Ep 291 – These Low-THC Cannabis Drinks Are Disrupting The Alcohol Industry

luke-anderson-cann

If you hand most people a cannabis drink, their first question is probably, “How high will this make me?” 

This one unknown might just be what’s holding cannabis beverages back. Until now.

Listen in as Luke Anderson of Cann discusses the state of cannabis drinks and where he sees the category heading.

Learn more at http://www.drinkcann.com/

Key Takeaways:

  • Luke’s background in cannabis and how he came to start Cann
  • An inside look at Cann and its mission to become the standard for cannabis-infused tonics
  • Why Cann produces only low-THC tonics to target consumers that don’t wish to experience a high
  • The type of effect consumers can expect from Cann’s social tonics
  • Why Luke believes it’s important to take out the guesswork in cannabis beverages 
  • Cann’s social tonics versus beer and wine in terms of time and effect
  • How Cann decided on its unique THC/CBD concentration profile
  • How Luke and his team overcame challenges with emulsion and dispersion to ensure consistency in every sip
  • Where Luke sees cannabis microdosing heading in the next few years
Read Full Transcript

Mathew: Hi, I'm Matthew Kind. Every Monday, look for a fresh new episode where I'll take you behind the scenes and interview the insiders that are shaping the rapidly evolving cannabis industry. Learn more at cannainsider.com. That's cannainsider.com. Now, here's your program.

Imagine this, you're at a party this weekend and your friends hand you a can of a cannabis beverage that they are really excited about. If you're like most people, your first question is, "How high will this make me?" This one unknown may have been the thing stopping cannabis beverages from taking off until now. Here to tell us about the state of cannabis beverages is Luke Anderson, co-founder of Cann. Luke, welcome to CannaInsider.

Luke: Hello. Thank you so much for having me.

Mathew: Give us a sense of geography. Where are you in the world today?

Luke: I am in Venice, right outside of our office where we started the company about a year ago.

Mathew: Okay. And what is Cann on a high level?

Luke: Cann is a microdose THC beverage. We like to say it's the first ready to drink THC beverage that has a dosage of under 2.5 milligrams. And unlike other cannabis products, it aims to be a direct one for one replacement with alcohol. Now it's not aiming to replace someone's alcohol consumption entirely, but it aims to be pretty good at doing the job that alcohol does in social situations on a similar type of quantity and frequency that you would drink beer or wine.

Mathew: Okay. That's a big problem. So I'm glad you're trying to crack that nut. Can you share a bit about your background and journey and how you got into the cannabis space and started Cann?

Luke: Yeah, it's interesting. I had never been to a dispensary before starting the company with my co-founder Jake and had frankly always been a skeptic of the entire cannabis market. I felt like it was meant for stoners. It was not meant for people like me who didn't find pot leaves to be appealing and didn't know how to roll a joint, and whose only experiences with cannabis involved eating a weed brownie that got them too high in college and made them leave a party because they felt embarrassed for how they were acting or coughed on a joint too hard in a circle and became much too high to function.

But my co-founder, Jake, had actually been thinking about cannabis beverages for the better part of our friendship, which started at Bain & Company about seven years ago. And he grew up in Denver, Colorado, and looked at how legalization impacted his local community and had always been curious about THC and specifically microdoses of THC as a means to a better health and wellness picture for an individual who might be relying on alcohol as a social intoxicant of choice.

Over the seven years of our friendship, we'd be across from each other at a dinner table or during a weekend getaway and we'd be debating on opposite sides of the same issue, actually. He would say cannabis beverages are coming and they'll take a great share of what we know today as alcohol consumption. And I would yell back, alcohol does the job just fine. This is gonna be enough for me and I don't think that I would ever, if I were in my right mind, replace it with some novelty item that, you know, reminds me of bad experiences I had when I was younger.

And ultimately, as I got a little bit older and my hangover started getting worse, and I started physiologically feeling a need to try and replace some unwanted alcohol consumption with something better for me, and taking things like a 30-day break from drinking or a 2-week break from drinking and feeling really good about what my body did in that time period, I began to be interested and re-approached Jake about the concept he had been dreaming up, and eventually joined forces, put our heads together and said, "Let's design something that would be uniquely appealing to people like you who are familiar with cannabis and understand it and people like me who had maybe never been to a dispensary before ever in their life."

Mathew: Okay. Now I didn't know you had a background with Bain. I know it's kind of an interesting group over there. People may remember the name Bain from Mitt Romney debates and stuff like that. That's how he got really wealthy working at Bain. But I read a book, I think it was called "The 80/20 Principle," and they talked a bit about Bain in that book and how they have like a unique philosophy and way of doing things and methodologies to create really high impact outcomes for themselves and, you know, profits and so forth. Can you talk a little bit about how...you know, what lens you gained from working at Bain and how you still have it today or if you don't?

Luke: Yeah. Working at Bain was a tremendous experience. Jake left after just a couple of years and went to Bain Capital, which is also a Mitt Romney institution, but I ended up staying in the consumer packaged goods practice for a total of six years with a two-year break for business school in between. And like you said, the 80/20 principle governs everything that we do at Bain. It's how can we find 80% of the value from only 20% of the effort and then doubling down on that type of activity so that we can create more value overall in a shorter amount of time. And my role, in particular, of late had been helping big consumer packaged goods companies, big global organizations with many different brands and business units try and jumpstart their innovation cycles by learning from how startups launched new products.

And so by applying principles like agile ways of working and assembling cross-functional teams and rooms to crack problems over a sustained eight-hour time period rather than breaking it up with one-hour meeting here, one-hour meeting there over the course of a longer period of time, I became quite passionate about the power of focusing on a smaller number of issues and solving them really fast. And when I had done a few projects like that and Jake and I had been talking about this cannabis beverage concept, I felt like this would be a really great opportunity to apply that same framework. And ultimately that's how we ended up launching by picking one retailer in Southern California, one geography, and one skew, a six-pack three flavors of product.

Mathew: Okay. That makes sense. That's really interesting. I thought it was, you know, there's been so many high success events out of Bain that it's worth studying what's going on there exactly and how that methodology came to be and all the mindset. So it is interesting. So you've made it as simple as possible to, you know, create a success for yourself and see if...just test it and see how it works, and that way you're not spending a lot of time on elaborate different products and product lines. You just want to see, will this work quickly?

Luke: That's exactly it.

Mathew: Okay. So your minimum viable product is a six-pack in Southern California at one dispenser. That's pretty clean and simple.

Luke: That was it.

Mathew: So your target market, as you mentioned, is not the guy doing, you know, gram dabs. It's someone that's not saying, "How much THC can I get for my dollar?" It's someone more saying, "I want a controlled experience that's not gonna have me, you know, hallucinating or like so deep in a couch that, like, I need a crane to lift me out." And so you're kind of going for that kinda casual user that's a little bit skeptical, but also curious.

Luke: Yeah, we say we stretch from the can of curious all the way up to the can of casual. A lot of people, I think 10% roughly of people in the United States have purchased cannabis in the last year and 60% of people are interested in purchasing cannabis but have not purchased in the last year. And if you talk to that fifth percent Delta, a lot of them are people who have selected out of the category from a bad experience, like a pot brownie from college or coughing too hard from a bong hit that they were unprepared to take. And those people, they're used to buying alcohol as a social intoxicant of choice and you don't scan the craft beer aisle and look for a percentage AVB, excuse me, or look in the liquor section and ask where is all the Everclear because that's how I'm going to get my most bang for my buck.

You're looking for an experience and a brand and a product that resonates with you. So we're trying to buck the trend of dollar per milligram of THC, which is more prevalent in other categories, but we hope actually won't apply in the beverage space.

Mathew: This is interesting because, you know, most startups and entrepreneurs don't want anybody to be excluded. They feel like, "Oh, we're not being inclusive," but it can be one of the best things you can do for your target market so they know exactly what to expect.

I mean, I think about 7 Up, like the uncola, it's for someone that doesn't want a cola specifically. And so this is kind of what you're doing here. And it's interesting, but, you know, if you don't describe the beverage as, you know, how high it makes you, how do you describe its effect? Do you have to create a new language? How do you describe it to people who are curious for the first time and want to try it?

Luke: Yeah, it's we're creating a new language around it, for sure. Microdosing culture is becoming more popular and people are starting to use language to describe that experience, but there isn't much consistency around it. And so we find that we have to have a longer conversation with everyone who's interested. Some words that we really like now, lightly lifted does a pretty good job of describing the buzz that you feel. We say a mild uplifting social buzz, if we're being asked a more academic question. And one of our branding partners described it as feel a little good lately, which I'm quite enamored with. I think it's exactly how you feel. It's just a little bit of something. It's palpable, it's noticeable, it's undeniable, and it's pleasant.

Mathew: Okay. Typically we describe the effect of cannabis as onset, but similar to what we were talking about before where it's not high, you prefer a different way of thinking about it. Can you share what the description is instead of onset, you know, instead of how you've lightly lifted, but what about the way it comes on? How do you describe that?

Luke: So we do say the word onset so that we can relate to people who are already walking dispensary floors and have that as a key purchasing criteria, and we're proud that it's around a 10-minute onset time, which is how long it will take for you to feel the effects of the beverages.

There's something about the nanoemulsion and the sublingual absorption before it goes into your stomach that kickstarts that process for you. But what we're trying to train people is that it's not about the onset of your individual cannabis item. It's about how many of these products can you have in one given experience. So the sessionability of alcohol and how it has become very socially common for people to get together with a 6-pack of beer and, you know, you have 1, you wait 10 minutes, then you decide whether or not you want to have another, and then you decide whether or not you want to have the third is exactly what we're trying to do by selling our product primarily in six packs and encouraging people at the point of sale to think of how many they want to drink over the course of an experience.

Mathew: Yeah. This is really interesting. So you're borrowing aspects of alcohol kind of the framework. We think about alcohol, beer or wine, specifically more beer or wine, like one makes it feel this way, two makes it feel this way. Adopting kind of the metronome of how you'll feel from, you know, wine or beer onto cannabis, which is tricky because it requires some explanation to even think this is possible. Because most people, you think about the brownie experience you talked about, where it's like, "Yeah, I took a brownie and I didn't feel anything and I didn't... So I took another one, I didn't feel anything, and then I blasted off to another planet."

Luke: Yeah. Which is actually an unpleasant experience for somebody who is in that more can of curious demographic. It's you don't like sitting in waiting for a ticking time bomb to come and hit you and create an unsettling feeling. You're used to and you've trained yourself over years of consuming alcohol to drink something and slowly step up into an experience that your controlling. And that's exactly what we want to create with Cann.

Mathew: Okay. So how do we build a bridge from where we are now for people who don't know how they'll feel with a 2-milligram drink, to where they will know how they'll fell and they'll have confidence in it? Like for someone that, they'll say 2 milligrams, what's that? I mean, I usually say a rookie cookie is 5 milligrams. So if you've never had any kind of edible before, that's what would be considering a starter place. And so this is kind of less than half of a rookie cookie. I mean, did you experiment like one and three and or is this just like this came out of the gates that this is the right amount?

Luke: We experimented lot. And I think when we had an equal part group that said this is not going to get me high and another equal part group that said that I can't have more than one, that's when we know we landed on the right amount. And it's amazing how passionately people will argue on both sides. And it represents just how different people who are routine cannabis users are from people who are just exploring the category. People who are routine cannabis users will come up to me and say, "I would need to drink 50 of these before I felt anything," or, "Like, that's a punk amount of THC." And I just got a text message yesterday from one of my friends who is a skeptic, and after learning about the product digitally for six months approached the dispensary for the first time, got it, and then, and I said, "How did you feel?" She was, "They are so tasty, but I had two and that was beyond my limits. One is perfect for me."

Mathew: Oh, good.

Luke: Now we really want the both of these experiences to be in between where people feel comfortable having two to three, but it takes some time for somebody to step up from a 2.5-milligram experience to a 5-milligram experience. So your question was how do we bridge the gap between where we are today and where people become accustomed to and familiar with this 2.5 milligram and below sessionable cannabis drinking experience? And I think there really are five main things that need to happen that will evolve the category, and I think it's, first, more products that are dosed similarly.

So a suite of sessionable cannabis beverages that exist in the fridge will help make the category look more legitimate and less fringe and make dispensaries pay a little bit more attention to it as a growing category. Within that set of products you also need to have drinks that are formulated with better ingredients and that take after trends from today. All-natural, no sugar added, low-calorie, without artificial sweeteners. And, you know, there aren't enough that fit that kind of whole foods quality drink benchmark and we hope that more will come in.

The third is branding. I think there are a lot of drinks that use overt cannabis imagery to invite people in and remind them that it's cannabis drink. But we need a lot more drinks that don't have any overt cannabis branding because those will be inviting to the people who actually will enjoy that sub 2.5-milligram drink the most.

And the fourth is price. People who are doing that dollar per milligram calculation, those aren't the right people to buy the products, right? People who are spending $15 to $20 on a 6-pack of premium craft beer or a bottle of wine to bring over to a friend social gathering, when they look at cannabis beverages at $10 and above per unit, it doesn't become something that they can do the same thing with. So the price has to come down significantly, which means the whole industry needs to evolve. And, you know, all the way from manufacturing down to the point of sale, there needs to be better ways and fewer points in which money are changing hands before that final retail price is set.

And the last thing, and I know this is a long list, is availability. Even people in the Cann ecosystem who love the product and are comfortable with our price point and want to buy it often, their number one pain point is they just don't know how, and they find the existing cannabis channels hard to reach or stigmatizing, evoking fear, not knowing what to say to a bud tender, not knowing how to scroll through a menu with tons of pictures of clumps of weed on it. And so I think we need the channel to evolve and more premium points of sale that do not make somebody think back to a negative cannabis experience before this thing really takes off.

Luke: So it's fair to say that you're making the trade-off for consistency and experience over potency. Is there one or two demographic profiles that seem to want this consistency in experience the most? Have you seen an age or gender area where this time Cann seems to be the sweet spot or is it just all over the board?

Mathew: It's shocking to me, but we still maintain a 50/50 male and female consumer split. I think it's weighted because there are more males than females currently in the cannabis channel. So if we were looking at just a pure group of mainstream consumers, I think we may slant more heavily female, but we also surprisingly have a very even split of age ranges, making us feel like this product does have cross-generational appeal.

I think 30% of our consumers are between 20 and 29, 40% are between 30 and 39, and then another 30% are 40-plus. The one thing that everybody has in common, though, that loves the product, it's more of a need state than a demographic is a desire to drink less alcohol. And that can be something that appeals to people of any gender and of any age. It's 21 out of 25 adult drinkers will say, "Yes, I am actively trying to moderate or reduce my consumption of alcohol." It could be for health reasons. As a 60-year-old, your doctor's telling you, "You have to drink less." It could be as a 25-year old, you know, "I want to blackout less and drink less irresponsibly at parties." Or it could be a 32-year-old like me who's just like, "The hangover is untenable and I want to take back my Sundays."

Mathew: Yeah, that's true. You wake up and it's like you're eating fatty, salty foods and trying to just normalize, if you were having a botanical oil, you don't need to do that, but I mean really it's ethanol. Let's be clear. It's poison that our liver is processing. Now let's talk about the CBD aspect a little bit. We said 2 milligrams of THC. Can you talk about the CBD concentration and profile?

Luke: Yeah. We believe that a CBD dominant ratio with a microdose of THC gives people a more calm and less anxious peak of their THCI. The thing that turns people like me off from cannabis is when you hit that point where, "Uh-oh, I am too high to be here." And something, which is definitely part psychological and definitely part physiological from the entourage effect about having CBD on the label, gets people more comfortable with trying it and then also, in their high, they report less of an anxiety factor. And so I think we're still at the beginnings of figuring out how the variance in a THC and CBD ratio creates a different experience, but like you said earlier, we're trying to optimize for consistency and by making it with...as pure of a distillate, as we're able to find, we've found that people report generally similar feelings of that lightly lifted thing from each can that they drink.

Mathew: Okay. And you said this is available in six. Is it six-packs only or can you purchase one can?

Luke: We're starting to broaden our skew assortment to make it so that it's easier for people to try. We initially sold with just six-packs because we knew that if somebody had just one can, then we weren't giving them the full experience of drinking it with friends and replacing it with that six-pack of craft beer they would've had in the same occasion, which is truly where the product shines. But it's a hard hurdle to spend $24 on something pretax at $30 out the door on something you've never tried before. And so we are starting to sell in singles at $6 retail and then keeping the 6 packs at $24, and then starting to offer a 24-pack, which is a $75 price point and allows you to have significant savings if you're on a per can basis, if you're really in love with the product already.

Mathew: Okay. Any feedback from the dispensary in Southern California and customers, what they say or so forth? Or is it still too early?

Luke: So it was MedMen, and we picked four of their retail doors and we launched only with them for the month of June. And the feedback was tremendous. The product, even though it was only available in six packs, MedMen built its brand around attracting that premium kind of curious consumer and they gravitated toward its packaging in the fridge and its positioning as a cluster of drinks that I could enjoy socially.

And there's a very large percentage that go into stores like MedMen as an experience and walk out empty-handed, a cannabis tourist, if you will. And I think what we found was that a high percentage of the people that bought our product from MedMen were people who had no intention of actually buying anything, and that this was the most approachable product that existed in there. Something about a microdose edible, it was too much of a behavior change for them to switch from drinking something like they would alcohol to taking something out from under the table. And then flowers and flower-related skews and vapes were an entire league away from what they were comfortable with and they just wanted to be a voyeur. And so then we quickly expanded distribution to now, I think, we're in nearly 100 stores throughout the state of California. And in some stores like MedMen, the product just flies without any support, no marketing and no promotion.

And in other stores where you have a much higher concentration of people that are looking for flower, the product does not fly on its own, and we have to put somebody in the store and sample and do consumer education and often tell somebody, "Yeah, this isn't for you if you're doing 100-milligram plus products, but this might be something that you could share with your friend who is trying to drink less alcohol." And that way we're trying to be as much of a Trojan horse as possible. Get this in the hands of people who maybe haven't had a cannabis product they could share with somebody in their social circle because they found the other cannabis products to be too stigmatizing.

Mathew: Okay. And talk a little bit about your flavors. You have some interesting fun flavors. How did you arrive at those?

Luke: Yeah, this was one of the most fun parts of the entire process was formulating beverage. My dad has a long history in the food and beverage world, and when I worked at Bain and Company, I worked on a number of interesting brands that took an innovative approach to flavor profiles in the consumer packaged goods space. And through just relentless networking and trying to find, hey, for a certain type of ingredient, where's the best place to get it in the world? Like lemon juice, which turns out a small farm in Sicily or lavender, a European variety of the plant, or agave nectar for sweetness, get that from Mexico.

We did an exercise where we sourced the best quality ingredients that would make this product worthy of being on the shelf at whole foods and would be impressive to a national premium grocery retail category buyer. But then we also did some science. We looked at Google trends data, which is a completely underutilized analytical tool available to everybody where you can just see the search interest over a period of time by geography.

And we looked at how often people in the United States were searching for savory herbal ingredient profiles. And between 2004 and 2009, the search volume and growth was about half that as it is from 2009 to today. And so we look to capitalize on this growing demand for savory herbal products and just mix them with the guidance of a food scientist with a citrus fruit that pairs well and makes it so that the whole is greater than the sum of their parts.

We ended up launching...we've developed about 24 flavor profiles and loved them all, but we did some rigorous consumer testing and decided to launch with the three that were most approachable and least polarizing, so had the highest percentage of people that liked them. And those are lemon and lavender, grapefruit and Rosemary, and blood orange and cardamom.

Mathew: Okay. Very interesting. One problem many companies have making drinks is emulsion and creating a uniform dispersion of the active ingredients so we are getting an equal amount of, let's say, THC, CBD, or Rosemary in each sip. Can you talk about the kind of the challenges there and how you addressed them?

Luke: Yeah, the emulsion was the biggest issue in us getting to market. Lagunitas Hi-Fi Hops had been available in cans and switched to glass bottles, and our thinking was...and we had heard rumblings that a few other players in the industry were having trouble with maintaining a consistent potency in a non-glass container because the emulsion itself is highly reactive to the can liner.

Now it turns out, and I never thought I needed to know any of this, but there are 3 different can manufacturers and 12 different types of can liners across the 3 of them in the United States alone. And each one of those can liners has a different effect on pulling the agents that were used in the emulsion toward it or letting them remain equally dispersed in the liquid. And so what we did was we tested not only every can liner but also every type of emulsion on the market.

And it turns out that some emulsions had optimized for onset time. Like, let's get somebody to fill this within 5 minutes rather than 10. But in order to decrease the onset time, you need to use an agent that often has a very poor taste in it to accelerate that feeling you get from the THC. And we ended up using an emulsion that had a slightly slower onset time around 10 minutes, but that is probably indistinguishable to our target consumer who's just worried about getting too high. And because they use a different type of agent and made it optimized for tasteless and odorless and made it more reactive with the water than the can liners, we were able to prove out six-month minimum consistent potency in the cans.

And we loved the idea of being focused on the cans because it's just easier to carry a 6-pack of cans somewhere and you feel like each strength is something that you're consuming more casually, and we want to encourage people to drink 2 or 3 of them rather than savor each individual one. So it was a tough science challenge, but one that we felt was ultimately very important.

Mathew: Interesting. It's tough to kind of imagine how people react to it. Sometimes the market takes your product and likes it, but behaves differently with it than you'd like. So it's kind of like, for example, Red Bull and vodka. Like those two things aren't really supposed to go together, but the vodka or Red Bull manufacturers aren't complaining, but it's like, "Hey, this is not what we set out to do here." But then the market kind of takes its own way. So interesting. What question do you get asked by dispensary owners the most and how do you respond to those?

Luke: The number one question when I'm selling into a dispensary is, "Well, who's going to buy this?" And my answer, at this point, is the person who's gonna end up growing your business. It's the person who you may not even have access to today, but that who will become a cross-category cannabis purchaser. And it's, I think, especially at a time where the industry is in a lot of trouble and people aren't hitting their revenue targets and expectations for how many people were gonna be flower smokers were probably overblown. I think call for products like this that invite people into cannabis and then keep them there.

And my own experience as somebody who had never been to a dispensary before January of this year and now my own cannabis consumption patterns having evolved from designing this product that I would use as the first cannabis product I would ever pay money for, now I have four cannabis products that I pay money for. I have Mr. Moxey's microdose mints, I have some Kiva Camino gummies, and I have a Dosist sleep pen. And I wouldn't be surprised if over the next year I replace a greater share of my own alcohol consumption with something that's a little stronger or, you know, maybe a higher potency edible or maybe I get into pre-rolls at some point. I'm still a little nervous about the whole lungs thing, so maybe not, but by gradually stepping into the cannabis category and choosing experiences that don't make me feel overwhelmed. I have increased the amount of money I spend on cannabis significantly each month.

Mathew: You just gave a shot of terror to anybody from the alcohol industry listening. This is their worst-case scenario, listening to how you're replacing alcohol with cannabis products, but I love it now.

Luke: Or is it, though, because it's the same...the microdose THC drink is the same thing functionally as an alcoholic drink, which is like a microdose of alcohol. And I believe that the regulator...people who are making it so that cannabis is regulated as one entire bubble, I think, are doing it wrong. A microdose of THC, like you have to have 8,000 of my cans on your person in order to be over the personal use limit in California. And so I believe in a future where microdoses or THC actually get regulated more similarly to alcohol than the rest of cannabis and can get folded into the social spaces and purchasing channels that alcohol gets purchased from.

And ultimately the natural owners of cannabis beverage businesses, I think, are probably alcohol companies. They would want to acquire cannabis beverages and fold them into their distribution networks because that's the best way for them to offset the declines in beer sales as the world is falling a little bit out of love with irresponsible alcohol use.

Mathew: So we talked a little bit about microdosing and that seems to be the beginning of a new trend, especially in California because we can do other things while we microdose. Can you talk a little bit about where you think microdosing, in general, is going? Not just cannabis, but otherwise?

Luke: It's so interesting because microdosing is a trend within people that are accustomed to cannabis is something that you can do during the day and remain very functional. But for our target consumer, and for me personally, even though I have become used to my own product, I would never drink a can in the middle of the workday if I had something important to do within the next six hours. It does impact my ability to thin. And, you know, I think if I were in more of a routine type of job that I didn't have to go through some complex mental exercise every few hours to try and solve a problem, then maybe I could microdose throughout the day. Or if I were a purely creative person and I was drawing something or writing a script or conceptualizing of an idea, then a microdose would be additive to my creative process.

But for the majority of people that are going to explore cannabis, microdosing actually would be a lot like drinking. And I don't think people, even though it might make the creative process a little more fun or it may be possible to do for people during their work days, I don't think people in mass will drink alcohol during the day. And so I think that there's limits to this microdosing trend as we see it today as a way for people to functionally get through their daily experiences. And I hope that the more prevalent use case of microdosing becomes a social one as a mild intoxicant.

Mathew: Okay. And where are you in the capital-raising process?

Luke: So we have raised two rounds. We did a pre-seed led by Navy capital in December of 2019 and then we just announced our seed round which was a $5 million raise and was interestingly led by one New York City VC that focuses on really brilliant consumer packaged goods brands that we honestly pinch ourselves every day to be associated with, and that's called Imaginary Ventures. They were founded by Nick Brown and Natalie Massenet and have companies like Daily Harvest, and Glossier, and Dirty Lemon in their portfolio.

And then we have a cannabis co-lead in that round called jam 10 partners and that has helped us think about this from a one foot in and one foot out perspective. So how do we grow strategically within the cannabis channel given the way regulations are and how many points of sale exist today? And who should we partner with in the cannabis ecosystem to grow our presence throughout the country, but also how do we think about our business like a mainstream consumer brand and how do we market to people who have this real relatable pain point of, "I want to drink less alcohol but I don't want to be sober"? And so that has been a really dynamic duo for us and we think will help us catapult into the next phase of our growth.

Mathew: If for accredited investors that are listening, are you still looking for more accredited investors or not right now?

Luke: Not right now. Our philosophy is let's raise enough money that we can survive for at least 12 months because raising money is a full-time job and building a category and a tightening channel is like 10 full-time jobs. And so we really feel like we have to focus so much on the day to day and how to get this product into more paying consumers hands that we don't want to think about raising money until at least the end of 2020 but, you know, certainly will be added again then.

Mathew: Luke, I want to move on to some personal development questions to help listeners get a better sense of who you are as a person. With that, is there a book that's had a big impact on your life or way of thinking that you'd like to share?

Luke: Interesting. I have been obsessed with the book 1984 and have read it three times now and I am delighted by it each time. And it's a fiction book by George Orwell and it paints this dystopian future. And I think what it helps me do is continually think outside the box about a future world that does not exist yet and as a different set of problems than today's world. Now, obviously, creating a cannabis beverage and imagining that it can be on tap right next to a beer or a hard kombucha at a bar is not such a farfetched reality, but I often have to train myself to imagine things that don't exist in order to create them and wheel them into the world.

So, you know, "1984" is a pretty dark book and it's not that I'm trying to take a page out of it, but I find it to be just a beautiful piece of writing and really inspiring.

Mathew: Although it's a work of fiction, do you see elements of that in our modern society that give you pause at all?

Luke: Totally. But, you know, I assume often that privacy is something that we don't have and I live my life as publicly as I feel comfortable. And if I do something, I assume that everybody is watching and listening because who knows? They might be, but it makes it very easy to get through the day to day and the week to week knowing that I'm not hiding anything from anybody.

Mathew: Right. What is the most interesting thing going on in your field besides what you're doing?

Luke: I think that fifth frontier I called channel availability would be probably the hardest thing to crack in order for microdose THC drink to become mainstream. And so I think that the people who are creating innovative retail spaces and delivery platforms that do not smell or look like cannabis traditionally are the ones that are doing the work that will carry us into this next phase of growth for the industry.

And so I think I was really inspired by what MedMen did to create an Apple Store-esque user experience for somebody who frankly needs that consumer education to get welcomed into the category. And I think we'll need a whole new generation of businesses like that, that can figure out how to crack that can of curious target consumer without burning so much cash on marketing and being at risk of folding.

And I think that in delivery that's much more scalable. Eaze has done amazing things to give access to so many people to cannabis on-demand, but there's still something about easiest target consumer that is focused on high THC, low dollars, that prevents us from really saturating it as a channel. So, my money is on people who are building innovative and non-cannabis forward points of sale, whether digitally for delivery or a physical for retail.

Mathew: Okay. Here's a Peter Teal question for you. What very important truth to very few people agree with you on?

Luke: Wow. Well, you know, I guess that's a general question but I'm gonna give them a cannabis answer. The truth that people disagree with me on most vehemently is that the world is ready for a microdose ready to drink THC beverage and that it can be consumed similarly to alcohol. It's the fundamental, you know, thesis for our company's existence, but we experience so much pushback in the market in just casual conversations with friends.

And I used to be a naysayer, and when I was that person who vehemently disagreed with Jake about the need for a product like this and like why solve one substance issue like alcohol abuse with another substance? Like doesn't that feel silly? But, you know, after doing this whole exercise of quitting my job and starting the company and seeing our growing team of 12 people now also go through this exercise of sacrificing careers to build this. And in the hardest of days, we all look at each other and just hold the can in our hands and say it's a really good product. People just have to get used to it. And so as many naysayers as there are out there and as many people who vehemently disagree with what we're doing, we know it's just a matter of time before it inflex. And so in the meantime, just getting as many cans in hands as possible.

Mathew: Luke, as we close, how can listeners find your beverages and follow you online?

Luke: Our primary way of communicating to our consumer base is on Instagram, and it's @drinkcann. It's a highly irreverent and silly social media page. We say as a company that we want Cann to be your friend, not a brand that's pushing its product on you. So hopefully, those who follow it find it an entertaining and educational place to learn about what we're doing.

But we also have a great website that we're very proud of that tackles that consumer education more directly. That's at www.drinkcann.com. And we answer every direct message and every email to our company. And so if you are interested in learning more or just having a dialogue, reach out, somebody will reply.

Mathew: Luke, thanks so much for coming on the show. We really appreciate it. Please come back on and let us know how this all progresses, and good luck to you.

Luke: Thank you so much. Anytime.

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