Coca-Cola could be prepping a move into the cannabis drink market, according to a report out this morning from Bloomberg. The business site writes that the soda giant stalwart is in discussions with Canadian marijuana producer Aurora Cannabis to create beverages.
The talks are around CBD (cannabidiol)-infused drinks, which do not have the psychoactive THC that produces the high from pot. CBD reportedly helps with easing pain, inflammation and anxiety, among other ailments, and is quickly becoming the hip ingredient with which to imbue bougie beverages.
A spokesperson for Coca-Cola told Bloomberg that it was “closely watching the growth of non-psychoactive CBD as an ingredient in functional wellness beverages around the world,” but the company hadn’t made any decisions at this time.
It would make sense for Coca-Cola to be actively exploring the CBD market. First, soda sales are declining as consumers look to less sugar-packed, healthier alternatives like sparkling waters. Coca-Cola’s move to diversify into a CBD category would follow Pepsi’s recent $3.2 billion acquisition of SodaStream last month.
While beer giants like Molson Coors, Corona, and Heineken have already made moves into the cannabis-infused beer space, there is still room for a soda company to get in and basically create and dominate a whole new category. With Coca-Cola’s size, CBD soft drinks could hit the market at scale pretty quickly.
Scaling, however, may not be the biggest issue for any cannabis-derived sodas as marijuana is still illegal at the federal level. There is a patchwork of state laws when it comes to legalization on a more local level. So there will be a lot to navigate as the market matures.
But cannabis isn’t the only area where Coke is diversifying. Last month the company bought the British coffee shop chain Costa Coffee for $5.1 billion, adding hot beverages to its brand portfolio.
We wouldn’t be surprised to see Coca-Cola move into the canna-biz, as it were; we’ll just have to see exactly where and how it chooses to roll out such a product. Soon enough, “grab a Coke and a smile” could have a whole new meaning.