Truss has already sold more than two million units since launching its cannabis beverage portfolio in August, taking the lead of the category in early 2021 with a 43% market share. The new launches will increase its offer in Canada by 50%, with the company primed to make the most of an $8bn adult-beverage category this summer.
In the coming months, new innovations – including new brands and new beverage types – could be on the cards; while product education and the narrative around responsible consumption will be priorities for the company. “We believe we’re at the forefront of something remarkable, changing what adult beverages mean to Canadians,” says Truss.
'Start low and sip slow'
Truss Beverage Co was formed in 2018: positioning itself as an early entrant to the market for when edible cannabis products were legalised in October 2019.
Its first non-alcoholic beverages were infused with varying levels of CBD and THC: ranging from low potency Little Victory (2.5mg CBD and 2.5mg THC) through to high potency XMG (10mg THC). Everyone’s experience with cannabis is personal, so Truss’ motto is to ‘start low and sip slow’ when choosing beverages.
So how has the company forged its portfolio in such a new market?
“When we launched eight months ago, we really set out to understand what resonated with consumers in terms of flavor, potency and how cannabis beverages could fit into their lifestyles,” Lori Hatcher, head of marketing at Truss Beverage Co, told BeverageDaily.
“From focus groups to co-creation and community input, we heard loud and clear what consumers were looking for; cannabis beverages that would fit any occasion.
“So we took five of those occasions and built brands around them - everything from self-care, to hanging out with friends. Little Victory, for example, is all about celebrating the little moments in life that are often overlooked. This is a line of sparkling beverages, with a 2.5 milligram dose of both CBD and THC and natural flavours that are great to enjoy with friends.
"Our House of Terpenes brand is perfect for entertaining and socializing, for those who are interested in unique flavors and want to try something different. Then there is Veryvell, which we consider more of a self-care brand.”
In a market a new as cannabis beverages it’s more important than ever to have consumers at the heart of the process, continues Hatcher.
“This latest round of innovation was informed both by the feedback we received from our social media community and insights and trends gathered from the broader beverage sector. We wanted to add flavors that are appealing to potential cannabis consumers, as well as lending themselves to the upcoming summer season. These new products are ultimately a reflection of that."
The six new products will roll out to retailers over the coming months, ready for the summer season.
- House of Terpenes (originally launched with Limonene and Myrcene) has launched Valencene & Sparkling Tonic (5mg CBD and 5mg THC per 355ml – ‘medium potency’)
- XMG (launched with mango pineapple and tropical fruit) has added Citrus and XMG Watermelon (10mg THC per can – ‘high potency’)
- Veryvell has added Honey Green Iced Tea (2.5mg CBD and 2.5mg THC – ‘low potency’)
- Little Victory (originally with Dry Grapefruit, Dry Lemon, Dark Cherry, Blood Orange) has added Lemonade (2.5mg CBD and 2.5mg THC per 255ml – ‘low potency’)
- Mollo 5 (a crisp tasting cannabis beverage with a light hoppy finish) has added Lime (5mg CBD and 5mg THC)
Truss’ products are made in Belleville, Ontario.
Innovation challenges: Rules, regulations, and a pandemic
The new round of beverages adds in new flavors to the existing range. But innovation in 2020 was no easy feat: not just because of the pandemic, but also because of the rules and regulations around cannabis in Canada.
“It takes approximately six months to move from the initial ideation stage, to a point where we’re confident that the product we’ve developed is ready to move into production,” explained Hatcher.
“One of the most challenging things for us was being at the forefront of a young industry and a net-new category, especially in a year like 2020. The industry is evolving so quickly, it forces us as a business to be constantly adapting and innovating.
“We’ve faced two main challenges. The first is that we’re operating in a heavily regulated environment. For example, the marketing regulations enacted in Canada post-legalization were very restrictive. One of the main reasons for this was to ensure that the new products did not appeal to those under the legal age. As a result, we’re mostly restricted to operating in age-gated environments, presenting challenges in even reaching new or potential adult cannabis consumers.
“As another example, the amount of cannabis that can be carried at one time in Canada is currently regulated by weight. This impacts beverages more severely than other cannabis products since they are naturally heavier, and prevents a consumer from being able to purchase more than five beverages in one trip to a store.
“We’ve also had to manage the impacts of COVID-19, and the closure of all retail stores across Canada for prolonged periods of time. The retail experience is a really important part of the consumer journey for new products, particularly for trial and awareness.”
A cannabis beverage summer?
According to Truss, cannabis beverages have become a ‘welcome option’ for consumers, in part because they offer an alternative way to consume cannabis. Around 35% of legal age Canadian cannabis consumers like cannabis beverages because it means they don’t have to smoke; while around 44% say they will buy beverages in addition to other cannabis products.
And it says awareness of the category is at an ‘all-time high’ – with 87% of potential cannabis consumers aware of the category.
Truss expects the cannabis beverage market in summer 2021 will be very different from the niche of summer 2020: with the category becoming more established, it predicts Canadians will embrace the beverages in larger numbers.
“That’s why innovation is such a priority for us," says Hatcher. "As consumers' understanding of the category evolves, we will remain focused on crafting unique and flavorful cannabis beverages that optimize their experience.
"To date that’s been really well received. The category shows no signs of slowing down and we expect it to continue to evolve and grow well into the remainder of 2021.”
And Hatcher is optimistic that products like Truss’ will help grow the category.
“We believe both innovation and product education are vital for the continued growth of the category. The tastes and preferences of consumers are evolving as they learn more about cannabis beverages, and it’s vital that as an industry we continue to listen and innovate to meet their needs.”
More products to come
With this in mind, it’s innovation and product education that will be Truss’ priorities moving forward.
“We believe we’re at the forefront of something remarkable, changing what adult beverages mean to Canadians," said Hatcher.
"As their understanding of the category evolves, we are constantly looking for ways to build an attractive portfolio for our wide and diverse consumer base.
“Our focus over the next six months is two-fold, to continue innovating within our current portfolio of five brands, as well as looking at the potential for additional brands and beverage types that bring an entirely new offering to the category.
“We also believe that the best experience is one that the consumer fully understands. Product education and the promotion of responsible consumption will continue to be at the core of everything we do. As part of that focus, we want to help develop a strong and competitive regulated category, where growth and innovation can thrive.”