Cannabis beverages were predicted to become the next big thing in the realm of pot products. And, by and large, it was a concept that made all the sense in the world, too. It was like, even though we are still only selling marijuana, let’s find a way to make it more socially acceptable to people of all walks of life — especially those averse to smoking and vaping — by bottling it for the new school stoner 2.0 in the same way that Coca Cola or Anheuser Busch might do. It was a plan of genius and one that seemingly couldn’t miss. But for the companies that jumped into the beverage game early on, they have discovered that the cannabis plant doesn’t necessarily jibe with this approach. THC-beverage makers have run into a plethora of issues trying to get these products off the ground, including wonky onset times and flavoring. But the hits keep on coming. They have also learned that using aluminum cans to deliver these drinks probably isn’t going to work, either.
The scientific minds hired to hash out all of the snags standing in the way of making cannabis beverages a reality have learned that aluminum cans are going to destroy the potency of THC long before the customer has a chance to pop the top. It means that from the time these beverages are produced, shipped, put on shelves and ultimately purchased by the consumer, they could fall flat.
Come to find out, THC doesn’t like the molecular structure of the protective linings used in aluminum cans. These linings, typically a polymer plastic design, are there to prevent corrosion caused by carbonation. It’s a development that allows beverages to be warehoused for extended periods without going south. But when used to contain THC, the system fails. And we’re talking big time.
“Our theory is the cannabis material, the droplets, will stick to the liner and cling on it. When you open the can to take a drink, it will lose its potency,” Vertosa founder and chief science officer Harold Han told Yahoo Finance Canada.
Other industry experts say the loss is more than just a tad, it’s somewhere in the vicinity of 97%.
This means cannabis companies must now come up with an alternative to aluminum cans. This could be as easy as using bottles, Han says, but a move like that would jack up the manufacturing costs for beverage makers. And that, of course, is going to translate to higher retail prices for the consumer, a group not very keen on the idea of drinking their cannabis anyway.
While cannabis beverages seemed like the most logical step to normalizing cannabis quickly amidst the new legal scene, it has been a tough sell, especially when trying to get cannabis purists to try something new. Despite all of the advancements the cannabis industry has allowed — giving way to a variety of exciting products — people are still mostly buying high-THC flower, pre-rolls and vapes, according to BDS Analytics. And while cannabis edibles are showing significant progress to profits — meaning that these beverages could still catch on —most customers have no interest in drinking weed. Only 32% of the cannabis curious admitted that they would be willing to give THC-infused beverages a shot, according to a report from Arcview Market Research. Still, that’s a good start, one that could bring $4.1 billion by 2022, the report adds.
But it’s going to take time.
Even Wall Street is betting against cannabis beverages right now. Last year, Cowen and Co. said the market for THC-infused beverages was small and that there wasn’t yet a company that stood to change the situation. She argued that the reluctance over these products was likely due to a customer base brainwashed into thinking that smoking is the best way to consume. These people, presumably folks that have been using marijuana for years, don’t want their weed to be technologically advanced, and they don’t want to sip it casually in a café or a bar. They want to smoke it like it’s been done for thousands of years, and that is that. But a new cannabis customer is coming up, as we speak, one that has no interest in smoking and they are scared to death of vapes. These folks are among the health-conscious, seemingly intrigued by the potential of using cannabis in the same manner in which they might a glass of wine. Somewhere around 60% of new cannabis customers say they want products they don’t have to smoke.
So, maybe it is going to take a minute for cannabis firms to figure this one out. Today, the problem is aluminum cans zapping THC potency, yesterday it was drinks tasting gross and tomorrow, well, we assure you there will be something else. But the industry’s potential market continues to expand with each passing day. Perhaps by the time the federal government ends pot prohibition at the national level, we could see some of these firms poised to come out swinging with all sorts of power in the beverage sector. In fact, we would bet on it. All we’re saying is it would be foolish to count these products down and out before they have a chance to get out of the gate.
Their time is coming.
TELL US, are you interested in drinking weed?