Is there green in THC-infused sparkling water?
- Lagunitas Brewing Company is launching Hi-Fi Hops, an "IPA-inspired" sparkling water that's infused with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient that causes the marijuana high, according to a company release. The product, which will be sold in California dispensaries starting July 31, contains zero calories and comes in two varieties — one with 10 milligrams of THC and one with five milligrams of THC and five grams of cannabidinol (CBD).
- California legalized recreational marijuana in January, giving beverage makers like Lagunitas a new path to growth. The Golden State brewer debuted a marijuana-infused IPA called SuperCritical last fall, but Hi-Fi Hops is the company's first beverage to offer the psychoactive effects of cannabis.
- "Hi-Fi Hops is not the first chapter in the love affair between cannabis and Lagunitas, but it is one of the most exciting," Lagunitas CEO Maria Stipp said in the release. "The idea of being a part of a no calorie beverage infused with cannabis seemed like a perfect next step in our product innovation and a natural way to marry our past with our future."
As more states legalize recreational marijuana, both established beer giants and craft newcomers are racing to develop cannabis-infused booze. The strategy is a savvy one — in a segment that's oversaturated with trendy value-adds such as locally sourced, imported and small batch brews, beverage makers need a new buzz word to catch the consumer's eye.
Interest in marijuana-based food and beverages is becoming increasingly mainstream, too. With nine states and Washington, DC now allowing recreational marijuana use, the stigma around the substance has started to fade. Legal marijuana sales reached $9.7 billion in North America in 2017, and the market is expected to hit $24.5 billion in sales by 2021, rising at CAGR of 28%, according to BDS analytics.
This gives alcohol companies, who have been dabbling in marijuana-flavored drinks for a few years now, a lucrative new path to growth. But instead of pouring more green into the beer space, Lagunitas is pivoting to another booming category: sparkling water.
Though premium water may not seem like a vehicle for THC, consumers are interested in out-of-the-box varieties. Functional, fruit-infused, botanical and caffeinated sparkling water brands are being joined by hard seltzers, such as Boston Beer's truly Spiked & Sparkling and Boathouse Brewing's Spiked Seltzer. Products like these have helped shift the category into adult beverage territory, and Lagunitas' Hi-Fi Hops could be similarly well received.
But the brand won't enjoy the mainstream acceptance of its competitors' hard sparkling waters — at least initially. Hi-Fi Hops will only be sold at California distilleries, so its consumer base is fairly niche. It will be interesting to see if the Heineken-owned brewer will roll out the product to other states where marijuana is legalized, and if its THC-based sparkling beverage has staying power. If it does make a splash in the category, which is on pace to reach $3.1 billion in sales by 2022, other beverage makers may try to capture some of the high for themselves.
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