Cannabis-infused food and drink products are slowly making their way into the mainstream of adult recreation. High-profile launches like the Lagunitas Hi-Fi Hops, independent craft brands like Cannabiniers and ingredients companies like Stillwater Foods are all setting the tone for a potentially explosive, untapped market.
CEO and co-founder Amy Ludlum left a career on Wall Street to launch California Dreamin’ with Peter Bishop in 2017. They started out crafting THC-infused drinks in their kitchen; now, they have received $2.3m in funding after taking part in a Silicon Valley accelerator.
Ludlum and Bishop initially developed the drink for a friend’s camping trip, looking for a beverage that gave them the highs and benefits of traditional alcohol without the negative consequences and calories.
After being a huge hit with their family and friends, Ludlum and Bishop saw a major opportunity to bring their cannabis drink to market in states where the drug is recreationally legalized.
For now, the brand is focused on California, planning to expand ‘aggressively’ across the state as demand for cannabis-infused products gathers pace.
Silicon Valley power
California Dreamin’ recently participated in Y Combinator, a top-tier, exclusive accelerator that mentors young startups for three months in Silicon Valley. It runs two sessions per year and has funded more than 1,900 startups since 2005.
The participants spend their time learning from experts and working toward Demo Day, when the founders present their brands to a group of chosen investors. Some of the most notable companies that found success through Y Combinator include Airbnb, Dropbox, Reddit and Twitch.
According to Ludlum and Bishop, they applied with California Dreamin’ ‘on a whim’ as Y Combinator rarely selects cannabis companies. They have now secured $2.3m in funding that will “help the company aggressively expand production and distribution across California to meet increasing consumer demand.”
“We’re very lucky to have found so many amazing investors that recognize the huge potential of the cannabis industry and share our vision of introducing mainstream consumers to cannabis through low-dose, all-natural cannabis sodas,” Ludlum said.
A warm glow
California Dreamin’ is sold in Cranberry Apple, Pomegranate, Tangerine and Grapefruit. They blend juice, water and 10mg of THC together for a carbonated beverage they are marketing as an alternative to beer.
However, the sodas are not brewed and do not include any hops. Sweetened only with apple juice, they are seen as a healthier choice to a carbohydrate-heavy beer or sugar-laden cocktail.
Early customers of California Dreamin’ describe a ‘warm glow’ from drinking the sodas, and Ludlum and Bishop confirmed that they wanted their brand’s first product to be a fun and light option for adult recreational use.
They plan to roll out more launches within the California Dreamin’ brand, including new flavors and CBD-specific beverages.
“As one of the only fully compliant cannabis brands with certified child-resistant packaging right now, we’re seeing an enormous amount of demand from consumers and retailers, far exceeding our expectations. We’re very excited to dramatically build out our production capabilities to meet this demand,” Bishop said.