While booze has been a great American staple in the trenches of debauched society since the dawn of time, there is a major shift happening these days in the battle of the buzz. Now that marijuana is legal in a number of states for recreational use, some folks are ditching their tradition libations, such as beer and wine, for cannabis-infused highs.
It seems that as more of the country pushes to adopt a healthier lifestyle, high-calorie alcoholic beverages no longer fit into the mix, according to a recent analysis from Rabobank. But cannabis, the gluten-free, no calorie inebriant of the gods, is gaining popularity among that part of the population looking to get loaded without packing on the pounds.
It is no secret that legal marijuana is cutting into the beer sector. Some of the latest data from Wall Street investment firm Cowen & Company shows that mainstream beer producers are have taken between a 2.4 to 4.4 percent hit as a result of legal marijuana markets. But now wine creators are in the same boat. The results of the new Rabobank report show that more women and older, wealthier individuals are fully prepared to drop the wine for weed. Around 67 percent of those folks with an average income over $50K said they would be more likely to substitute alcohol for weed if it is fully legal.
“The guys, the young men, we say, they’re already smoking,” Steve Rannekleiv, Rabobank’s global beverages strategist, told USA Today. “It’s the people who are the more educated, more affluent, they are saying ‘if it’s legalized, I’ll give it a try.’ And that’s definitely the demographic of the wine consumer.”
This trade-off is already happening in states with legal marijuana laws on the books. A separate report from Cowen, published in April, shows that binge drinking rates are on the decline in these areas. “In legal adult use cannabis states,” the analysts said, “the number of binge drinking sessions per month (for states legal through 2016) was 9 percent below the national average.” This means people who were once only given the option of booze are now spending all or part of their buzz budget on legal marijuana.
Although the Rabobank report does not provide any juicy detail over just how savage the cannabis takeover will be for the wine industry, the consensus is that it could be as detrimental to the trade as it has been for beer. A lot of this has to do with the path marijuana has taken in its newly legal climate. The cannabis industry has done a good job of bringing products to market for people still bothered by the concept of smoking marijuana. There are a variety of THC-infused cannabis edibles on the scene, from chocolate to beverages that are right up the alley of anyone previously dedicated to wine. It is those types of offerings that have the most potential to lure in high-end customers and get them to spend at least a portion of their alcohol budget on weed.
But it will ultimately be the health-conscious consumer who puts down the bottle for bud. Even when the dreaded marijuana munchies are entered into the equation of healthy living, most of the research shows that regular cannabis use does not promote weight gain. As long as the industry embraces this ethos, it will have no trouble stealing some of the wine sector’s profits, according to the Rabobank analysts.
“The success of marijuana’s appeal to the health-conscious consumer, however, is based on the assumption that marijuana companies will market their brands as healthy, ‘lifestyle’ products, highlighting marijuana’s health-related advantages over alcohol,” the report reads.
Although researchers doubt that anyone is ready to give up wine during dinner, the addition of legal marijuana will provide them with other opportunities to go for the ganja instead of the glass. But it could take years before the wine industry truly understands the impact of cannabis. In the meantime, wineries might want to start thinking about how they fit in.
Similar to the brewing industry, some winemakers will likely find ways to join in the fun of legal cannabis. A California-based winery called Rebel Coast is already experimenting with the concept. It is created a non-alcoholic Sauvignon Blanc that comes packed with 16 milligrams of THC.
“After one glass you won’t be thinking your couch is a hippo with short legs or anything,” the website reads. “We set out to mimic the experience you’d find with traditional wine; a couple glasses will put most people in a great place.”
But for those wineries that resist change, they may find themselves struggling to maintain their traditional customers base. The report concludes that, “Suppliers need to position themselves for success in a world with legal marijuana.” Otherwise, they might get swallowed up.
TELL US, which buzz do you prefer?