Company: Cannabis Beverages Association
As the chair of the Cannabis Beverages Association and the current vice president of sales and marketing for SoRSE Technology, a leading provider of water-soluble emulsion technology, Diana Eberlein is laser-focused on pushing the beverage segment of the industry forward.
“Representing this category is not something I take lightly, and being able to meet and collaborate with so many brands and individuals in this space has been so rewarding,” Eberlein says.
Eberlein says the key to growing the market segment is going to be accessibility and education. Currently, beverages account for roughly 2% of the market and the top selling brands are primarily infused shots that are high in THC and aimed at legacy consumers, but the future of cannabis beverages is going to be more “sessionable” products with much lower amounts of THC, she says.
“The infused beverage category is one of the ‘gateways’ for the canna-curious, but the canna-curious aren’t walking into dispensaries like they are grocery, convenience and liquor stores,” Eberlein says, looking forward to a day when low dose beverages can be featured similarly to the White Claws and Bud Lights of the world with high dose products more like hard alcohol.
Establishing standardized testing and appropriate regulations for beverages with lower amounts of THC are two of the top priorities for the association, she says. But in addition to those future milestones, Eberlein is also looking to expand the association’s network so it can grow the segment faster.
“We added a new membership offering at the beginning of this year for brands that want to help us build chapters in various states so we can better represent the category, but also support the brands building the beverage segment in those markets,” Eberlein says. “We’re stronger together.”
Lately it seems as though everyone is talking about how cannabis beverages are growing in popularity, but what needs to happen for the market segment to really gain mainstream acceptance?
It’s going to come down to accessibility and category awareness (including education). Right now, with beverage being around 2% of the marketplace, the top beverages selling are high dose, often times in smaller formats like 2oz shots. Those consumers are legacy consumers who are spending money on cannabis products right now. You’ll hear people say “If you want to make money in cannabis beverage right now, high dose is the way to go. But making money in the future, you’re going to need to have variety, including lose dose options.” This is an accurate assessment of the current infused beverage space, but the future of cannabis beverage consumption, and where we really start to take up market share, will heavily rely on low dose sessionable and functional drinks.
The infused beverage category is one of the “gateways” for the canna-curious, but the canna-curious aren’t walking into dispensaries like they are grocery, convenience, and liquor stores. So when I talk about accessibility to a mainstream audience – until low dose beverages can be featured similarly to the White Claws and Bud Lights of the world, and high dose products more like hard alcohol – I’m referring to Direct-to-Consumer and Delivery Service options.
We know there is a “beyond beer” movement, that RTD beverages and mocktails are on the rise, not to mention the number of functional better-for-you beverages available today. Cannabis infused beverages fit right into that trend. It’s a matter of time before we have enough infused beverages (leveraging all cannabinoids, not just THC and CBD) to fill a functional beverage display like the ones we see today in mainstream retailers.
Tell me one thing you would like to change or add to the cannabis industry and why.
From a business management standpoint, I can’t help but look at how hard it is for cannabis brands (beverage specifically) to grow their businesses without what would be considered “standard” tax write-offs. Between that, clunky infrastructures set by regulators, and the lack of standardization, many brands are just “hanging in there” versus being able to re-invest into their brands to grow and expand.
At the Cannabis Beverage Association, we are focused on improving current regulations in existing markets and providing guidance for new markets so they have more efficient rollouts that help infused beverages have more immediate success after launch. Standardization will be crucial as the cannabis industry heads towards federal legalization.
What has been your biggest milestone in the industry thus far?
As a passionate infused beverage consumer and advocate, I was honored to be voted in as Chair of the Cannabis Beverage Association. Representing this category is not something I take lightly, and being able to meet and collaborate with so many brands and individuals in this space has been so rewarding.
While I consider myself a human guinea pig and will try anything to see if it’s right for me, beverage is my preferred method of consumption. Blending in with my existing lifestyle and having the ability to dose effectively was a game-changer for my overall health and wellbeing. And I am confident that more people could benefit from cannabis, particularly from this delivery method.
What is the CBA’s next major goal and why is it important to the market segment?
We have a number of priorities that we are focused on from a regulatory and government affairs standpoint. For example, we recently were able to get Bill AB 623 (in CA) approved by consent to adjust testing variances for low dose beverages and edibles. Standardized testing and appropriate regulations for lower versus high dose beverages are two of the top priorities for our association, but we are also highly focused on collaborating with other associations and becoming their beverage arm so we can collectively be more impactful with our lobbying efforts. We’re stronger together!
In addition, the CBA was founded in CA, but we’re a national organization so we’re looking for partners to create CBA chapters in their specific markets so we have “boots on the ground” and can proactively identify regulatory challenges we want to improve on, get involved in local legislature, and bring awareness to the category. We added a new membership offering at the beginning of this year for brands that want to help us build chapters in various states so we can better represent the category, but also support the brands building the beverage segment in those markets.