This week’s Trailblazer is Mel Smith, Innovation Lead at Truss Beverages, a joint venture between MolsonCoors Canada and HEXO that specializes in cannabis-infused beverages.

Mel Smith Truss Beverages

Questions with a Cannabis Industry Trailblazer

When did you first become involved in the cannabis industry and why?

I joined the cannabis industry in early 2019 to prepare for the launch of 2.0 products later that same year. I saw the opportunity to combine my personal experience with cannabis and my professional experience in beverage alcohol to build the foundation for an exciting new category of products that I truly believe can enhance consumers’ lives.

I have been fortunate enough to work exclusively on Canadian brands throughout my career and the cannabis industry presents a unique opportunity to build brands and products that can expand globally as regulations allow. It’s rare for Canada to be an innovation hub in the global market but with cannabis, this is a natural extension.

It’s been a career highlight to have built 5 brands and 17 products from scratch within a 2-year period. The success we’ve had to date becoming the share leader within 6 months of launch and being recognized by industry and consumers with several awards has been really rewarding.

What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a company?

Being at the forefront of a brand-new industry presents a unique set of challenges.

The success of cannabis beverages will rely not only on our ability to attract existing dried flower consumers but also on bringing new consumers of legal age into the industry through beverages.

We built our portfolio with a long-term strategy of attracting these new consumers, but we need to constantly re-evaluate our assortment as the category evolves to ensure we are also meeting the needs of current consumers in the short term. Innovation is at the forefront of what we do, and we are continually looking for ways to build an attractive portfolio for a diverse consumer base.

The pandemic adds another layer of challenge for this new category. We suspect that many of these new consumers will be introduced to cannabis beverages through a friend or family member so the lack of social gatherings is likely having an impact on the adoption rate.


If you could change one of the current Canadian or American marketing restrictions on cannabis, which would it be?

For me, it would be the dried cannabis equivalency that is applied to beverages.

The fact that consumers can’t purchase more than 5 x 355ml beverages (regardless of potency and assuming they aren’t purchasing any other formats) doesn’t make a ton of sense and is ultimately limiting category growth.

With a large part of our portfolio being low (2.5mg THC + 2.5mg CBD) and medium (5mg THC and 5mg CBD) dose, it really impacts how consumers can shop and explore cannabis beverages.

In your observation, what marketing techniques or channels have been most effective for cannabis companies looking to connect with consumers?

At Truss, it was important for us to bring consumers into the development process from day one. Understanding how and when cannabis beverages could fit into their lives gave us the insights we needed to develop a range of purpose-led brands for a broad range of consumers and occasions.

We built a robust insights process and continue to listen to and learn from consumers today. I think it’s important to center the needs of your consumer, especially as you’re building the foundation for a brand new category.

Mollo by Truss Beverages

Are there any other Trailblazers in the cannabis industry that you follow?

I really like the work that Sung Kang is doing over at Thrive Cannabis with their Greybeard brand. It’s clear that they really understand their consumer and I think they’ve built an interesting and differentiated brand that’s authentic to who they are. For the experienced consumer, this deep expertise and authentic brand story are sure to get noticed.

What is one tip or piece of advice you would give to people looking to enter the cannabis industry?

Be prepared to be unprepared. The business and regulatory landscape in cannabis is constantly evolving, and it’s so important to keep nimble and not get too attached to one idea!

Cannabis Marketing Trailblazers

A big thank you to Mel for participating as this week’s Trailblazer! Stay tuned for another interview with a cannabis marketing Trailblazer next Thursday in the ADCANN blog.

Interested in working with one of these talented cannabis marketers? Check out our Agency Directory for a list of all the agencies that specialize in working with cannabis companies.



ADCANN is a digital publication and content creation team that showcases the most creative concepts in the cannabis space.