Three Ways Cannabis Culture Could Change the Canadian Foodservice Industry, Forever!
By Dwayne Reno
With 420 in the hazy rearview of many, the topic on the lips of Canadians currently is the pending date for cannabis legalization across this Ganja loving nation. Each province will be responsible for implementing its own controls for distribution and sales. Ontario and other eastern provinces seem to be moving towards government control of these profitable pipelines just like with alcohol sales (LCBO), whereas western provinces seem to be hedging more towards private-friendly retailing which will allow licensed retailers the rights to set up retail stores. However, with cannabis currently legal in some U.S. markets, it seems our government has missed a very profitable pipeline, the edibles.
Currently no set date has been given for legalization of cannabis edibles, but in Colorado (where cannabis is legal) the edibles market has shown a year-over-year increase in sales, a trend that cannabis researcher Miles Light recently told the CBC is only expected to grow. Also, our U.S. foodservice counterparts are finding very clever ways to add this versatile ingredient to their menus. Will this also become the norm for the Canadian foodservices industry and its consumers?
Well, a 2017 study by Dalhousie University found that 46 per cent of Canadians said they would try cannabis-infused food products if they became available on the market, and 39 per cent would be willing to try it in a restaurant. With legalization only weeks away and edibles still pending legalization, these findings provide strong evidence in support of Canada also legalizing the sale of edibles shortly after legalization has pasted. In this article I would like to take a look at some of the possible ways cannabis culture could be introduced to and possibly change the Canadian foodservices Industry.
Cannabis Fine Dining
The cannabis plant is grown from the earth like all other plants in the plant kingdom. Also, like fruits and vegetables cannabis has already found its way into many "baked" goods i.e. pies, brownies etc. This makes introducing cannabis to fine dining menus very possible and could mean that foodservice operators may soon be free to introduce very legal CBD or THC infused dishes to their menus.
Canadian customers already associate dine-in restaurants with wine, beer and cocktails; however this could change in the future. Canadian foodservice customers may soon be treated to a fine dining experience that also gets them high but without the painful hangover in the morning. Also science is starting to wake up to the potential health benefits of cannabis making it a possible superfood. The medicinal benefits far outweigh the "highs" as the foodservice industry is currently experiencing a shift in consumer behaviors and spending.
Food conscious consumers want food that is healthy and great tasting so combining the health benefits of cannabis with fine dining could provide opportunities for FSRs (fullservice restaurants) that are willing to push the boundaries. We could see many FSRs adding the CBD to condiments (butters, dipping sauces etc.), side dishes (salads etc.), main courses and desserts. CBD is a compound in cannabis that has medicinal benefits but does not have any psychoactive effects such as those caused by tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
This could be the game changer for many FSRs who have been losing foot traffic to discount fast food chains, food retailers, C-stores and other foodservice operators over the past few years.
Examples of fine dining incorporating cannabis culture can be found in the U.S. where approximately 20 per cent of the population is currently living in states where Cannabis is very legal. An article from 2017, titled, “What’s it’s like to attend a $125 marijuana pairing dinner where guest eat and get high”, written by Melia Robinson for Business Insider states that some popup restaurants in Colorado are pairing cannabis and food. Guest sit down for a fine dining experience where each course is paired with high quality Ganja. The article also states that popups such as these still have legal loopholes to jump through such as Colorado's no smoking in public places law. However, within fine dining the pairings and possibilities are endless for those Canadian chefs willing to push their boundaries like what we are seeing in Colorado.
Converting Foodservice Locations into Cannabis Dispensaries
One Canadian coffee chain has gone the extra mile as it recently announced it has partnered with NAC, (National Access Cannabis Corp.), Canada's best practices leader in delivering secure, safe and responsible access to legal cannabis. Second Cup made headlines late last month when they made the announcement that it would convert some of their locations across Canada into Cannabis dispensaries, HERE.
Garry Macdonald, Second Cup's President & CEO stated in a company press release that "NAC has developed a strong reputation as a leading operator in the cannabis industry. This strategic relationship provides Second Cup with a great opportunity to leverage our select real estate assets to increase value for shareholders and franchisee partners. At the same time, we remain focused on growing our Second Cup brand and sales through continued product innovation and expanding our network across Canada."
Unfortunately, none of the converted locations will sell any of Second Cups products just Cannabis for those of you wondering. This is a real estate play that will help NAC quickly expand its footprint across Canada.
Another possible way cannabis can make its way into Canadian foodservice is through beverages. Some large producers have already announced plans to start selling CBD infused beverages. One of these companies is Canbev, a joint venture between WeedMD Inc., a federally licensed producer and distributor of medical cannabis and Phivida Holdings Inc., a premium brand of cannabidiol ("CBD") infused functional beverages and clinical health products. Canbev plans to manufacture, market and distribute cannabinoid-infused beverages for the medical and future adult-use cannabis markets in Canada, HERE.
This push to infuse Cannabis into beverages is creating quite a stir in the foodservices industry, recently research firm Technomic, stated that it will be embarking on a multi-client study to explore the impacts of legalized marijuana on major industries, including adult beverages and foodservice, HERE.
Beverage sales are big business for foodservice operators, I wrote a previous blog in 2016 highlighting the importance for restaurant operators maintaining beverage sales of 25 – 30 per cent, HERE.
With so much hype associated with the legalization of Cannabis, you can bet that large producers of wine, beers and spirits are super focused on the emerging Ganja market and what it could mean for their foodservice sales. One of the large producers taking note is entrepreneur Dooma Wendshuch. He plans to make the world's first beer brewed wholly from cannabis, he told CBC in a 2018 interview.
"People have been experimenting for many years by substituting hops with marijuana," he said. "We did something totally different which is to find a way to brew a beer from the cannabis plant itself."
He says his company, Province Brands, has no plans to mix cannabis and alcohol, but rather to create a whole new psychoactive drink.
Legalize Edibles, Don't Criticize it!
Legalization is only weeks away and with edibles already in full bloom in markets such as Colorado, I wouldn't be surprise if the Canadian government decides to also legalize edibles soon after. Also, since much of the cannabis production deals have already been taking away by large businesses, edibles are the only sandbox still available to independent Canadian business professionals such as foodservice operators, chefs, event planners and catering companies.
My advice to all Canadian fast food chains and independent foodservice operators is to start looking at cannabis as a way to differentiate your foodservice business and grow sales. With that said, I understand that this may not work for all of you but for those willing to push the boundaries, this budz for you.
Until next time your customers want to know why they should spend money at your restaurant, bar or cafe. So give them the goods!
Dwayne Reno CEO & Founder
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