When New York State announced in early April that it was joining states like California and Portland in a move towards legal and recreational marijuana, it raised the question: what does this mean for new products?
A clue is buried in AB InBev’s 2020 annual report, which was published last February. AB InBev, Anheuser-Busch’s parent company, manages a global portfolio of beverage brands, from beer to hard seltzer and ready-to-drink cocktails.
AB InBev, which produces beer brands such as Stella Artois, Budweiser and Corona, is also investing in non-alcoholic and low-alcohol drinks; the beverage maker launched 11 new non-alcoholic and low-alcohol beers, including Budweiser Zero and Stella Artois.
The market for non-alcoholic and low-alcohol drinks, on the whole, is poised to continue to grow, despite pandemic pressures. A recent market study predicts that the category will account for a full third of the global alcohol market by 2024.
That’s why loosening marijuana regulations could potentially intersect a rapidly growing industrial sector, if companies can position themselves on the right side of regulators.
In the “Risks and Uncertainties” section of AB InBev’s annual report, the company notes that Labatt, a Canadian subsidiary, is researching soft drinks infused with tetrahydrocannabinol (“THC”) and cannabidiol (“CBD”) and is developing a Non-Alcoholic CBD Drink for sale in Canada only.
The project is listed in the ‘risk’ category because ‘cannabis remains illegal in many markets in which AB InBev operates, and violations of the law could result in fines, penalties, administrative penalties, convictions or significant settlements resulting from civil proceedings or criminal charges ”. report states. “In addition, the political environment and popular support for the legalization of cannabis has changed rapidly and continues to evolve.”
Marijuana is legal in 17 US states, including Alaska, California, Maine, Colorado, and Illinois, while 13 other states have decriminalized its use. In some states, politicians such as Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf are actively courting voters to help legalize marijuana. (Part of the new enthusiasm for this so-called green rush is due to the fact that new legal weed ventures would swell tax boxes depleted by a pandemic.)
In states where this is legal, craft brewers have stepped in to experiment with THC and CBD infused beers, as the beer blogs attest. However, uneven state regulations do not allow out-of-state shipments.
This means that there may soon be a turning point, as more states go green, for multinational companies like AB InBev to step into the weed-infused beer space and improve their position in the world. ‘space for alcohol-free and low-alcohol drinks. at the same time.
The craft brewers will remain, but they could, in a few years, be joined by big names from the big beverage producers.