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Cannabis Drinks Expo Recap

Brands, Top Influencers Discuss Future Direction of Cannabis Drinks Industry

Photo for: Cannabis Drinks Expo Recap
12/08/2019

At the recent Cannabis Drinks Expo, which took place in San Francisco on July 25, top influencers and thought leaders within the emerging cannabis drinks category offered a comprehensive view of what is going to happen next in the industry. Topics of discussion varied widely, covering the unique challenges and opportunities in areas ranging from brand creation and brand building to supply chain logistics and financial business models.

2019 Cannabis Drinks Expo Conference

Jeff at 2019 Cannabis Drinks Expo Conference

The Cannabis Drinks Expo kicked off with an inspiring talk by Jeff Maser, President, and CEO of Tinley Beverages, who dove right in by discussing the key factors that will be responsible for the future growth of the cannabis beverage category. Tinley Beverages is already a market innovator and leader in developing cannabis-infused beverages, and participants obtained a first-hand view of what it takes to succeed within a still nascent product category.

One of the keys to success within the cannabis drinks industry, suggested participants, was building a strong and stable supply chain. This goes far beyond just obtaining access top-shelf flower for new products - it also means being able to offer efficiency throughout the supply chain. To cover this topic, the Cannabis Drinks Expo welcomed Rebecca Stamey-White, partner at Hinman & Carmichael LLP, who talked about the key differences in selling and distributing cannabis-infused beverages, in comparison with other non-alcohol and alcohol beverages. She was joined on-stage by Charlie Cangialosi, VP of Old Pal, who offered his own unique insights into the cannabis drinks supply chain.

The importance of understanding and complying with widely differing cannabis regulations across boundaries was underscored by a well-attended afternoon session, “Cannabis Regulations Across Boundaries.” Panel moderator Omar Figueroa was joined by Stacy Hostetter, Lauren Mendelsohn, and Michael Hayford as they talked about the current legal and regulatory challenges facing cannabis drinks brands. Also during the Cannabis Drinks Expo, Michael Cooper, Managing Member of MadisonJay Solutions, analyzed the ins and outs of creating a compliance plan for the evolving world of cannabis products. While it might be tempting only to focus on product creation and brand messaging, entrepreneurs within the cannabis drinks space also need to focus on the practical, daily concerns of running a business that complies with national, state or local regulations. Creating a new cannabis drinks product within the North American market might seem like a risky endeavor, especially with the uncertain regulatory landscape that can differ widely on a state-by-state basis, but this risk can be mitigated by understanding the changing regulatory framework.

Conference Attendees at 2019 Cannabis Drinks Expo

Conference Attendees at 2019 Cannabis Drinks Expo

Right now, the entire cannabis drinks industry is so wide open that opportunities exist to create the first big cannabis beverage brands. A number of industry notables - including Bill Silver, CEO of Cannacraft, took the stage throughout the event to talk about what needs to go into the brand creation process. Silver, for example, gave a presentation on “Grass Into Glass: Tapping the Market for Cannabis Beverages.” One big factor here is that big CPG brands could decide to enter the market for cannabis-infused beverages at any moment, so it’s important to create a strong brand from the very outset.

In many ways, traditional approaches to brand-building need to be adapted to the particular needs of the cannabis beverage drinker. More than any other cannabis product category, cannabis-infused drinks offer access to the mainstream consumer curious about trying a product that is low-calorie, low-carb, and non-alcoholic. Do you position your brand as a lifestyle brand? Or do you play up the perceived health benefits of CBD?

To answer these questions, the Cannabis Drinks Expo welcomed a number of high-profile thought leaders throughout the day. In the morning session, for example, Eric Schnell, Co-Founder, and President of Mood33 Cannabis-Infused Sparkling Tonics talked about what he referred to as “next-generation cannabis-infused beverages.” And Adam Miron, Co-Founder and Chief Brand Officer at HEXO, talked about the “mainstreaming” of cannabis beverages. In markets like California, which recently approved the recreational use of non-medical marijuana, it’s possible to envision a new cannabis brand that would be embraced by online social media influencers.

VIEW ALL SPEAKERS OF 2019 EVENT

And, in fact, it is the blurring of the line between the cannabis product category and the food, wine, and alcohol beverage category where the greatest innovation is happening right now. In the afternoon sessions, CDE participants heard from a wide range of influential voices who are having a dramatic impact on the rapid consumer uptake of cannabis-infused products. Warren Bobrow - perhaps better known as the “Cocktail Whisperer” - showcased the new era of cannabis-infused cocktails, which combine craft spirits with top-shelf flower. And Rachel Burkons, Co-Owner of Altered Plates, led a rousing panel discussion on “the future of cannabis drinking, dining, and crop-to-kitchen cuisine.” If influential mixologists, chefs, and foodies embrace cannabis, that could really open the door to wide-scale consumer adoption.

What was truly noteworthy about the Cannabis Drinks Expo was just such a diverse audience it managed to attract. In addition to brand builders, entrepreneurs, and legal experts, the event also attracted its fair share of scientists and medical practitioners. Dr. Arup Sen, CEO of Infusion Biosciences, was one of the most popular presenters at the event. In one session, he talked about breakthrough water soluble infusions, while in another panel discussion, he talked about the unique needs, challenges, and opportunities facing dispensaries. If there is one unique aspect of the cannabis drinks category, it is the fact that the industry really started with medical marijuana, and that many of the points where people picked up product was at medical dispensaries, and not at classic retail chains. This is something that cannabis entrepreneurs need to keep in mind as they build links and relationships with consumers.

2019 Cannabis Drinks Expo Visitors

2019 Cannabis Drinks Expo Visitors

And, of course, when Cannabis Drinks Expo participants were not discussing the bright future of the industry, they were mingling on the main trade show floor, where over 80 exhibitors showcased their goods, products, and services. High-profile exhibitors included Rebel Coast, the first and only cannabis-infused wine company; Southern Distilling Co.; Tinley Beverage Co.; and Weedka, a high-quality cannabis-infused vodka.

VIEW ALL EXHIBITORS OF 2019 EVENT

The Cannabis Drinks Expo, presented by Beverage Trade Network, was one of the biggest gathering of cannabis drinks professionals ever. The first-of-its-kind event in North America gave anyone curious about the future direction of the cannabis industry an up-close and personal look at the trendsetters, influencers, thought leaders and brand builders leading the charge in what is shaping up to be one of the most important new product categories in the consumer food and drink space.

The 2019 Cannabis Drinks Expo took place in San Francisco on July 25 at the South San Francisco Conference Center. To become an exhibitor at the 2020 Cannabis Drinks Expo, please Register Here and get super early bird offer on the total price. Offer ends August 31, 2019.