Leading Innovation At The Highly Innovative Truss Beverages
"There are 140 billion beverage occasions every year in Canada and we see cannabis being able to have an impact on that broader kind of beverage category"
This time last year I was attending a data night in Vancouver hosted by Headset.
I can recall being very surprised by one figure on the night — the market share, or should I say the lack thereof which cannabis beverages had captured in the States where cannabis is legal for adult-use purposes.
During this same period of time, there were many conversations taking place as to the percentage of market share which cannabis beverages could potentially capture in Canada as cannabis 2.0 products were finally allowed to be sold.
Personally, I wasn’t convinced that this form factor of cannabis had any real potential to capture significant market share, however, I was blinded by my own bias as a consumer who favors dried flower above all else.
As soon as I began talking with friends & family back home in Ireland, it became crystal clear to me that although this new form factor may not be for me — there remains plenty of other consumers who will favor this form factor over existing ones.
For today’s edition of Four PM I had the absolute pleasure of interviewing Melanie Smith who is the Head of Innovation at the leading cannabis beverage company in the world — Truss beverages, whose brands have taken the Canadian market by storm.
Melanie Smith is the former Head of Marketing of the Ready to Drink & Cider Portfolio for Labatt Breweries of Canada & is currently the Innovation Lead at Truss Beverages.
What was the light bulb moment that led you to work in the cannabis industry?
I've been a cannabis consumer for the better part of my adult life and I've seen firsthand the positive impact that cannabis can have on people's lives.
I was hesitant to jump into cannabis back in 2018, at the onset of legalization. It was exciting being in that new industry, but I wanted to see how it rolled out.
By the time that the 2.0 products were becoming legalized in 2019 was when I really started to pay attention and consider making the move over.
I have spent five-plus years working in beverage alcohol, and so when cannabis 2.0 was being legalized I really saw an opportunity for cannabis-infused beverages to make a big impact.
Truss is one of the first Canadian cannabis companies to expand into the U.S market, how was this experience?
It was incredible.
We move so fast here at Truss that it almost happened, not without us realizing it but, we had to pause that day to say let's stop and recognize the fact that we built this brand here in Canada. It's our first brand and, I believe one of the first brands in cannabis, if not the first to cross borders and really have an impact in the US.
We've been working really closely with the team in Colorado, and obviously, the regulations are quite different in the US versus Canada and trying to marry up the brand so that there's consistency.
Cannabis beverages are unique in their ability to provide consumers with a very consistent experience, how do you view this advantage?
I was drawn to Truss not just because I had the beverage experience, but I really loved that Truss was laser-focused on just one form factor, and from day one we put a stake in the ground and said we want to be the leading global experts in cannabis beverages.
We're not cannabis generalists, we've really honed in on this one format and I think that beverages do have that unique ability to offer consumers a better experience, partially because of the way that you need to get the cannabis to mix with the liquid from a technological standpoint, however, the end result for the consumer is a predictable consistent experience which for a new format of cannabis is so important.
Could you foresee the emergence of craft cannabis beverages?
The world of craft is certainly going to keep evolving in cannabis.
I expect it to evolve across all the formats and I think we're still defining what the term craft means to cannabis and more specifically cannabis beverages.
Sometimes when people think craft it's associated with small-batch & small teams, and other times they think of high-quality ingredients.
I know some people look at us as quite a large entity being backed by Molson and Hexo, however, we bring years and years of experience and the rigor that we put behind making sure our products are of top quality and that they provide a consistent consumer experience.
That's a craft in and of itself, so I think we're still trying to work through how we tell this story, and what craft means to consumers for cannabis beverages.
What has you most excited about the future of cannabis beverages as a category?
We have always looked at cannabis beverages, not as a small piece of the overall cannabis pie, instead, we really look at the broader world of beverages.
There are 140 billion beverage occasions every year in Canada and we see cannabis being able to have an impact on that broader kind of beverage category versus looking at cannabis beverages as just this one piece, or format of cannabis.
For us, it's about figuring out where cannabis fits into all of those broader beverage occasions and then looking at things beyond your traditional kind of stuff.
While there is currently CBD and THC, there's also a whole world of minor cannabinoids and terpenes such that cannabis has so much to offer the much larger beverage market as opposed to them being a small piece of the overall cannabis pie.