Molson Coors, Hexo pot drink joint venture launches five new brands despite marketing restrictions
After months of delays and quality control checks, the joint venture between Molson Coors Brewing Co. and pot producer Hexo Corp. has finally launched a full suite of cannabis-infused drinks to the Canadian market. Now Truss Beverages Inc. needs to get the word out.
Truss' new chief executive officer, Scott Cooper, said he has been forced to take a more nuanced approach to launching the pot drinks to consumers, with a fraction of the marketing resources the company would have if it were selling any other beverage to the market. Cannabis companies have tight restrictions on how and where they can advertise their products, limiting their reach.
"We're going to do everything we can to communicate with consumers, through our website and social media," said Cooper, who recently took on the role following a stint as the head of Molson's global innovations department. "Word of mouth is going to be really important in building out this category."
The company launched five new pot drink brands that will be available nationwide on Tuesday, with a total of 16 different beverages with varying amounts of THC and CBD. Truss's previous management said that its products would be available for sale as early as last December, but Cooper said production delays in outfitting the company's Belleville, Ont. facility delayed the products’ rollout.
While Truss isn't alone in facing the challenge of marketing new cannabis products to consumers who have consumed marijuana via more traditional means, Cooper said the company wants people to think pot drinks are just another kind of adult beverage, without getting hung up on cannabis as an ingredient. He points to a study commissioned by Truss that shows 71 per cent of Canadians are interested in using cannabis in a social setting, but not in a smokable manner.
"At Truss, we're thinking we're more like a beverage company than a cannabis company," he said. "We're coming at it from 'What are the beverage occasions and how can cannabis be part of those?'"
The potential market remains sizable despite Truss arriving late to the party. Similar offerings from Canopy Growth Corp., Aurora Cannabis Inc., and A1 Cannabis Co. are already on store shelves. A recent report by Deloitte estimated that the Canadian market for cannabis-infused beverages was $529 million, although recent projections from Canopy executives peg the value significantly higher.
"We're still in the early days of this category's development and I think back to the 1920s when alcohol was prohibited and there's been a lot of evolution of that market over a hundred years," he said.
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