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Canadian CBD Drink Market Looks to Expand Amidst Delays

The Canadian market is very interested in CBD drinks — two beer giants had plans to sell CBD infused beverages by the end of last year. However, only one company has had product hit shelves due to challenges for cannabis-based drinks in the Canadian market.

Fluent Beverage Co. (a partnership between Anheuser-Busch InBev and cannabis company Tilray) launched its line of CBD beverages in December. The product was Everie — tea bags with less than 0.05 milligrams of THC. In early March, Everie also began selling a CBD-infused sparkling beverage.

The joint venture between Molson Coors and the HEXO cannabis company, called Truss Beverage Co., has stated that their line of CBD drinks “will be coming soon”. Their line will be called Flow Glow.

Both launches were slower than the ventures expected and didn’t meet their company projections. The delay was caused partially by Canadian law, which, while they legalized marijuana in October of 2018, delayed the sale of THC and CBD beverages for a year. December of 2019 was the earliest date that those products could go on sale, and companies were required to partake in a two-month application process.

Challenges for New Products

Matt Maurer, a cannabis attorney with the Toronto firm Torkin Mane, stated that the packaging of the new beverages was one of the first challenges that were discovered. Traditional aluminum cans have thin liners that can draw cannabinoids out of suspension.

“The cans that were proposed to be used would basically take the potency away from the drink,” he told Hemp Industry Daily. “So they had to sort of reformulate their packaging, figure out how they were going to deal with that challenge.”

Other challenges the companies face including getting the flavor right, as well as trying to find a way for the product to not separate after being stored over a long period of time. If the products were stored too long, the separation would sink to the bottom of the beverage.

It’s not impossible, however, to launch a successful cannabis drinks business, said Scott Van Rixel, founder and former CEO of Bhang! Chocolate, a cannabis company that sells various CBD products. “Look, there are some cannabis beverages in the marketplace already in Canada, that’s a fact. I think that people had this assumption that it was a very simple process to just put THC into a beverage and away you go. And there’s a little more complexity from a chemistry standpoint.”

After some delays, cannabis giant Canopy Growth began shipping its own marijuana-infused drinks throughout Canada last month.

According to Maurer and Rixel, more companies were interested in the THC side of the industry as opposed to CBD. Due to this, CBD-only drinks have not taken off on a mass scale. “If you wanted to buy CBD only or edibles, almost none of the companies had them; they were all producing THC,” Maurer said.

The Future of the Industry

At present, CBD-only products can only be sold through marijuana retailers. This means that CBD products cannot be sold at convenience stores or grocery stores. However, Canadian health regulators have begun considering whether beverages with CBD (as they cause no impairment like marijuana), should be allowed to be sold as health products in conventional stores such as pharmacies. The decision is expected to happen within the next few months.“If that happens, demand will go way up, because you’ll be able to get it everywhere,” he said.