Consumers’ drinking habits are changing. There’s a growing trend of sobriety — Americans are increasingly declining cocktails, beer, and wine in favor of healthier, lighter beverages. On top of that, carbonated water is increasingly replacing sugary drinks in American households. In fact, sales of sparkling water have doubled over the last ten years. At the center of these converging trends is a new player: cannabis-infused beverages. The CBD-enhanced drink market is growing rapidly, with a projected CAGR of 17.8%. Liquid doses of cannabis are just one slice of the booming U.S. CBD market, estimated to hit $23.7 billion by 2023.
18.21 Drinks is a startup that’s poised to tap into many of these trends. We recently talked with co-founder Missy Koefod about what inspired her to start the company and where the beverage industry is headed.
Can you give us a brief elevator pitch for your company?
18.21 Drinks is the parent company of 18.21 Bitters — a cocktail mixers and spiked seltzer brand — and CNBS — a carbonated cannabis beverage brand.
What inspired you to take the leap and build this company?
I was practicing law when I was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer. After beating it, I realized that I wanted to do something I was passionate about. I have a background in beverage and hospitality and was always drawn to it, and my co-founder has a culinary background so it was a natural fit.
What past experiences prepared you to start, build, and lead your company?
I bartended my way through undergrad and founded, ran and profitably sold a music venue/bar and hospitality group. My co-founder had a successful exit from her own design firm and our hospitality group. That really laid the groundwork for successfully running a CPG brand.
What is your vision for the future of the industry you are operating in?
The canned cocktail business is projected to hit $140B+ in revenue by 2030, so I see that growing substantially. And I think people want fresher and better tasting options. I also see CBD and THC growing substantially as regulation catches up with demand and consumer sentiment.
Who is on your team and how did you come together?
My co-founder, Kristin, is my wife. We dreamt up the brands together and have been having a wonderful time growing together. We have a great food scientist on the team and two events/sales staff that have worked with us since the beginning.
Do you have any competition, if so, how do you differentiate?
We do! We have a few key competitors in both the cocktail mixers space (Fever Tree/Q Drinks), and in the CBD Space (Recess) and the THC Beverage Space (Cann). But we feel that our flavors and flavor profiles really set us apart. I may be just a tiny bit biased, but our products taste amazing!
What does your business model look like?
We are mostly B2B, with our products being distributed around the country and internationally by liquor and food distributors. We do have some DTC business that we are expanding upon with a subscription model that we are launching in October.
What brought you to equity crowdfunding and how do you intend to use the money you raise this round to scale the business?
We love the idea that those who are passionate about our business — or believe in our business and us as founders — can support us. We also enjoy that Regulation CF really democratizes the investment landscape. Alice, my nextdoor neighbor, can invest in a startup and hopefully see a nice profit from her investment where she otherwise wouldn’t have that kind of opportunity. We have invested in equity crowdfunded companies in the past, and it feels great to be involved and support brands and founders we believe in. It was a natural progression for us. Additionally, it is a great way for historically underfunded founders (black, lgbt, female) to fund the growth of their companies.
What do you want potential investors to know about you and/or your company?
We are committed to diversity in hiring. Additionally, we are committed to supporting our community, and 1% of proceeds from the sale of each can goes to charities selected by our communities.
As you think about the business 5-10 years down the road, what do you see exit opportunities looking like? have you set any future goals for the company?
We expect to have a Series A raise in the next 18-to-24 months. We then hope to see an 18.21 exit (probably a strategic) within 3-5 years and an exit from CNBS is 5-7 years. Then I plan to retire to the beach and focus on my other passions which are clean oceans and supporting underrepresented founders!
We at KingsCrowd are excited to see where Missy and her team take the company. 18.21 Drinks is currently raising on Republic.
About: Olivia Strobl
Olivia comes to KingsCrowd with a background in venture capital and technology. She spent time at Glasswing Ventures, an AI-focused venture fund in Boston, before joining the KingsCrowd team. There she helped develop machine learning algorithms for the opportunity qualification of preseed and seed-stage startup companies. Prior to her time at Glasswing, Olivia worked in a lab studying the neural correlates of attention. She holds a degree in Neuroscience from Wellesley College.