Alcohol consumption is losing flavor with younger drinkers, but one beverage market opening up for this demographic is THC and cannabis-infused beverages.
Many companies in the cannabis space believe they have a chance at capturing a slice of the burgeoning THC-infused beverages market with new flavors. The sector was valued at approximately $1 billion in 2022 and projected to reach $3.9 billion by 2030, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 17.7% according to Research and Markets. Mary Jones sees wide opportunity to capitalize on the boom with new flavors and product launches.
David Grigsby, the Seattle-based company’s senior brand director, said Mary Jones THC-infused soda products are the fastest-growing THC product that its California distributor has managed. The company believes its products are resonating because of a desire for more taste-forward options in lieu of alcohol.
“Whether it’s a social event or at home, people want to be able to really enjoy the cannabis experience instead of just taking the product for the effects,” Grigsby said. “We’re seeing different brands come to market, whether in beverages or edibles, really focusing on taste and flavor.”
The soda is sold in cans containing 100 mg of THC — designed for sharing with friends and drinking over a longer period of time — and bottles with only 10 mg.
Last summer, the brand announced its expansion into Washington state after previously debuting the sodas in California in 2022. Grigsby said the brand will soon launch in Michigan, which it has high hopes for based on high pre-launch demand. The brand also previously teased a launch in Nevada which has yet to be announced.
Mary Jones will launch a new product this year, Fizzy Tab, a low-dose THC tablet-shaped hard candy product similar to a SweetTart, in packs of 40 pieces with each containing 2.5 mg of THC. It follows the brand’s launch of gummies in 2022.
“That’s a product that opens us up to a new consumer or someone that might want to have something in their purse or pocket for on-the-go use,” Grigsby said.
Strides toward wider availability
One benefit Mary Jones has in bringing new flavors to market is that the company is already familiar with crafting interesting tastes through its parent company, Jones Soda. According to Grigsby, the soda brand served as an “experimental lab” with quirky flavors like turkey and gravy soda.
“We have the advantage of Jones Soda harnessing recipes for the last 26 years, so we’ve got a whole library of flavors that not only taste great but have been tested by consumers,” Grigsby said.
The brand debuted cola and grape-flavored varieties of its soda last summer, joining flavors like Orange & Cream, Berry Lemonade, Green Apple and Root Beer. It also sells 100 mg bottles of cannabis-infused syrup in four flavors.
Jones Soda’s current cannabis approach is overseen by its CEO, David Knight, who took the helm of the beverage brand last summer. Previously, Knight served as the vice president of marketing for Gatorade at PepsiCo, and as the chief beverage officer at CFH Ltd, where he helped the bioscience company build out its CBD beverage division.
Leading brands in the cannabis space are leaning heavily into beverages, particularly as an alternative to hard beverages. Last fall, Curaleaf debuted Zero Proof Squeeze, a THC-infused drink enhancer product, at its retail locations in Illinois, with plans to scale it in more states once legally permitted to do so. Kate Lynch, Curaleaf’s executive vice president of marketing, told Food Dive the company plans to launch powder products to pour into drinks and RTD canned beverages in the near future.
While the FDA’s failure to regulate cannabis in food and beverage last year hurt the sector’s momentum, the current executive branch’s moves toward nationwide decriminalization of the drug is seen as encouraging to some players in the space. Last September, President Joe Biden asked his administration to review how cannabis is classified federally under the Controlled Substances Act. Some analysts predict the government will begin classifying cannabis as a schedule III drug this year, which would drive down the taxes companies must pay to sell cannabis-infused food and beverage products in states where it is legal to do so.