American rapper, singer, songwriter and fashion designer Pharrell Williams released his hit song “Happy” in 2014. The song is all about being joyful and not letting anything damper that mood. “Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof / Because I’m happy / Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth,” Williams sings.
Happi, a cannabis-infused seltzer company founded in 2021, is bringing a whole new meaning to the word “happy.”
“Our goal in launching Happi was to create a low-dose cannabis drink that could go with any occasion, particularly as an alcohol alternative,” says Lisa Hurwitz, president and co-founder of Happi, Birmingham, Mich.
When describing the current seltzer market, Hurwitz notes it’s not one-size-fits all. The market is growing and adapting to ever-changing consumer tastes.
The alcohol seltzer market is dominated by category disruptors, such as White Claw, while the non-alcohol seltzer market was popularized by brands like La Croix, Hurwitz says. Then there’s the CBD/functional seltzer market, she explains.
“The white space for infused seltzers like Happi is they make you ‘feel’ something like an alcoholic seltzer would, but without the hangover, negative health effects or calories you get from drinking alcoholic seltzers,” she says.
In terms of the cannabis-infused beverage market, Hurwitz calls it “the Wild West,” as it’s a very new market. She says that players have continued to jump into the game from all over the beverage industry — coming from beer, cider, CBD or adult-use cannabis markets.
“The exciting part is that there is plenty of room for top quality, differentiated products like Happi. In the rush to jump into the category, Happi actually has taken our time to do it right,” Hurwitz states. “We spent 18 months perfecting our formulations and launched first in the Michigan adult-use market, which really allowed us to learn the category before going national.”
Today, Happi is distributing to 38 states through the company’s website. The beverage also can be found in dispensaries in Michigan, as well as in-store in Texas and Minnesota.
Hurwitz says the brand has seen “great traction” with digital advertisements, and they have utilized those in tandem with email marketing to drive traffic to the website, where consumers can order Happi to be shipped “right to their front door.”
Keeping it cool with consumers
Consumer trends have influenced the performance of Happi’s products.
Primarily, Hurwitz considers beverages to be an approachable entry point for those who are what she calls “canna-curious.”
“Hemp-derived products can be sold online and distributed in most states, so the behavior of where you purchase cannabis products is starting to shift with this expanded accessibility,” she says. “Also, consumers are craving more interesting, delicious alcohol alternatives that feel fun, like something you’d want to sip while out with friends or at a barbecue.”
Compared with other seltzers currently on the market, Hurwitz says that Happi’s flavors are what set the brand apart. The flavors are created with real, organic fruit in unique blends such as Lime Wild Mint and Blood Orange Ginger.
“We also have functional formulas that are the first-of-their-kind blend of minor cannabinoids like CBN, CBG and CBD with functional mushrooms like lion’s mane or reishi, which boast benefits like helping you focus or fall asleep,” she explains. “The functional beverages are also patent-pending, as Happi is the first brand to combine functional mushrooms and cannabis.”
As Happi beverages combine the emerging cannabis category with the already-established seltzer category, the company saw an opportunity to create a non-traditional cannabis product that isn’t edible, “and that tasted better than other formulas on the market,” Hurwitz says.
“We also recognized the gap with both alcoholic seltzer (hangovers, high calories, unhealthy ingredients) and the CBD seltzer market (healthy, but doesn’t make you ‘feel’ any effects),” she adds. “So we knew Happi could deliver on what consumers wanted — a delicious, healthy-infused seltzer available in a range of doses so anyone, from canna-curious to longtime consumers, can enjoy Happi and that also delivers an effect you can feel.”
More recently, the company launched Glow and Nightcap. The functional beverage duo are the first of its kind to hit the market, Hurwitz says. The beverages are formulated to address specific issues, such as finding focus or falling asleep, she adds.
“Glow, perfect for calm and focus, features CBG, CBN and lion’s mane mushroom, while Nightcap is made for soothing slumber with CBN and reishi mushroom,” she explains. “Both formulas have patents pending.”
The most successful product in Happi’s portfolio is Glow, a functional beverage available in the flavor Blood Orange Ginger. Hurwitz calls it “a runaway hit.” The two other flavors, Honeysuckle and Lime Wild Mint, are other best-sellers, she says.
While it’s nearly impossible to predict the future, Hurwitz suspects that the future of cannabis seltzers will be a bright one. She expects Happi to be able to grow its direct-to-consumer side of business.
“We’re also eager to expand Happi’s traditional distribution into liquor stores, bars, restaurants and other places infused beverages should be available alongside alcohol,” she says. “We hope we’re one of the brands that leads the way, from flavor innovation and range of doses, to innovations like functional ingredients, which is a space in which we’re already owning as category leaders.”
As for what’s next for the brand, Hurwitz says they are working to expand their flavor lineup and expand their distribution footprint to new states. Although she can’t share anything yet, she notes that fans should stay tuned.