Truss Beverage Co. becomes an ‘LCBO’

Who: Truss Beverage Co. with We Are Social for social media, Agnostic for PR and ProofXP for experiential.

What: “Local Cannabis Beverage Outlet,” a not-so-subtle swipe at the province’s liquor authority by reminding consumers of legal age that adult beverages are available to purchase outside of LCBO stores.

When & Where: The campaign is being led by a two-day takeover of a Miss Jones Cannabis location in Toronto, while other cannabis retailers are placing stickers and other signage reading “drinks sold here” in their window. Truss is re-sharing photos of their stores on its social channels.

Why: The objective here is two-fold: It’s about creating awareness of Truss Beverage Co.—a joint venture between Molson Coors Canada and Hexo Corp.—as the social drinking season gets underway in earnest, and it’s about trying to make inroads in the sale of adult beverages against a formidable opponent in the actual LCBO.

The in-store experience in particular is a “crucial” part of the cannabis journey, particularly for those who are new to the substance, said Miss Jones Cannabis CEO Hanif Harji. Like their alcohol industry counterparts, in-store “budtenders” can provide new customers with advice on everything from formats and potencies to flavours and how to safely consume.

The business challenge: It’s safe to say that the market for cannabis-infused beverages has not really emerged as expected in the approximately year-and-a-half since legalization. In a 2019 report, Deloitte predicted that the category would be worth $529 million a year. But cannabis retail data provider HyFyre reported that sales totalled just $28 million in 2020—representing 2% of the country’s $2.6 billion legal cannabis market.

While a 2020 study by Truss found that 87% of Canadians are familiar with cannabis-infused beverages, the company says that government regulations governing everything from possession limits to product marketing and retail promotion have made it challenging for brands to effectively educate and communicate with their customers.

“These are prominent issues faced by cannabis retailers across the country and serve as a barrier to ongoing innovation and progress in an industry that is maturing,” said Truss in a release.

In April, Truss said that it had sold two million units since the second wave of cannabis legalization in 2019, and took leadership of the category early this year (it now claims a 43% share of the market). “The category shows no signs of slowing down and we expect it to continue to evolve and grow well into the remainder of 2021,” said Truss president and CEO Scott Cooper at the time.

How: Truss wrapped a Miss Jones Cannabis location in Toronto (one of its nine locations in Ontario) with a sign reading “Local Cannabis Beverage Outlet.” The first letters of each word are bolded so there’s no mistaking the company’s sly dig at the LCBO.

Truss’s head of marketing, Lori Hatcher, said that the campaign is intended to encourage Canadians to “reimagine their local cannabis retailer as another option for adult beverages.” The goal, she said, is to get people to ask questions, educate themselves, and try something new.

And we quote: “As we look ahead to the third anniversary of cannabis legalization in October, now is the time to reexamine the environment and ensure the right regulations are in place to allow the industry to thrive. Cannabis retailers create a safe space for Canadians to explore cannabis responsibly, playing a positive role in the community and contributing to the local economy. We believe there’s an important discussion to be had to ensure they don’t get left behind.” — Scott Cooper, president and CEO, Truss Beverage Co.

Chris Powell