Why Marijuana Infused Soda Might Be Your Next Drink
January 26, 2016
I have memories of running around on a hot summer day at our community pool and grabbing an ice cold Fresca, then running onto the slip-and-slide (aka ‘The Wet Banana’). I remember that type of childhood experience and that soda flavor so very well. The flavor somehow got embedded in my feel-good subconscious, similar to how the smell of autumn leaves might signal football games or burning wood makes me think of get-together bonfires on a beach in Martha’s Vineyard. So, perhaps if the notion of summer time (during our cold wet winter) combined with a bit of nostalgia sounds like a recipe for a good time, then Sprig may have a place in your heart and next social gathering.
Sprig is a new THC infused beverage, which also happens to taste like a Fresca. In the words of founder Michael Lewis ‘A Sprig should make you want to smile more, that’s the whole point.’ Launched this past August, it has quickly become the rising star in the edibles drink market winning Edibles List magazine Best Soda of 2015. The magazine has a national scope, so Sprig was competing against some solid contenders, including Dixie Elixirs flagship products.
What becomes clear when you speak to the guys who started Sprig, is that they have authentic and inspiring aspirations for their brand. In their mind, a Sprig should be consumed in a social gathering creating a good-times-atmosphere and ideally, some shared memories. Their goal is not to get people smashed and their initial product launched at an intentionally low dose, a 15mg per serving can. They’d like to enhance a good vibe mentality and promote smart-use with what is essentially a recreational product. Think of the movie Endless Summer, and imagine those guys after catching the most perfect wave, sitting down and drinking a Sprig together.
Michael Lewis, Co Founder of Sprig, sat down to chat with me last week and here is what he had to say about Sprig:
How did you come up with the idea to create Sprig?
The general concept of Sprig started just a little over a year ago and we officially launched in August of 2015. I met my co founder Ethan Feffer and Michael Lewis while working at WeedMaps in Irvine, CA. Ethan was General Counsel there at the time, while I was managing Business Development and we became friendly. For both of us it was our first exposure to the cannabis industry and where we really gained an understanding of the California cannabis marketplace. Prior to Weedmaps, Ethan had been a corporate transactional attorney and I worked within finance for private investment funds. While still at Weedmaps, it became evident to us that there were very few well-done brands within the industry. It was at this time that we began to think about how we could possibly create a new product together and the idea of Sprig was hatched.
When you started creating Sprig, how did you think about it in relation to the edible marketplace?
Edibles, particularly those that you eat like a chocolate, are most often overpowering and the dosage can be unreliable. When creating our product we wanted to avoid creating anything that might have the ‘Maureen Dowd’ effect. We wanted to create an elevated brand as well as a reliable product from the chemistry side, which would be incredibly consistent and reliable. Our intention was to create a product that contained the level of quality of a product you might purchase at a grocery store. Beverages are interesting in that it is much easier to know what you are getting in terms of reliability. The uniformity of the mixing ensures that the dosage is more consistent. We like that people can feel confident in what they are ingesting.
So, it sounds as if you knew early on you wanted to create a beverage within the edibles space?
Yes, we wanted to create a beverage, as it is already something that people feel comfortable with socially. I feel more social drinking with people than I do when I am splitting a brownie. We want the experience people have with a Sprig to feel light hearted. Ultimately, the idea is that people would want to sit down and be comfortable in a group setting with a Sprig.
How did you come up with the name Sprig? Sprig the name is a subtle nod to an herb, whether that be rosemary, thyme or a plant like cannabis. The brand aspiration was to create something that is approachable that did not say ‘stoner’ or contain any puns relating to marijuana. We want both a new consumer as well as an experienced one to feel comfortable approaching our product.
It is interesting that Sprig launched with a 15mg dosage. This is considered a much lower dosed product than the industry norm. What was the thought behind releasing a 15 mg product?
Initially, we wanted to launch Sprig with a much lower dosage so that newer consumers within the market could start out smaller and feel OK with a can in their hands. Our first product contained only 15mg of THC and can be casually sipped over a period of time. Overall, our 15mg dose should never get anyone too high or overpower his or her day.
We worked with a group of chemists and PHDs out of USC to formulate the beverage and everyone was on the same page, the idea being we would start with a low dosage and work our way up to a higher dosage later. This is exactly what we have done with success. After being on the market for a little while, we saw there was a market demand for a higher dosage, so we have now released our 45mg dosage drinks. In California, our market let us know that they wanted a higher dosage and so we worked to deliver this. In relation to other products, our higher dosage product is still on the lower side of what you often see in a dispensary. We like that our high dose product is considered relatively low dose compared to other products.
How does consuming a can of Sprig make people feel?
If I drink a 45mg can of Sprig, I will feel the effects of it for about 3 hours. If I drink a 15mg Sprig, I may feel a little relaxed or giggly. A slight upper effect is felt with the lower dosage, but you should not get a feeling of being overpowered. Everyone is different as we know, but in general, the market feedback we have received has mimicked my experience with the drink. Our goal was to create a social drink where people could continue to be social after drinking it and not feel the need to go away from the group.
When a person drinks a Sprig, they will feel the effects more quickly than if you eat an edible, such as a brownie. Due to the fact it is a liquid, you will feel the effects in about 30 minutes and will not last for more than 3 hours. An edible you eat may take up to an hour or more to feel and can effect you for as long as 6 or 8 hours.
What is the process you go through to create a can of Sprig soda?
We use a raw CO2 based extract, which is a very clean extract with no nasty solvents. Once we have created the CO2 extract, it is distilled in a similar way to liquor. The distillation process takes out some of the remaining impurities, and so you end up with very pure THC oil. There is no meaningful CBD presence within the extract and it almost looks like a honey-type substance. It is very viscous, amber colored oil. Once we get the refined CO2 oil, it is put into a soda and from there we combine it with organic cane sugar. It is your basic beverage but it has THC.
The flavoring is similar to a Fresca, and people seem to love this. When we were trying to create the soda from scratch, we steered the chemists towards the things we wanted to be somewhat like, which was a cross between a Fresca, an Orangina and a Japanese sodas, which often are less sweet than typical American sodas. After some back and forth, Sprig is what we came up with.
What would you like people to know about Sprig?
Our goal has been to release a very simple product. It is a THC infused soda that is meant to be socially positive. We don’t aim to get folks crazy high and we want people to have a good time and feel good while drinking the soda and afterwards. We wanted to develop a safe way for people to take cannabis. It is meant to be psychoactive and fun.
We believe our product has a wide appeal to people of different ages and backgrounds. It could be a poolside or beachside drink and if I think of a setting where it is consumed I think of happy, casual social get-togethers. This is not a product that is meant for hard partying, like say, Red Bull vodka. We think of a group of people enjoying each other’s company and smiling more. We want our brand and our product to look and feel uplifting and positive.
Where can people find Sprig today?
We are currently in 110 dispensaries from San Diego up to Sonoma/Santa Rosa area. Initially, it was not easy to get into dispensaries. I would knock on doors and hustle it into various shops, it was good experience, but it was hard. Now, we add about 2 to 3 accounts a week and now people are calling us to find our product and some distributors are helping us with this. We would like to be in 200-350 dispensaries by the end of 2016.
Currently, we are focused on California, which is the nation’s biggest cannabis market. That said, Sprig's ambitions are national as well as international. We will want to ensure that we have quality control wherever we distribute so someone drinking a Sprig in Illinois or Washington will have the same experience as someone in Los Angeles. That's our end goal with wherever we take our product.