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Cannabis and Beer: Natural Market Allies?


Seasoned marketing professionals and researchers have proposed that the success of artisanal beers has opened the road for the success of cannabis as an object of sophisticated consumption. In fact, they argue that small cannabis producers have a lot to learn from the artisanal beer business.


Beer is an inextricable element of many cultures, and most definitely of American popular culture, where it is not only part of the culture, but also—for good or bad—an essential factor of a great many social events. And until fairly recently, the beer market had been solely dominated by mass produced beer. However, despite a slow start over a decade ago, the success of the artisanal beer movement today is undeniable; just walk any decent-sized supermarket or liquor emporium and you can appreciate the vast number of small batch and locally-produced brews.


There are, in fact, overlapping commonalities and, it would appear, natural alliances to be made between both industries. For instance, both plant-based products—cannabis and hops—which share the BHA elements—terpenes--which provide them with specific notes, such as “citric” or “earthy”. Marketwise, both products amenable to being commercialized through smallish or independent venues, such as pubs, that target niche groups. These can be consumers who enjoy being product connoisseurs, or millennials and hipsters who believe in the importance of craft and entrepreneurship, among other things.


Among the strategies that cannabis producers could take home from the artisanal beer market is the clever and varied presentation of its products, the organization of a sophisticated catalog, so that both new and more knowledgeable consumers have a wider array of choices. Moving away from cutesy and sometimes juvenile brand names for cannabis products—Afgooey? Zombie Killer?--for worldlier or savvier brand names might also be helpful. Moreover, independent and artisanal cannabis production has many advantages that are smart to emphasize, so these should be highlighted, such as the expert nature of its craftsmanship, its sustainable or organic (when pertinent) cultivation, its fair market elements, and other word concepts that underlie the environmental-friendly and healthy aspects of its production.


Showcasing to consumers the actual and material processes of production, just as many artisanal craft beers breweries do, would also be attractive to consumers. That is, many artisanal products—from beers to chocolate manufactures and bakeries--hail their consumers into the process experience by designing open spaces that illustrate the creation process from beginning to end, when it is finally served at the table or bagged for take-out.


Cannabis edibles and oils shops are a good choice for such modern designs, especially since according to market studies run in 2016 and 2017 by BDS Analytics, these products increased in popularity by 125% (edibles) and over 50% (oils). It would appear, as well, that beer and cannabis are natural allies, even though beer is slowly but steadily being displaced in the consuming public’s preference by cannabis, so that taking advantage of craft beer strategies is a smart move for those who would like to take advantage of this trend.


Alliances can still be made to benefit from the positives of both products. According to a Forbes article (April 2018), one of the main challenges that artisanal beer brewers face, despite the booming market, is fierce competition. Among so many choices, it has been difficult for brewers to distinguish their product from the pack. In consequence, it has become popular to infuse beer with different ingredients, lately cannabis being one of them. Most of these are infused with cannabis that offers the cannabis terpenes but lack THC, the euphoria-inducing factor. However, a beer company has announced that it will soon produce a series of beers that contains THC. Under the direction of the former brewmaster of Blue Moon Beer, this new line of cannabis infused beers will be produced by CERIA Beverages of Colorado.


There is no perfect world, of course. Much of the artisanal or craft products are no longer such; they attract the interest of big corporations and end up being bought by bigger firms, which continue to market the product as “artisanal” and independently-produced. This has become a common occurrence in the world of artisanal beers and it will probably become a common occurrence in that of cannabis; it is not far from the phenomenon of gentrification. In fact, there are many indications that show this is already taking place. But that is fodder for another post.



About the Author:


Trudy Mercadal, Ph.D

New Orleans born with a Latina background, I am a writer, social historian & cultural studies researcher with a doctorate in Comparative Studies. My focus on community and popular culture. Main interests are the ways in which people express identity through arts—such as music, graffiti, and magazines—and their consuming practices, that is, the what (and how) they buy, ingest, eat, and wear. In my personal life, I am a dedicated urban mini-farmer and, also, a certified cheese maker who makes a truly kick-ass grilled cheese sandwich.

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