Recreational cannabis use is legal in 10 states, but sipping an alcoholic drink is still more acceptable in most social settings than lighting a joint. It’s a social phenomenon that cannabis-infused beverage makers are eager to capitalize on, including Kalvara.
The Tempe, Arizona-based company is relying on a technological innovation to deliver its infused beverage with a twist—literally.
Kalvara’s Cannabis Cocktail is served in a 2-ounce bottle of water topped with a patented, nitrogen- pressurized Vessl “cap.” The cap contains both a natural, proprietary, citrus-flavored liquid and THC. Each is suspended in the nitrogen at
100 pounds per square inch. When the cap is twisted, the nitrogen injects both ingredients—exactly 3.5 milliliters of liquid and 10 milligrams of THC—into the water.
Moreover, the bottles can be reused—along with a new cap—so consumers can infuse the beverage of their choice.
Kalvara is betting its infusion technology will allow cannabis enthusiasts to sip infused beverages without drawing unwanted attention during social situations. “If you have a party, people wouldn’t necessarily light up and smoke. But if you can offer them a beverage, they feel at ease in consuming the product,” said Aaron Harris, Kalvara’s chief operating officer.
Betting on a Growing Market
The company debuted its Cannabis Cocktail in Colorado and Nevada last year and has plans to expand to four other states by 2020. The expansion comes at a time of growing popularity for infused beverages.
Research by Canaccord Genuity Group, a global financial services firm, predicts that THC- and CBD-infused beverages combined have the potential to comprise 20% of the U.S. edibles market (or $600 million) by 2022. That’s up from 6% of the current edibles market.
That projected growth also helps explain why major alcoholic beverage companies such as Constellation Brands—the owner of Corona and Modelo beers—as well as Molson Coors and Heineken are wagering money on the cannabis industry.
Precision Dosage is Key
In the case of Kalvara, precise dosing of THC is one of the company’s primary objectives, Harris said. He noted that Kalvara’s Vessl cap offers users more predictable results than edibles or other cannabis-infused beverages.
“With edibles, it can take some folks an hour or two hours to feel the effects. Or they over-dose because they don’t feel it (and) take another edible, and now they’re higher than they ever wanted to be,” Harris said. “So, for us, it was about being able to give a precise, reliable dose of THC to the consumer.”
Further, the cap’s ability to deliver an exact amount of THC solves a problem common to infused beverages: inconsistent dosing due to ingredient separation.
“One of the challenges with infused beverages is inconsistent dosing,” Harris said. “With some infusions, you see … a separation of the oil (from) the water solution. You’re having to shake it up … (and) it may not go back into an equal state. Some will be stuck to the sides of the container, or you’ll see some fall off toward the bottom of the container. Whereas we’re able to keep it inside of the Vessl (cap) under pressure. It keeps the product from separating.”
Delivering a Quick Kick
Additionally, the nitrogen-pressurized Vessl cap protects the THC and citrus-flavored liquid from oxidation, ultraviolet rays and heat. This ensures that preservatives and chemical emulsifiers are unnecessary, and it maintains the THC’s potency, both of which are crucial to the rapid onset the company also aims to achieve.
“Most people feel it inside of 15 minutes,” Harris said, adding that the effect of a single serving is similar to that produced by one standard cocktail.
Rapid onset is also facilitated with sonic, nano-emulsification, a process that uses sound waves to make the THC water-soluble, thus enabling it to disperse evenly in the beverage and quickly absorb into the bloodstream.
Water-soluble THC is “not being digested like your typical edibles,” said Tom Vigil, Kalvara’s senior vice president of business development. “Our products will absorb, versus being digested. So, as soon as you consume, the effects start absorbing into your system.”
While other cannabis-infused beverage companies might also be using sonic emulsification, Vigil added, Kalvara is “holding it (the liquid and THC) in time with our capping technology. So, there’s no degradation.”
Licensing the Technology and the Brand
Vigil said Kalvara uses 90%-95% pure cannabis oil in its infusions. However, because it’s illegal to transport cannabis across state lines, the company doesn’t produce or package the oil itself. Instead, it provides instructions, scalable equipment and marketing support to licensed manufacturers, which then produce the company’s Cannabis Cocktail.
“They license the technology and the brand from us,” Harris said. “They provide the oil, and they do the (production and) distribution within their area. We don’t touch THC.”
The company does, however, ensure the THC and all other ingredients and production processes meet both its own and state specifications.
“We go out there and make sure that they’re compliant with everything … (and that) they’re able to bring their oil to that quality before they can go with the process of putting it into the cap,” Vigil said.
Saving on Shipping
By licensing manufacturers, Kalvara also saves on transportation expenses. Instead of shipping truckloads of product to retailers, Kalvara sends producers empty bottles and caps to package the infused beverage.
“You’re not having to ship water,” Harris said. So, “you have a very low weight. … (And) I can get 725,000 (Vessl caps) on a semi-truck load.
It would take 15½ truckloads to ship the same number of half-liter water bottles.”
Further, instead of shipping capped bottles, the company ships three extra caps for every one pre-capped bottle, a strategy that’s economical, environmentally friendly and encourages consumers to reuse the bottle with their favorite beverage.
Customizing Your Dosage
Kalvara comes packaged in either single servings or the Eco 4 Pack, which contains one capped bottle and three extra caps. The bottle can be refilled with a beverage of choice and fitted with a new Vessl cap. And consumers can use more than one cap to infuse their beverage, increasing the dosage from 10 to 20 milligrams or more, for example.
Additional customization is also in the works, as Tempe, Arizona-based Vessl, Kalvara’s parent company, is working on the Vessl Solo, a Vessl cap that can be held over any container to release the Cannabis Cocktail.
And this summer, Vessl plans to introduce a cocktail shaker that, once fitted with the cap, enables consumers to mix the product into beverages of choice—yet another twist in an industry that seems poised to pop.