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Today’s cannabis consumers have more options than ever before, including flower, tinctures, distillates and oils, edibles and now, cannabis-infused drinks. Cannabis beverages are one of the hottest new categories in today’s industry, and their popularity is only continuing to grow. In 2020, sales for cannabis-infused beverages rose from $67.8 million to $95.2 million as consumers sought convenient, approachable ways to consume CBD and THC during the pandemic. In fact, the cannabis-infused drinks market is estimated to reach $1.4 billion by 2023.

With beverages slated to play a larger role in the cannabis market in 2021 and beyond, there’s good reason for cannabis producers and processors to keep an eye on this segment. Let’s dive into some of the emerging trends and topics in the cannabis beverage market:

Diverse consumer use-cases  

Cannabis-infused beverages have the potential to disrupt traditional beverage categories, including alcohol, teas, sparkling waters, and sports and energy drinks. Although CBD and THC cannot be added to alcoholic drinks such as beer, wine or spirits, there is a demand for non-alcoholic cannabis-infused drinks that provide mood-enhancing benefits. 

Both Millennials and Gen Zers consume fewer alcoholic beverages than the generations before them, and 32 percent of consumers are willing to replace alcohol with cannabis beverages for recreational use. To appeal to these populations, brands are experimenting with drinks including THC, CBD and a combination of THC and CBD as the primary active ingredients. Craft beer drinkers, in particular, have been identified as a promising crossover audience for beer-like cannabis beverages because they are familiar with higher price ranges, low-dose serving sizes, and unique botanical flavors.   

There’s also a steady market for hemp-based CBD drinks that offer relaxing, therapeutic benefits without the psychoactive effects of THC. Because CBD beverages are non-intoxicating, they appeal to health and wellness-minded consumers seeking a viable alternative for everyday “lifestyle” drinks such as coffee, tea, sparkling water and sports drinks. 

Big players entering the market 

While strict regulations prevent THC and CBD from being added to alcoholic drinks, that hasn’t stopped high-profile alcohol companies from dipping their toes into the cannabis beverage pond. Heineken, Molson Coors, Anheuser-Busch InBev, and Constellation Brands have all invested in non-alcoholic cannabis-infused beverage research. With more well-known “non-cannabis” companies betting big on the success of cannabis beverages, we can expect canna-drinks to become even more mainstream. 

Transparency in packaging and labeling

Despite high hopes for the rapid growth of cannabis beverages, a focus on consumer education is still needed, especially when it comes to CBD. In a recent survey, 58 percent of consumers didn’t know the difference between CBD and THC. Moreover, misinformation, dysfunctional testing and inconsistent quality among CBD brands has led to customer confusion about the advantages—and limitations—of CBD. 

Some cannabis industry leaders are in favor of FDA oversight for CBD and THC drinks because it will require brands to adhere to a higher level of testing standards and transparency about their ingredients. But until FDA regulations are a reality, smaller cannabis beverage brands are setting the standard in terms of transparency with their packaging and labeling. For example, QR codes are becoming commonly used on cannabis packaging and product labels to inform the consumer about the product’s ingredients, expiration date and third-party lab-testing results. 

The use of QR codes to create augmented reality experiences is another cannabis packaging and labeling trend that holds potential for the beverage space. By scanning the QR codes on a cannabis beverage can or bottle, customers could “unlock” an experience such as an exclusive recipe or tutorial. As cannabis labeling and packaging regulations for infused beverages become more standardized, we’re likely to see more of these value-added interactive features being implemented.

Get help growing your cannabis beverage brand!

Whether you’re creating a new line of cannabis beverages or rebranding your current products, custom labels will help bring your brand to life. At Delta9 Systems, we specialize in customized cannabis labels for businesses of all sizes. We can produce beautiful, functional labels in any size, shape, material, design, number of colors, adhesive, top coating and quantity that you need. We’ve even sourced the highest-quality label applicators so you can quickly and easily adhere your labels to cylindrical cans or bottles instead of applying them by hand, helping your business save time and money. 

Ready to get started? Get in touch with our label experts for a free quote on custom labels for cannabis beverages. 

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