Over a year since leaving the beverage business, former Rockstar Energy EVP of sales Joey Cannata is returning as the president of Daytrip, a new cannabis-based food and beverage startup launching next month.
In taking on the role at Daytrip, which markets a CBD-infused sparkling water, Cannata is the latest recruit to the Calif.-based brand co-founded by CEO Shawn Biega, a former VP of sales at Fogdog Cold Brew, and chief creative officer Bill Kerr. He joins a team that features a handful of other industry veterans, including Board of Directors chairman Hap Klopp, founder and former CEO of The North Face; former North Face CFO Jeff Kohr; and current Purity Organic CEO Douglas Abrams.
In a phone call today, Cannata told BevNET that he first became interested in the cannabis space after investing in vape pen company Dosist. Seeking deeper involvement in the growing market for CBD and THC infused products, he reached out to industry contacts to find a brand in the beverage space he could invest in.
“It immediately jumped out to me,” Cannata said. “It’s the best trademark I’ve seen, it’s the best name I’ve seen, the team looked very solid…. I said ‘okay, I’m interested in this brand’ because I didn’t want to invest in more than one, I wanted to pick my jockey and my horse and go with it.”
Daytrip is currently establishing a distribution network and plans to rollout next month through ecommerce and in independent retail accounts. The CBD-infused sparkling water line includes Cherry, Coconut Pineapple, Lemon Lime, and Tangerine flavors which contain 5 calories and 10 mg of CBD per 12 oz can. It will retail for $4.99 per unit. A THC-infused line, which will only be available in California dispensaries, features the same flavor lineup and 5 mg of THC per 12 oz bottle.
Cannata called the cannabis beverage category the most “exciting” he’s seen since he first joined Rockstar in 2001. He compared the space today as being similar to the energy category 20 years ago, in that it is generating massive consumer interest with functional products, but still requires significant consumer education and faces regulatory hurdles.
“I compare it to Canada and energy drinks,” he said. “Taurine wasn’t allowed at one point, but you still saw it out there. And by the time Canada flipped the switch and allowed taurine in — Boom! Red Bull was everywhere in a matter of weeks and Rockstar was soon to follow right after we did a deal with Coca-Cola Enterprises. Once the switch is turned in the U.S., you’re going to see CBD products everywhere.”
Though Daytrip is launching with sparkling water products — a more than $2.3 billion category which is also seeing strong growth and rising consumer interest — the company is focused on cannabis-based products. According to Cannata, once the brand is established in the market, the innovation pipeline may include plays into other food and beverage categories including gummies, sparkling coconut water, chocolates, and kombucha.
Speaking to BevNET, CMO Lynn Furge said the company seeks to beat out competition on flavor and brand identity. With tough competition in the space from other CBD sparkling waters like Recess, Weller, and Sprig, she said the brand will position itself against some of the prevailing category trends with a stronger flavor profile that reduces the “earthy aftertaste” of CBD and an uplifting marketing campaign that counters the cure-all messaging of other companies while leaning on its California-origins.
“What’s coming out of a lot of CBD companies, regardless of what type of product they make whether it be a vitamin or a beverage or a bar, is we’re seeing a lot of this anxiety ridden ‘you’re broken, you’re stressed, you’re in a digital always on world that’s horrible and we have the cure for you,’” Furge said. “Our approach, what we truly believe in, is that happier is healthier.”
As for the THC business, Cannata compared the approach to Juul maker PAX Labs, which split its vape pen business into separate cannabis and tobacco entities. Though for Daytrip both sides of the company will bear the same branding, they will operate separately with different teams. Whereas the CBD side is aiming to go nationwide quickly, the THC side will by necessity take a slower, state-by-state approach.