From Bevs to Bud: Former BrewDog Exec to Launch CBD Beverage
After spending four months as the chief disruption officer for Scottish craft brewery BrewDog, Tanisha Robinson was getting restless.
Robinson, a former tech industry entrepreneur who spent nearly two years as the CEO of BrewDog’s U.S. division before moving into a global innovation role, instantly zeroed in on cannabidiol (CBD) as a possible opportunity.
After learning that BrewDog-branded CBD beverages would be too disruptive to the brewery’s core mission, Robinson decided to strike out on her own.
“I believe the cannabis beverage space will be as big if not bigger than craft beer but in a compressed period of time,” she told THCnet.
BrewDog founders James Watt and Martin Dickie gave Robinson their blessing and an undisclosed amount of seed money to launch W*nder (pronounced “wonder”), a sparkling CBD-infused water brand based in Columbus, Ohio. She plans to launch with four all-natural flavors in January.
Each 12 oz. can will contain 20 mg of CBD and an assortment of vitamins combined to provide a specific desired effect:
- Breakfast Club for energy and focus (blood orange, mint and ginger)
- Born to Run to stay calm and centered (lemon and rosemary)
- Fast Times for balance and energy (cucumber, mint and lime)
- Night Moves to unwind, relax and rest (blueberry and basil)
“A lot of people don’t know when to take CBD and what to expect, so we’re giving them cues,” she said.
Although the exact size of a still emerging CBD-infused water segment is difficult to pinpoint, sparkling waters of all kinds are trending. According to Nielsen, dollar sales for flavored sparkling waters increased 15% during the 12-month period ending in July. Meanwhile, sales of alcoholic seltzer brands Truly and White Claw were up triple digits through mid-September, according to market research firm IRI.
That’s good news for Robinson, who is looking to raise $1 million and is currently in discussion with undisclosed investors from the cannabis space.
She’s targeting a $5 price point for cans of W*nder, and initially plans to sell the product online and within the Columbus region. Distribution throughout Ohio and the Midwest will follow, she said.
While W*nder will compete with existing CBD water brands like Recess and DayTrip, among others, Robinson knows of just a few Midwestern brands and believes that because Columbus lies within 500 miles of 60% of the American population, it’s a prime place to start building what she hopes will become a “regional powerhouse.”
“There are a lot of cautionary tales in beer of getting overextended geographically,” she said. “For me it’s about getting cans on the shelf and getting a clear understanding of what customers really want.”
In addition to building the W*nder brand, Robinson said she hopes to create opportunities for people of color to gain access to the legal cannabis industry. Pointing to a history of oppression long imposed on minority populations through the criminalization of marijuana, Robinson has also crafted the “420 Rule.” As part of her social mission, Robinson will transfer 4.20% of profits into a fund and offer capital to entrepreneurs of color who want to enter the space.
“It’s super, super important to me considering that so many of these cannabis companies are owned by straight white dudes, while black dudes sit in prison in those same states,” she said.
Robinson hasn’t yet taken advantage of any incentives herself, though she’s excited to capitalize on supplier diversity requirements at many grocery chains.
“Finally it’s an advantage to be a black veteran lesbian,” she said.