Tilray sets sights on cannabis-infused beer
Canadian cannabis company Tilray has lofty plans to bring infused beer to retail shelves nationwide—that is, once federal marijuana legalization actually happens.
Tilray recently acquired eight beverage brands from alcohol behemoth Anheuser-Busch, effectively making them the 5th largest craft beer company in the United States. With the success of infused seltzers in places like Minnesota, it was only a matter of time before Tilray announced its plans to enter the cannabis beverage category.
“I think there’s a big opportunity in the beer business, and my whole strategy is craft beer,” Tilray CEO and chairman Irwin Simon told BNN Bloomberg. “Upon legalization (in the U.S.) one day, we will infuse these drinks with THC, with CBD, but we’ll have the distribution, and we’ll have the brands when and if legalization does happen.”
The announcement came just days after the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recommended that cannabis be reclassified from a Schedule I controlled substance to Schedule III. While unclear how the change would affect the beverage space, Simon predicts broader reform is close.
“The news… gives hope that the government will do something,” Simon said. “I think what’s going to happen, in my opinion, medical cannabis will be legalized first, and they’ll leave it up to each of the states.”
A number of alcohol-free cannabis-infused beverages that mimic the experience of beer have been introduced in a number of legal states. Hi-Fi Hops from CannaCraft and Lagunitas made a splash when it was first introduced in California in 2018. Colorado-based non-alcoholic beer maker Ceria Brewing Company introduced an IPA with THC and CBD a year later.
Currently, the majority of infused drinks are sold at dispensaries due to regulations requiring alcohol and cannabis sales to be kept separate. These laws would likely need amending before THC drinks show up in mainstream liquor stores.
Thanks to the previous beer acquisitions, Tilray is set to scale up a cannabis drink division fairly quickly once the opportunity strikes. The infused alcohol space is projected to reach $1.1 billion in value by 2030. Simon believes Tilray is poised to capture a decent portion of the market share.
“Tilray today is well diversified, well positioned, and with legalization happening in the U.S., we are set to capitalize on that in a big way, too,” he concluded.