The founder of a cannabinoid drinks company who swapped her evening tipple for cannabis with a twist talks to Cannabis Health.
When Alana Burstein, founder and president of Viv & Oak, gave up alcohol five years ago, she was looking for something else she could enjoy while socialising and unwinding, and came up with the idea to replace the alcohol in wine with something she believes is healthier: cannabinoids.
“I was a wine drinker, and I wanted to mimic that socially shared experience,” she says. “I thought there’s got to be a better way.”
“I took my idea, and met some really good people who helped me fulfil what I wanted to do.”
This is how Viv & Oak was born, offering Zinfandel wine, derived from California grapes that have been de-alcoholised and blended with THC and CBD.
“I decided to use CBD for the healthy and therapeutic benefits for the body, to take the edge off at the end of the day without getting you high. We do varieties with THC in it, but the CBD is also doing extremely well.”
The drinks are low sugar and calories, she adds, and the drinks containing THC take around 15 minutes to start having an effect.
Viv & Oak’s products are aimed at women much like Burstein, who want to “take the edge off” at the end of the day, she says.
“We’re targeting women aged 35 to 55 who want to drink less alcohol,” she says. “We’re going after soccer moms, females diving into cannabis over alcohol, especially those with children, dealing with their children at home over lockdown.”
“A lot of women don’t want that high effect, but want therapeutic energy, or for women who had a glass of wine before bed, this is an alternative.
“It definitely helps you sleep, and keeps you asleep, whereas alcohol keeps you disrupted.”
Burstein lives in Toronto, but Viv & Oak is based in California, where she says the market is especially keen to find low-sugar, low-calorie CBD products. If the business operated in Canada, Burstein wouldn’t be able to package the wine as she does in California, she says, where there’s also a much bigger market.
“Cannabis is more acceptable here all round,” she says, adding that she’s currently targeting the market in Toronto, too.
Burnstein would like to see her wines containing CBD in stores within the next year or two, and plans on creating more CBD varieties.
Also on her to-do list is coming up with single serve cup versions for on-the-go customers.
“Everything is always changing, so we’re trying to keep up with demand,” she says. “I’m always working to be more creative and innovative – that’s really important in such a fast-moving industry,”
One of the biggest obstacles, she says, is distribution, and she wants to expand from online-only.
“We see home delivery as being the home run here,” she says.
“Our target market wants a beautifully packaged bottle at the click of a button, delivered to their door when they have their girlfriends over.”
As far as Burstein’s personal journey with alcohol goes – she doesn’t miss it.
“I find this is way better alternative for so many reasons, much calmer and therapeutic, and it gets my creativity going.
“Me and alcohol just didn’t get along, it didn’t work for me. As cannabis started becoming more legal and accepted, I thought, this could be a solution for me and so many others that struggle with alcohol.
“We’re not trying to keep up with wine brands, we’re simply an alternative for people who don’t want to drink alcohol for whatever reason, whether they can’t or don’t want to, or are taking a break from it.”