Product Managers And The Problem With Cannabis

The problem with cannabis is that it tastes really, really bad
The problem with cannabis is that it tastes really, really bad
Image Credit: Katheirne Hitt

I can only speak for myself, but if I was a product manager who was put in charge of a marijuana product, I would be very, very happy. Think about it, what does every product manager want: we want our customers to want our product. When it comes to the product development definition for marijuana, there is no question that it is a very popular product. In fact, with the recent change in laws that has made marijuana legal for a number of different activities, more and more new products that have marijuana in them are being created and introduced. One of the biggest growth areas is drinks that have been infused with cannabis (marijuana). There is only one problem that the product managers of these products will have to deal with: cannabis tastes really, really bad.


It’s All About The Taste

On the surface, the idea of a drink that has cannabis worked into it sounds like a really good idea. The thinking is that these types of drinks can help consumers to deal with a reduction in anxiety, pain relief, and the ability to sleep better. Clearly these are all good things. However, there is one little problem that is facing all of these new and novel drinks. Cannabis really does not taste all that good. In fact a number of people who have tasted these drinks have reported that they taste very much like a barnyard.

The way that these drinks are being made is by adding cannabis oil to a drink. The problem is that the oil tastes very bad and, just to make things worse, it floats. The taste has been described as being both very grassy and “funky”. Recreational marijuana is now legal in 10 of the United States and Canada. This means that there are a lot of product managers who are looking for ways to add cannabis to different types of drinks. This includes product managers at some of the biggest brewers. The types of drinks that are being produced range from drinks that will get you high to ones that stop short of creating a buzz.

The challenge that product managers are running into is that oily cannabis extracts simply don’t mix well with water. One solution to this problem is to shake your drink frequently to keep things mixed up. An additional problem is that because of the way that the human body processes cannabis oil, it can take too long to feel the effect of a drink. Oh yeah, then there’s the taste which just about everyone agrees tastes very bad. Cannabis oil is made up of THC (the stuff that gets you high) and CBD (the medicine part). Once these compounds have been consumed, they get processed by the liver and so it can take an hour for the cannabis to have an effect. If they were water-soluble then they would enter the bloodstream faster.


Solutions To The Cannabis Taste Problem

Cannabis product managers have a goal. They know what kind of beverage they’d like to be able to create. What they want is a clear, mildly intoxicating beverage with zero calories that would take roughly 12 minutes before it would affect the body. If they could create this product, then it would have the same level of impact that a glass of wine does. The problem with the cannabis products that are currently on the market is that they contain too much THC (about 10 mg), come in unattractive colors, contain too much sugar and take 30 minutes or longer to have an effect.

Product managers are determined to solve these product problems. Initially they are going to have to solve one of the most important problems: how to mix oil and water. Assuming that they can create a method to do this, then they will be able to mix cannabis compounds into beverages in a way that will prevent them from separating. An alternative approach is to use a soaking and straining technique that allows water-soluble CBD compounds to be separated from the cannabis. A drawback to this approach is that it creates a drink that looks a great deal like tea and thus is difficult to sell as a type of water. Product managers are solving this problem by using either opaque bottles or cans.

Product managers are highly motivated to find a solution to their cannabis problem. By some estimates, the global marijuana market could eventually become worth more than US$100B. Getting part of that market would look good on anyone’s product manager resume. The types of drinks that could be sold is almost unlimited. Cannabis drinks could be sold as intoxicating alternatives to today’s beer or liquor. At the same time, they could be sold in nonintoxicating forms as a health drink such as coconut water or herbal tea. Product managers would like to find ways to use cannabis to create water drinks, energy drinks, teas, and sports recovery drinks. This may all be possible if cannabis product managers are able to find a way to strip the drinks of the flavors and odors associated with cannabis.


What All Of This Means For You

In the world there are all types of products. One of the more interesting products that product managers product manager job description can make them responsible for are cannabis drinks. The recent rollback of laws regarding the possession and use of marijuana have resulted in a land rush to create new cannabis infused drinks. However, as exciting as this new type of product might potentially be, there is a big draw back – it tastes lousy.

Cannabis is known for being able to provide a bunch of different health related benefits. Product managers believe that people will want a cannabis infused drink in order to get these benefits. However, the grassy taste of cannabis is expected to turn off most people. The problem is that the active parts of the cannabis plant are contained in oils and oils don’t mix well with water. A number of different drinks from those that will relax you to those that will give you a buzz are being considered. Another problem with cannabis drinks is that it takes quite some time for the effects of the drink to be felt because the oils are processed by the human liver. Product managers know what they want: a good tasting drink that will have an effect on the drinker within 12 minutes. The market for cannabis drinks is forecasted as being huge. However, product managers will only be successful if they can find a way to mask the odor and taste of the cannabis.

The good news is that this type of problem is solvable. The bad news is that nobody really knows how to solve it right now. With a bit of effort the cannabis product managers will eventually be able to create a good tasting drink that contains the best parts of the cannabis plant. When that happens, they’ll have the additional challenge of determining what types of products and what types of effects they are going to be willing to offer to their markets.


– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™


Question For You: If the taste problem can be solved, what types of cannabis drinks should be introduced?


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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Let’s face it, everyone has been impacted by the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic. Even those stores that you would have thought could have made it through an upheaval like this seem to have been impacted. A good example of this is Starbucks. The Starbucks product managers, like everyone else, have had to close their stores for a while. Now that they are once again able to reopen them, they need to revisit their product development definition and find new ways to generate money for the company in a world that has completely changed.

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