Cannabis-Infused Wine Now Exists Here’s How it Works | An Interview with the CEO of House of SAKA
I love wine – maybe a bit too much, but as I get older it increasingly leaves me with the worst hangovers and screaming headaches. Thus, I thought my wine days were going to have to be numbered.
When I saw House of SAKA’s Vin-Fusions my curiosity was piqued – cannabis wine? My first thought was that it would likely not be a good fit for me, most cannabis beverages I’ve tried are good tasting, but get me so high after one can that I am no longer having fun.
I wanted to reach out to House of SAKA anyhow to see if they were somehow changing the game – and I was surprised to find that they are. I cannot endorse their product since I have never actually tried it, but if anything that Tracey (the CEO of House of SAKA) says is true than I am very excited about this wine.
Check out our interview with Tracey Mason, the CEO of House of SAKA about their new Infused Beverages that are meant to mimic the “sessionable” quality of a bottle of wine.
Tracy, can you tell me about your journey into cannabis?
I’ve been in the wine and spirits industry for almost three decades. I started out in sales and then moved quickly into marketing and into innovation and new product development. I’ve worked for some of the largest alcohol and wine companies in the world. Primarily high-level marketing and new product development roles.
After doing that job for 10/12 years I was looking for a new challenge. Watching cannabis emerging onto the scene, it felt so much like the alcohol industry that I joined 30 years ago. As I’ve watched that particular category evolve, I felt that getting into cannabis felt like an amazing opportunity to go after.
Tell us about SAKA infused wine and why you decided to take that path. Why wine?
House of SAKA, specifically our Vin-fusions (we can’t legally call them wine) came to bear the way every great idea comes to bear, which is meeting an unmet need. My business partner and I looked across the spectrum of the industry and we recognize very clearly that there was no one really talking in an educated way to the emerging female consumer – which is the fastest-growing segment of the industry.
Secondly, the cannabis space was void of luxury products, not only products that have a level of quality that can be immediately recognized as luxury but also in their look and feel. When you combine those two voids, not talking to an important emerging consumer and the void in luxury branding, we thought that would be an amazing opportunity.
We wanted to meet consumers where they are and teach them about micro-dosing and the level of consumption that’s right for them.
Beverages are highly by bioavailable, so you feel the effects immediately. If you have two or three ounces of SAKA you’ll know very quickly whether your consuming the right amount of THC.
Are you trying essentially to emulate the feeling of how intoxicated you would feel after a glass of wine or is it just a totally different thing?
Our target consumer is a curious female coming into the cannabis space, who’s concerned about the effects of alcohol in their body physically – what it does to your stomach and your liver – and also the calories that are associated with alcohol. A standard glass wine has about 140 calories. A Glass of SAKA has fewer than 16.
We wanted to give our consumers that ritual of coming home, opening a bottle of wine, pouring it, curling up with your feet under you, and just letting the day fall away. We wanted to do so in a way that was socially acceptable and with a product that is super high quality and in a format that was really comfortable for this new consumer entering the space.
So, yes – it does emulate the idea of having a glass of wine where you feel it almost right away. But unlike alcohol, when people tend to consume cannabis, they tend to reach a level of high that makes them comfortable and then they stop. So SAKA also emulates wine in that it dissipates rather quickly which allows for a much more sessionable cannabis experience as opposed to, ‘Oh God, I had an edible andI’m super high and I don’t like the way I feel’.
With SAKA you’re so informed throughout the consumption process of where you are. I think it’s a really safe, predictable, consistent way of consuming cannabis. Especially in the format of a high-end Napa Valley-based product.
I’m curious how that works? What is the science behind that? How can you make that possible?
The cannabis industry and the technology that’s fueling it is moving at lightning speed. Right now beverages like House of SAKA Pink and House of SAKA White are using the latest technology, which is called nano emulsification.
What that does is essentially taking pure cannabis oil and breaking it down into microscopic particles that become self homogenizing. So essentially it’s like they’re water-soluble. In other words, you don’t need to shake it. So your first glass of SAKA will have as much potency as your last glass.
Because the particles are so small, their absorption rate is super high. So rather than having to wait for it to go through your digestive system – through your liver – before you start to feel it, (which oftentimes can be quite a length of time) with a glass of SAKA it is actually being absorbed through your mucosis, through your mouth, through your tongue, through your stomach lining. The bioavailability is what drives the ability to have our consumers understand where they are in their spectrum of high.
Tell us a little bit about the actual cannabis that you use, where it’s grown, how it’s grown, strains?
Certain terpenes within cannabis are very important to recreate our wines. When you remove alcohol, you lose a certain perception of sweetness because people perceive alcohol as sweet on your palate. You certainly lose a level of complexity, and you lose a level of weight on your palette.
So the strains matter. We’re using sun-grown cannabis, we’re actually not allowed to use the term ‘organic’ in association with cannabis, which is crazy. But, we are using sun-grown cannabis from California. The strains that we’re using specifically for each wine are proprietary for very specific reasons.
We’ve put a tremendous amount of R&D into trying to create the world’s best tasting infused beverage. You can make a good tasting soda when you’re adding tons of sugar and you’re adding lots of ingredients. We’re trying to make a really beautiful, pure, beverage that marries up to this Napa Valley positioning. We won’t reveal what our sources are, but there are strain sources that were chosen to marry the flavor compounds and aroma compounds that we were searching for.
You’re a woman entrepreneur and you have a very, um, fierce focus on women as your customers as well. What, why is it so important to have a female-focused lens? What have you been seeing in the industry as far as equity goes?
There’s been a lot of discussion in the industry that female executives made up 37% of all executives in cannabis and then it slipped a little bit and then high times announced that we had come back to about 37% of the industry. Women are doers and women can multitask. I realize I’m painting with a very broad brush, but your ability to microtask is essential when you’re dealing with cannabis. When you’re dealing with the cannabis industry in general, the complexity of managing through the supply chain and through the regulatory environment is astounding.
If you can’t be incredibly nimble and be able to multitask on a level that you’ve never had before, I don’t know that you’d be successful. I think women are just naturally drawn to that need to always be doing a few things at one time.
My particular experience in the industry is that I’ve met some incredible women and I feel like there’s a tremendous amount of camaraderie. There’s an awful lot of sharing among us. There are some incredibly smart people, but also people are so utterly committed to the cause and to the plant and its benefits across a variety of spectrums.
It’s a really beautiful community. Still, less than 40% of all major executives in this industry are women and I would guarantee you women are likely paid less. We always are. I think that there’s always going to be a level of misogyny in any industry, and it certainly exists here.
Comparative to the alcohol industry, it’s like 180 degrees better. I think that’s a matter of timing and frankly where women are and where they’ve come from and what we’re willing to put up with and what we’re not.
There are so many different perspectives around the industry. You have the group of people who are solely focused and utterly passionate about and committed to driving cannabis, CBD, THC, and all the subcategory cannabinoids that come underneath, driving those forward as a medicine. An organic medicine that can treat a variety of ailments.
Then you have the people like myself who are really interested in understanding where consumers are and interested in creating innovative consumer package goods that marry up to whatever’s happening in the categorical environment in which we’re operating.
It’s exciting and it’s fun and we love what we do and we want to make this incredible product and bring it to our target consumer. It’s what gets you up in the morning.
Then you have the people coming into this space are looking purely to make money, whether that’s a quick flip, whether that’s a rogue investment, or entering the space without enough care of who’s come before us. We’re all playing that game of finding the balance between those three drivers.
One, Five, and 10-year Industry Predictions?
There are so many different ways to answer that question. From a federal, regulatory environment, what that’s gonna look like – I think first banking, they’ll ease up on our banking laws, which will be gleeful for all of us.
I think it’ll be great for future employees coming into this space because we’ll be allowed to do things like 401ks and we won’t have to have sub-companies in order to get benefits and all of those things. I think they’ll ease up on banking, which will be fantastic.
I think that full legalization is probably between two and four years away, but I do see that happening. Then it’ll turn into a very similar environment that we deal with in the alcohol industry, which is every state having its own set of regulations and threshold that you need to cross in order to operate in that state.
What I think we’d be looking for is to have a federal mandate on certain elements within that. We should not have to create a different formulation for every state we go into. If our formulation is deemed the purest it can be in the state of California, which I would argue is probably has the strictest strict standards, that formulation should be able to be used across state lines.
I think the industry will continue to grow. I think that companies that pursue, the category with a mind toward social responsibility and responsible consumption will ultimately win.
I also think that how you ingest cannabis will continue to evolve. I think that beverages will rise. I think beverages and probably gel caps will rise. There is a risk to alcoholic beverages with the rise of cannabis-infused beverages because of the health benefits and the calorie question. That’s an exciting wave to ride. I do not think you will be without very real and very palpable challenges.
Where Are We Going to be Able to Find These? Are They Out? Are They in Dispensaries Yet?
SAKA just launched in Southern California. We’re actively now building our distribution throughout the state of California and that’s where we’re going to remain focus at least for the first six months. California is the largest cannabis market in the country. It’s also the leading wine market in the country.
If we can really nail California and build up our brand here, build our distribution, build our awareness, build our consumer following, then move it quickly into Nevada, Colorado, other States that have a high tolerance for and an appreciation for cannabis and cannabis-infused beverages, that would be our next steps
Anything Next On The Menu?
We’re actively developing SAKA Red and SAKA White. One will be a Chardonnay-based product and one will be Bordeaux based both in which the alcohol is removed and infused.
Is There Anything We Missed?
A lot of people have asked us about the name SAKA. It is actually named for a group of ancient female warriors who were said to rule the world and conquer all day desire. This brand is for the warrior in all of us. It’s just such a fitting name for a brand that was developed for women by women.
For More Cannabis Education: