Top Five Takeaways: Cannabis Drinks Expo 2023

On July 27th the Cannabis Drinks Expo happened at the South San Francisco Conference Center.  Cannabis Beverage brands and companies and those that serve the burgeoning beverage sector came together to share information, network, learn and explore partnerships. 

Top Five Takeaways: 

Education. Education. Education. If you work in the modern day cannabis or hemp industry, you are an educator.  Period.  The industry has a collective responsibility to educate consumers in a way that moves the entire industry forward and welcomes new consumers. Cannabis consumption is anchored in wellness and that is the centering point. It ties directly back to the human endo-cannabnoid system and homeostasis on a biological level. The plant itself stewards balance, as do its products.

Cannabis Drinks Expo

Low-dose Cannabis Beverages in the Mainstream Alcohol Market. Minnesota was mentioned consistently throughout the entire conference. In Minnesota, cannabis beverages are currently sold in Whole Foods and other mainstream specialty stores where education and personalized customer touchpoints are part of the retail experience. Minnesota has demonstrated market success and mainstream consumer demand with microdose and low-dose cannabis beverages. The data speaks for itself.

Cannabis vs hemp, a lively discussion. Some brands today would rather choose to be ostracized or banned from cannabis shops than miss out on the massive mainstream ‘alcohol’ market. An enabling regulatory environment is an incubator for innovation and first mover data, and Minnesota is a real-time case for this. At the end of the day, it’s about building a brand, and investing in dependable distribution points that ‘lean in’ with you, and developing and serving a loyal customer base.

Moving Toward Segmentation. According to one panelist, there are two main beverage categories today, THC-beverages and CBD-beverages.  In the next five years segmentation will sharpen and beverage brands will adapt and fine-tune their models and strategies to meet demand. The activated THC category being an effect-based product, positions itself as a functional beverage. A euphoric and laughter-inducing cannabis beverage paired with comedy night programming is an example of this.

Cannabis Drinks Expo

Strain specific, whole plant, single barrel. Craft beverages are tipping in. With increased education, consumers are growing more aware of products, ingredients, and formulations that align with their identity as a consumer. Terpenes are increasingly taking center stage, as key information pieces that help steer cannabis effects, specifically paired with activities or experience.  

Expanding cannabis consumption into mainstream non-smoking consumer audiences, including visitor audiences, matters.  Market Data Forecast reports that Cannabis Beverages Market was valued at US$ 920.06 million in 2022 and is anticipated to increase to US$ 19,060.01 million by 2027. 

BRIAN APPLEGARTH is a travel writer and innovator with a passion for cannabis travel experiences and cultural heritage preservation.

He has written for San Francisco Travel, Visit Oakland, Local Getaways, Skunk Magazine, Green State, Pineapple Express, Visit Greater Palm Springs, Visit Mendocino County and others. Brian was the sole advisor on the first ever national research on the cannabis-motivated travel audience in the United States.

He has been quoted in Forbes, The Washington Post, Smart Meetings, Travel Weekly and elsewhere, and his award-winning work has been featured on NPR, CBS, NBC, and The New York Times.

Brian is the founder of the Cannabis Travel Association International and the co-founder and co-creator of the CA State Fair Cannabis Awards & Exhibit. He leads the Cannabis & Hemp Task Force for the California Travel Association and Destinations International and is a certified cannabis sommelier Ganjier and a certified cannabis therapy consultant.

He recently published The Ganja Traveler’s Guide to the Emerald Triangle, a first-of-its-kind travel guide to California’s legacy craft cannabis region. Follow Brian on Instagram @thecannabistrail and @theganjatraveler or learn more at

Enjoyed that first hit? Come chill with us every week at the Friday Sesh for a freshly packed bowl of the week’s best cannabis news!

2 Responses

  1. Great article. I appreciate Applegarth’s informed perspective. Glad he’s writing for Beard Bro’s!

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