Cannabis-Infused Drinks Are a Slow Burn for NBEV Stock

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It’s gimmicky to be sure. Yet, it’s also brilliant. On Wednesday, New Age Beverages (NASDAQ:NBEV) unveiled a new line of cannabis-infused drinks that will utilize the name and fame of late reggae star Bob Marley to launch Marley+CBD. The agreement pairs a niche maker of teas and flavored waters with a well-known entertainer who is widely remembered as a fan of marijuana.

The news wasn’t terribly surprising, given the response from NBEV stock owners. Shares were up slightly in front of the announcement that a conference call had been scheduled to discuss then-unknown news, and New Age Beverages stock actually fell once investors learned of the new product and label.

This is a development, however, that may need a slow burn to fully demonstrate the potential of a Marley-branded, cannabis-based drink. NBEV could be a good buy for investors interested in pot stocks, but hesitant about a pure-marijuana play.

Sign of the Times

In some regards this was inevitable.

Last year was a huge year for cannabis, with sweeping legalization in Canada — though cannabis drinks are not yet legal in Canada — and legalization progress in the United States. Partnerships began taking shape in earnest, with some major names showing interest in the business without even knowing exactly how they could or should plug into the legalized marijuana market.

Constellation Brands (NYSE:STZ) was arguably the first big name to take the plunge, making a modest investment in Canada’s marijuana producer Canopy Growth (NYSE:CGC) early last year and then upping that investment to a $4 billion, 38% stake in August. Anheuser Busch (NYSE:BUD) forged its tie-up with Tilray (NASDAQ:TLRY) in December to explore the development of THC and CBD-infused beverages. Even PepsiCo (NASDAQ:PEP) has acknowledged it’s mulling the possibility.

Marley+CBD Enters a Crowded Market

The first product to launch under the Marley+CBD label will be relaxation drink Mellow Mood, soon to be available Colorado, Oregon, Washington, and Michigan. The 15.5 ounce can will contain 25 milligrams of cannabidiol, which does not cause a ‘high’ like THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) does, but still offers a variety of physical benefits The company implied that more Marley+CBD beverages may be on the way.

Investors shouldn’t think, however, that New Age Beverages has beaten bigger, better-funded players to the market. The cannabis-based beverage market is already fairly crowded. Tinley, Level+, Dixie, Stillwater, Mood33, Mad Hatter and Brewbudz are just some of the brands of CBD and THC-infused drinks already available, where such beverages are legal. In fact, New Age itself already launched a cannabis-infused drink back in October.

The existing and future competitors within the CBD beverage market are a reflection of growing demand.

Still, the Marley name is a powerful one, as is the New Age Beverages moniker.

Modest Market Size

In 2017, it was estimated that the legal marijuana market was worth $9 billion.That was before Canada legalized it, and with only a handful of U.S. states on board. By 2022, as pot is legalized in more places, the market could grow to $23 billion.

Of those figures, the vast majority of the money has been and will be spent on dry leaf, for smoking. Canaccord estimates that by 2022, the THC-infused beverage market will still only be worth $340 million per annum, while the CBD-infused drinks market will only be worth $260 million. And, cannabis-infused beverages are also expected to make up only a fifth of the entire edibles market.

Bottom Line for NBEV Stock

Though competitors lie ahead in what will indeed likely be a modestly-sized market, New Age Beverages has the advantage of an established distribution channel, at least a little influence within the industry and a brand name linked to a prolific supporter of marijuana that helped reduce the stigma of its use.

In that light, New Age Beverages may have just become one of the top names to beat within the niche. Though NBEV stock hasn’t responded especially well to the news yet, time could still prove the full potential of the new product to skeptical investors.

As of this writing, James Brumley did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities. You can follow him on Twitter, at @jbrumley.

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