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Updated: May 7, 2021

Colorado cannabis drink maker is new to Maine but high on further expansion

Photo of Travis Tharp next to a product photo Courtesy / Keef Brands Travis Tharp, CEO of Boulder, Colo.-based Keef Brands, says the company looks forward "to solidifying our connection to Maine cannabis consumers."

Cannabis drinks in craft-beer country? Keef Brands, a Boulder, Colo.-based maker of cannabis-infused beverages, has teamed up with Scarborough's Novel Beverage Co. to produce and sell three non-alchoholic canned drinks with a buzz from 10 mg of tetrahydrocannabiol, or THC. 

Keef Brands joins a growing field in the cannabis-infused category including Sea Dog Brewing Co.'s  Blue Paw THC Elixir and a THC-infused version of Shipyard Brewing Co.'s Pumpkinhead Ale, which is also brewed in collaboration with Novel Brewing.

The Colorado company's Maine market entry comes less than a year after the state legalized the sale of marijuana for adult recreational use, creating a market that Keef Brands CEO Travis Tharp calls "extremely promising."

"Maine residents have sophisticated palates, from embracing craft beer to some of the country's best seafood, so our team at Keef Brands is excited to share our flavors of great-tasting cannabis beverages, which employ the latest in infusion technology for fast-acting and consistent effects," he told Mainebiz.

Three Keef Brands beverages — a cola, root beer and orange-flavored drink — are currently being sold at more than 17 adult-use dispensaries in the state, including four in greater Portland, as well as online. 

Asked why Maine is an attractive market, Tharp said the company had long been looking to introduce Keef Brands to the East Coast, adding: "Clearly, the consumer demand is there, and cannabis advocacy in Maine goes back decades. An important niche we are excited to fill in the state is infused products, specifically cannabis beverages, which opens a whole new yet approachable and social way to consume cannabis."

Including Maine, Keef Brands products are now available in seven states. The others are Arizona, California, Colorado, Missouri, Ohio and Oklahoma, as well as Puerto Rico, as the company plans to add more with Maine as its entryway to this part of the country.

"We're looking to expand to more East Coast markets in the years to come," Tharp said.

Local manufacturing partners

Though Keef Brands has only 15 employees, more than 60 people nationwide are involved in making its products, according to a spokeswoman.

That's because it works with local manufacturers in each market like Novel Beverage in Maine, whom Tharp said "has worked with us every step of the way to produce a consistent product that captures the taste and essence of the products developed in hour home state of Colorado."

"As our presence grows in the Northeast," he added, "we definitely have plans for additional boots on the ground in Maine."

Tharp said that 2020 was a pivotal year for Keef Brands and for infused beverages as a category, driving sales of more than 1.2 million units across all of the markets.

"We could not be more excited to add Maine into the mix," he said.

Asked about the challenge of winning over Mainers with a brand from away, Tharp pointed to the partnership with Novel and Keef's own roots in another part of the country that strongly appreciates buying local.

He also noted that the beverages being sold in Maine are "old-school-meets-new-school" with flavors reminiscent of classic soda fountain drinks.

"Keef Brands have loyal fans all over the country and are looking forward to solidifying our connection to Maine cannabis consumers," he said.

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