After much speculation, Coca-Cola has officially denied that they have any intention of getting in on the cannabis industry.
At least, for now.
Rumors circulated that they would soon be producing CBD-infused beverages. Last week, the company officially commented, with spokesperson Kent Landers squashing those rumors. The idea started after the release of a YouTube video featuring a man (who goes by the username “Gabor the Blind Guy”) with a can of Coke which he claimed contained CBD.
The beverage giant may not have immediate plans to get in on the cannabis industry. However, the fact that everyone thought they might is an indication of just how much the tide is turning. After all, it is true that the company was originally in talks with Aurora last year about the possibility of a partnership.
Here are a few major brands that have jumped on the wagon and expressed their interest in the booming industry.
Ben & Jerry’s
While there are a number of major companies which have dipped their toes in the water, Ben & Jerry’s has not been at all shy about expressing their interest and enthusiasm in cannabis.
In an official statement on their website, the company has said that they’re 100% game to start rolling out CBD-infused ice cream “as soon as it’s legalized at the federal level”. CEO Matthew McCarthy has stated that “we’re doing this for our fans. We’ve listened and brought them everything from Non-Dairy indulgences to on-the-go portions with our Pint Slices. We aspire to love our fans more than they love us and we want to give them what they’re looking for in a Ben & Jerry’s way”.
The company even has tentative plans in place for how they would carry it out. This includes using “sustainably-sourced CBD” from their home state of Vermont.
Perhaps the biggest move to come from a major brand so far has been Altria. Last year the British tobacco giant best known for making Marlboro cigarettes invested $2.4 billion in Cronos Group. The move bought Altria a 45% stake in the company, and places them perfectly in a growing market as cigarette smoking continues to decline. It also allowed them to appoint up to four members on the Board of Directors.
The investment was important not only due to the large figure. It also marked the entry of big tobacco into the world of cannabis. This is something that a number of individuals have expressed a great deal of concern with in the past. In October of this year, Bernie Sanders announced that, if elected, his administration would legalize cannabis – but ban tobacco companies from having any part in it.
Constellation Brands made their first move into cannabis back in 2017 with a $190 million investment in Canopy Growth. The beverage giant was one of the first to move toward the industry. The investment got them an almost 10 percent stake in the world’s largest cannabis company. They went on to acquire a 38% stake in August of last year with another investment of $5 billion.
In a statement following the announcement, then-Chairman Bruce Linton said that “Constellation’s concentration of global cannabis activities exclusively through Canopy, coupled with the investment and its expert capabilities in brand-building, marketing, consumer insights and M&A will be a huge benefit as we look to expand our portfolio in Canada, the United States and emerging cannabis markets around the globe.”
The fact that Constellation is one of the largest producers of alcoholic beverages in the world is significant. The cannabis-infused beverage sector is expected to be one of the fastest growing in the industry.
The red-hot infused beverage market has even attracted major brands like Heineken. In 2018, Lagunitis (a California beer brand of which Heineken is the parent company) launched Hi-Fi Hops, a THC-infused, zero calorie drink. The product comes in both a 10 mg and a 5 mg variety, and was released exclusively in California dispensaries.
Hi-Fi Hops is the result of a collaboration between Lagunitis and cannabis manufacturer AbsoluteXtracts. In speaking about the new venture, CEO Maria Stipp said that “the idea of being a part of a no-calorie beverage infused with cannabis seemed like a perfect next step in our product innovation, and a natural way to marry our past with our future”.
Much of the recent coverage surrounding the cannabis industry has been in food and beverages. This is especially with the legalization of edibles in Canada.
The beauty of cannabis is that it is diverse enough to encourage involvement from a number of different industries. Recognizing the growth potential early on, gardening giant Scotts Miracle-Gro launched Hawthorne Gadening as a subsidiary in 2014. As one of the first investments by a major US company into the world of cannabis, Hawthorne is now a major distributor of hydroponic and other equipment in North America for growers and cultivators.
As an equipment supplier, Hawthorne is technically part of the ancillary market rather than the plant-touching sector. Generally speaking, this is seen as far less risky by many companies. Cannabis is still technically a Schedule 1 drug in the US, and any direct contact with it requires a considerable amount of tact. In addition to the risk factor, companies have been forced to work around a number of hurdles. These include restricted access to banking and an inability to claim tax deductions.
When asked during a 2018 interview with Marijuana Business Daily whether or not Hawthorne would ever venture into the plant-touching sector, general manager Chris Hagedorn said that “we have our research facility that we’re in the process of building up in Canada. Outside of that, I think it’s probably a bridge too far at this point. But the legal landscape is changing so fast that I would never want to rule anything out. I have no idea how things are going to look in five years.”