
Jones Soda has worked to expand its reach within the cannabis space by launching products with a high amount of THC. Last fall, the company debuted a 100-milligram variety in California — 10 times more potent than the standard 10-milligram drink — which it marketed as a product to be shared among friends. The 10-milligram sodas are in Jones’ signature glass bottles, while the higher THC drinks are available in 16 oz. resealable “tallboy” cans so users can pace their consumption, according to the brand.
The Mary Jones lineup does not stop at beverages, as it also sells cannabis-infused gummies and syrup.
Using flavors to expand cannabis reach
Tapping interesting flavors is a key component of the brand’s expansion strategy, Blair said. The Mary Jones drink line is sold in six varieties — Orange & Cream, Green Apple, Root Beer, Berry Lemonade, Cola and MF Grape. The latter two debuted at dispensaries this month, based on fan favorite flavors of the company’s craft sodas.
Jones Soda — which regularly does limited releases for its standard soda products — also is experimenting with seasonal flavors for Mary Jones. Last month, the brand sent a cannabis-infused variety of its Hatch Chile & Lime soda flavor to select locations in California.
“We didn’t even advertise it, so right now people are just stumbling on it at dispensaries and getting a huge kick out of this new flavor,” Blair said. “We made literally one batch of it.”
Blair said expansion will depend on each state’s specific regulations. The brand, he said, is focused on recreational cannabis markets — as opposed to strictly medical cannabis markets.
There are limitations to the company’s ambitions of wider distribution of its products, such as with potency. Some states, such as Massachusetts, only allow 5-milligrams of THC in cannabis products, which hinders Jones Soda’s ability to sell in those states, Blair said. Other states do not have the infrastructure or framework to sell soda that contains THC, something the company said it is working to change.
“Most states don’t have carbonated cannabis beverage licensing hardware to work with” Blair said, “so there’s a lot of capability building we do as well.”