Aug 10, 2023 - Business

Liquor stores seeing big interest in THC seltzers

Top Ten Liquors has dedicates large portions of its stores to THC beverages. Photo courtesy of Top Ten Liquors

Top Ten Liquors will soon open its newest Twin Cities store in Dinkytown, where owner Jon Halper is planning a massive selection of THC seltzers that will take up 20 feet of shelf space.

Why it matters: Halper and other Minnesota liquor store owners are trying to solidify a customer base of THC seltzer drinkers before the state begins licensing dispensaries where people can buy all kinds of cannabis products that could compete with the buzzed-about beverages.

State of play: Some local store owners started selling the beverages months before they were technically allowed to. But now they're in almost every store thanks to a full cannabis law passed last session.

Zoom in: Top Ten now has more than 100 varieties in its stores and is dedicating more shelf and cooler space to them.

  • Halper anticipates that by October, THC seltzers will account for 10% of sales at the 13-store chain.
  • At Ken & Norm's in South Minneapolis, nearly 5% of sales in July were THC seltzer, said owner Arpad Nagy.

The big picture: Minnesota has the most lenient laws for selling edible and drinkable THC, and the rest of the country is watching closely, said Max Johnson of BevSource, a Little Canada-based beverage consultancy.

  • Johnson just got back from the Cannabis Drinks Expo in San Francisco, where he said all the talk on the floor was about Minnesota.
  • "Minnesota could very well become the blueprint for every other state that is working to pass adult use regulation."

The intrigue: Unlike other states, consumers can buy THC seltzers in liquor stores and other mainstream retailers, which Johnson said removes the stigma and hurdles that come with buying from a dispensary.

  • That means the THC seltzer market could get much larger because it opens up the product to a much wider base of customers, he added.

Between the lines: The prices for these seltzers could come down as companies invest in larger-scale production to keep up with demand, Johnson said. There's been sticker shock at the typical $20 retail price for a four-pack of 5mg cans, which is about 50% higher than craft beer prices.

The bottom line: The surge in the drinks is somewhat cannibalizing craft beer sales at liquor stores, Halper said, but it's also bringing in new revenue, which is why he's being so aggressive.

  • "There's a real opportunity for liquor stores to establish themselves and their relationship with their customers and hold on to that business for a long period of time."

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