Personal Passion is Hard to Deny.- Says Paul
Paul Weaver, Director-Head of Cannabis at Boston Beer Company shares his views on the changing dynamics of customer preferences in the cannabis space.
With more than 11 years of experience in the beverage sector, Paul Weaver has been appointed as the Director, Head of cannabis at Boston Beer Company. Paul formerly worked as the director of innovation at Canopy Growth Corporation and as a senior innovation manager at Molson and Coors Beverage Company. Paul has expertise in the field of innovation and research.
Last Year, the Boston Beer Company stated that it is forming a subsidiary in Canada to act as a dedicated research and innovation base for non-alcoholic cannabis products. While cannabis legislation in the United States and globally continue to evolve, this new subsidiary will allow the company to develop and test various cannabis beverages. Boston Beer Company has engaged Paul Weaver, an industry veteran, to manage a new cannabis beverage research lab in Canada's legally regulated sector.
Hi Paul, Can you tell us about yourself and your background? What led you to the cannabis industry?
Sure! My name is Paul Weaver, I am the Director, Head of Cannabis for The Boston Beer Company. I started working in beer in 2011 and was immediately drawn to the passion the brewing industry brings every day. Around 2016, I received my medical cannabis card in Canada and was shocked by the improvement in my overall quality of life and my own passions immediately shifted, I felt I had joined a cause. I joined Canopy Growth Corporation in 2017 as their Director of Innovation and helped usher in legalized recreational cannabis in Canada. Then in 2021, I joined The Boston Beer Company where every day we merge our two passions together, beer and weed.
What stood out to you about the cannabis industry? What distinguishes it from the industry in which you previously worked?
Personal passion is hard to deny. I find people who thrive working in cannabis believe they are part of a moment. They are in it to change the stigma, rewrite the history books, and have this sort of evangelical love of the plant. It’s a hard industry in terms of the ups and downs, and you rarely know what the next 6 months look like, so you better have a passion for the plant, otherwise, you’ll go crazy.
Last year, Boston Beer Company announced establishing a subsidiary to serve as a dedicated research and innovation hub in Canada focusing on non-alcoholic cannabis beverages. Can you tell us more about it?
The Boston Beer Company aspires to be the most innovative beverage company in the world. We know consumers’ relationship with alcohol is evolving, while at the same time all around the world access and acceptance of cannabis are expanding. So to achieve our ambition, it’s only prudent we respond to this shift in adult consumption.
Being a publicly-traded US-based company comes with some challenges, so we operate in the federally regulated market of Canada.
As a Head of Cannabis at Boston Beer Company, Can you tell us about your role and how does a typical day at work look like?
I’ve been lucky enough to assemble the most experienced team in the industry, covering years of experience across sales, legal, and R&D in cannabis drinks. My job as the director is to steer the ship, focus our product development, oversee commercial execution, and be the spokesman for our products both internally and externally.
What challenges did you experience when you first started in this field?
We like to say “This isn’t 2018.” We’ve come so far as an industry in terms of development, manufacturing, and branding. The biggest challenge early on was stability and taste. Thankfully, there are some incredible emulsion technology providers out there constantly raising the bar in terms of sophistication, stability control, and recipe optimization.
What can you tell us about how customer preferences have changed over time regarding taste and dosage?
On the dosing side, you are seeing two poles of potency. On the one end the low-dose sessionable products and on the other the 100mg+ liquid edibles. The super-strong stuff has a market of their own but confuses the new consumer entering a dispensary for the first time.
On taste, there’s so much new stuff to try that we haven’t seen a single flavor or style dominate. We remind ourselves as a team there will be a new flavor in every dispensary every day for the foreseeable future. You have to embrace that consumer desire for exploration and build a pipeline that can work with a fast-fashion approach.
What is the demographic of your target market? How do you plan to explore new markets for your beverages and focus on business development?
We believe the growth of the cannabis beverage category is through consumers who’ve never even been inside of a dispensary, much less bought their own cannabis. So that’s our target, the newbie, and they represent the majority of the general population. For the newbie, it’s about making products easy to understand, taste great, and enticing enough to take that leap of faith into the hipster dispensary down the block.
Can you tell us about the product that you’re working on right now? Do you have any forthcoming releases at The Boston Beer Company?
Our first product was announced in May, and we call it TeaPot. TeaPot is a line of great-tasting cannabis-infused iced teas. We pair specific tea varietals with specific cannabis strains for specific times of the day. Check it out at drinkteapot.com!
What do you think the Cannabis space will look like in five years?
Five years is an impossibly far away number, but I think the macro trends of commoditization can’t be ignored. You see every day the price of cannabis going down as over-supply floods the market, and that means the cost of our inputs will be going down. I think you’ll see movement at the US federal level for legalization, and you’ll see a new beachhead emerge on a new continent, anyone’s guesses which one.
Lastly, What trends are you seeing in the cannabis sector this year?
I love new classification systems emerging, moving away from Indica/Sativa into unique terpene profiles.
I love the movement towards solventless extracts, particularly as high-value inputs for ingestible products.
And of course, I love this wild west of consumption lounges. Beverages are built for the on-premise, so to be able to finally showcase them in a curated environment will be a huge boost to the category.
Interviewed by Aakriti Rawat, Beverage Trade Network