When I say weed should scare you I am not talking about You, the reader, I am speaking about the very basic, everyday, mundane, generic wine, beer, or spirit. Weed, the actual THC, is not scary at all to me. I can remember a few nights lounging in our suburban basement watching Pink Floyd, “The Wall,” while subversively hiding from my parents. I remember that actually happening, and it all seems pretty funny now with CA, NV, and others legalizing recreational pot. What should be scary is how the adult beverage market is going to react.
If you string together a series of articles and publications from Wine Industry Advisor, Shanken, WSD, and others you will see a scary pattern emerging. The pattern is that Big Distribution is investing into pot in a big way. Large companies like SGWS and Diageo are investing millions in hopes of putting a marker in the sand on control and selling/ distribution. This is all a big deal because it will mean the end of the “basic” beverage.
There will be a scenario in the future when the consumer will make an educated choice of whether to open a beer or smoke a joint. There will be a choice made of vodka & soda or a “hit” of cannabis. The basic drink, the bud light’s/ the Finlandia Vodka/ the Jim Beam and KJ Chardonnay will be replaced by smoking. The reason they will be replaced is because they are a sessionable, average beverages in an era when the consumer has a choice to make. Back in the day, if you drank and smoked you were cross-faded, but the consumer demographic for the loss of beverage sales is not college age male, it is middle-aged man/woman with college or advanced degree, and they will make the choice.
The big distributors are positioned to take advantage of selling and securing cannabis because they already have a compliance system in place. The unaffected brands will be the something special brands that are not basic at all. The barrel aged rum, the estate wine, the Tequila that was found 100 years ago and is now ready to sell. Basic brands are bought on price and convenience, and when pot becomes price and convenient those brands will suffer. High end brands that are rare, special, allocated and otherwise different will survive and thrive.
We, BevStrat, are all for the shift in consumer behavior. In a study we did last year we found that over 40% of base brands are planning on creating/ distilling/ making a higher-end product to compete with the pot train as it leaves the station. No longer are the days of hiding in my parents basement and blowing smoke through a towel. I, of course, do not know if this specifically, but I have heard from friends. Makers need to position themselves for the near term where a basic wine/ spirit/ or beer will be replaced by a joint. To keep with the theme and Pink Floyd reference, you will have to adjust to this trend to make money, it’s a gas!