Why this cannabis-infused beverage is being marketed like a health drink

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Cannabis-infused beverages are making a stir in big business. In 2018, Constellation Brands -- purveyors of Corona beer and Svedka vodka -- invested $4 billion in a Canadian marijuana company. And in December, Anheuser-Busch InBev announced a $100 million project to develop cannabis beverages. That might feel like fierce competition for cannabis-bev entrepreneurs, but Michael Christopher simply sees it as proof that his timing is right. Last year, he launched Mood33, a California-based startup that sells cannabis-infused sparkling tonics. To stand out, he’s positioning his drink as a wellness product, focusing on health benefits and natural ingredients rather than pushing the buzz the beverage delivers. Here’s how he created packaging for an elixir that’s more about getting healthy than getting high.

1. Flavors

Each bottle of Mood33 contains 10 milligrams of THC, which is enough to produce a mild high. But Christopher knew that buzz alone wouldn’t sell the product; he’d have to make a drink that was desirable on its own, too. He didn’t want to make a sugary soft drink, so he began crafting herb-based concoctions that would appeal to health-conscious consumers -- but the results tasted awful. “This was an iterative process of retooling certain liquid flavors and asking samplers, ‘What do you think now?’" he says. After two years of testing, he landed on what he calls a “more mainstream set of herbs and botanicals” -- and four fruity flavors for a more mainstream consumer.

2. Bottle

Mood33 tonics are sold in 12-ounce servings, which is the most common single-serving size in the beverage industry. But the bottle is tall and slender, more at home in the juice aisle than the liquor store. “We did not want to be in a beer bottle,” says Christopher. “This bottle lets us veer between a healthy drink and an alcohol replacement. And since it doesn’t look like a beer, we don’t have to market around those expectations.”

3. Logo

The top of the letter d in the brand’s name points upward, suggesting mood improvement. The number 33 is considered lucky in many cultures. And the backdrop of the label is meant to communicate a certain kind of cannabis: It’s a leaf, but elevated in design to steer the product away from stoner culture. “It’s oriented and sized to feel friendly, like a traditional botanical, so you’re not afraid to have it on your desk at work,” Christopher says. “The overall goal is to remove the stigma.’’

4. Language

Mood33 calls its product a “tonic,” which was no small consideration. “Herbal tonics have been around for as long as the beverage industry has,” Christopher says. “So after a healthy dose of market testing, we went with ‘tonic.’” Mood33 is sold in 51 California dispensaries, and the CEO is ultimately hoping for wider distribution. “We’d like to be next to kombucha on the grocery shelf,” Christopher says. “But it will take a lot of education to get there.’’

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