5 Essential Lessons Cannabis Can Learn from Craft Beer
We can glean so much from the David vs. Goliath stories of our predecessors.
The cannabis industry has entered a pivotal moment, and the winning brands will be those that have built loyalty and trust with consumers.
How do you do this? Fortunately, there are several viable lessons to be taken from—of all industries—the world of craft beer. Just as many craft cannabis companies must compete with large, publicly-traded MSOs, craft brew brands must stand toe-to-toe with the billion-dollar titans of their market.
How have some craft beer brands been so successful, given the odds stacked against them? They found a way to make their product synonymous with quality.
Given the fickle nature of today's consumers, quality is one of the few remaining surefire bets when it comes to ensuring your product will stand apart. That's why we should pay attention to these five lessons the craft beer industry can teach craft cannabis. We certainly are at my company, MariMed, and they're helping share our small-batch, craft cannabis approach and the products that result from it.
1. Embrace the value of small batches
When it comes to the value of small batches, look no further than Samuel Adams and its annual release of their Utopias, which are unquestionably one of the most prominent success stories in all of craft brewing. The point of Utopia isn't necessarily that it's the best beer in the nation but that every one of the limited number of bottles they make contains the very best of what Samuel Adams has to offer.
Thanks to its well-cultivated status as a delicious, highly in-demand beer, there's now an entire subculture devoted to tracking and celebrating this Massachusetts brewery's signature product. While it may be tough to fill shoes the size of Utopias, we can nonetheless see the clear payoff that comes from choosing to work in small batches.
Far from potentially limiting a brand's ability to grow, cultivators should be innovating craft solutions commercially by applying a hands-on approach to small-batch grown cannabis with minimal automation. It's an investment in quality at any quantity, and it's proven to be a recipe for success.
2. Boast the best ingredients
Speaking of recipes, take a moment and think about your favorite craft brew. It won't take long before your taste buds start to recall the sharp notes of citrus or funk-forward terpenes at the heart of your imaginary cold one. Many craft brewers have prioritized specific palates in elevating their brands, often landing on a signature product (like Utopia!) that epitomizes their niche. It all starts with quality ingredients, which includes paying the proper care to all elements of the finished product. For beer, that means devotion not only to the hops but to every ingredient, be it the source of your watermelons or the quality of your brown sugar. Cannabis is no different. Nutrients, soil, water, and the list goes on. You must apply the same level of care to every ingredient and material used in the cultivation process if you hope to make your products synonymous with quality to consumers.
3. Commit to robust R&D
It would be nice if cannabis companies could mold an identity and leave it to set in stone, but our industry is one of constant evolution. The same can be said for craft beer, where an ever-crowding marketplace has made brand-specific innovation all but a necessity. Be it a unique brewing process or a reputation for experimenting with unusual ingredients, the value of committing to a proper research and development process is that you can be on top of both today and tomorrow. At MariMed, we fulfill that mission by emphasizing experience and data while also staying engaged with trends in related fields like non-cannabis consumer packaged goods. Furthermore, we're committed to helping further education concerning medical cannabis research. If you can't wait for change to come, help to make it happen!
4. Craft a specific message
For all the effort we put forth as craft cannabis cultivators, the payoff will be minimal if we fail to communicate the reasons behind it successfully. In craft brewing, specificity has always been vital. Connecting your product to specific traits, such as unique flavors, seasonal releases, or even the backstory of a given brewery, can be a winning strategy for building a relationship with customers.
Take Utopias, for example. Consumers linked the beer and its creators with the Boston area, which has only served to further cement the beer's legacy by giving it a strong identity.
With cannabis, it's incumbent on us to spread the word about our choice to grow in small batches, use only high-quality inputs, work with the best breeders, and source materials from similarly high-quality partners if we hope to enjoy the fruits of our labor in the form of an established brand.
5. Embrace your role as educator
At the onset of the craft brewing boom, few of us regularly talked about hops with the enthusiasm we do today. In many ways, an entirely new language has sprung forth in the wake of craft beer's surge in popularity. What's truly fascinating is that a relatively large portion of consumers appears willing to educate themselves as a means of exacting more control in a market seemingly teeming with compelling choices.
The same opportunity is also possible with cannabis, given education is arguably our best tool for building a bridge that leads timid potential consumers to become loyal customers. Empowering individuals to walk into a dispensary and get exactly what they need is the responsibility of retailers and the industry. Just as craft brewers were able to convey the underpinnings of what made their products superior to the rest, craft cannabis must embrace its own opportunity to educate the public, for as always, knowledge is power.
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