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A surprising number of first-time cannabis consumers said they'd try marijuana in place of beer — but big beer-makers aren't worried

beer drinking

  • 27% percent of potential first-time cannabis consumers said they'd try marijuana in place of beer, according to a survey from consulting firm A.T. Kearney.
  • Some 54% of US and Canadian survey respondents said they'd try marijuana products when it becomes legal.
  • Beermakers don't seem to be worried. 

A surprising number of potential first-time marijuana users would use the drug in place of an evening beer.

That's according to consulting firm A.T. Kearney, which on Wednesday published a report looking at consumer attitudes around the increasingly mainstream cannabis industry.

Some 27% percent of the 2,000 survey respondents in Canada and the US said they'd try a marijuana product in place of beer — a potentially worrying sign for beverage makers.

And in a promising sign for the cannabis industry, 54% of US and Canadian survey respondents said they'd try marijuana products — by either smoking, vaporizing, eating, or using it in skincare or cosmetic products — when it becomes legal. Canada is set to be the first G7 country to legalize marijuana at the federal level. 

Beer giants don't seem worried, though they are certainly bullish on capturing some of the rapidly-expanding marijuana market.

"We see no evidence whatsoever, especially in the United States, in the legal states, of alcohol cannibalization," Rob Sands, the CEO of Constellation Brands — the beermaker behind popular brands like Corona and Modelo — said on a recent call with investors.

Some data has shown, however, that in states with legal marijuana, binge drinking rates have declined. 

Constellation, the third-largest beer company in the US, paid $4 billion in August for a 38% stake of Canopy Growth, the largest publicly traded marijuana grower, to develop marijuana-infused beverages and other products. It's the largest corporate investment in a marijuana cultivator to date.

"We're not playing defense, we're playing offense," Sands said on the call. "The whole market is going to be explosive."

Constellation isn't the only beermaker to pour money into legal marijuana in recent months.

Lagunitas, Heineken's popular California-based brand, has developed a hoppy, THC-infused sparkling water. Molson Coors recently entered a joint venture with Hexo, a publicly-traded cultivator, to produce marijuana-infused beer for the Canadian market, among other deals.

Other big retail companies, like Walmart, have signaled they are exploring the market for CBD, or cannabidiol, products. CBD is a non-psychoactive component of marijuana that's linked to a range of health benefits but can't get you high.

In an encouraging sign for retailers and other consumer packaged goods companies eyeing the cannabis industry, A.T. Kearney found that 54% of survey respondents wouldn't change their perception of the brands if they released a cannabis product.

"The survey clearly demonstrates the viability of the market for cannabis across multiple consumer segments — CPGs and retailers focused on health and wellness, snacking, functional food and beverage, and beverage [and] alcohol need to have a perspective on how they will approach the cannabis opportunity," Randy Burt, a partner in A.T. Kearney's consumer and retail practice, said in a statement. 

Overall, consumers are most likely to try cannabis in packaged food products, according to A.T. Kearney. 

Read more of our cannabis industry coverage:

  • Hedge fund legend Leon Cooperman is investing in the marijuana industry — and it's another sign the sector is heating up
  • Famous short seller Andrew Left is creating a cannabis fund. He explains why the market's not in a bubble, but does need to 'chill out'
  • 'The new avocado toast': A former Coca-Cola and AB InBev executive reveals why every food and beverage boardroom needs to be talking about cannabis
  • Some of the hottest companies in the booming cannabis sector are going on hiring sprees — and it shows how competition among the biggest players is ramping up
  • The rising stars of marijuana's investment scene that everyone from Wall Street to Silicon Valley should know

SEE ALSO: CEO of the beverage giant behind Corona: Cannabis is one of the 'most significant' growth opportunities of the next decade

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