A pair of drinking buddies have found a novel way to also foster their love of agriculture through their CBD-infused drink mixes.
Justin Hopf and Matt Swanson are the founders of Sheboygan-based Drinkin’ Buds. Both Hopf and Swanson have experience working at Bayer’s Crop Science division, and they connected over their love of agriculture.
After the 2018 Farm Bill passed in Wisconsin, legalizing the production of hemp, the pair wanted to give it a shot. They decided to grow an acre of hemp on Swanson’s property, which was once a dairy farm that includes a barn. As their first crop was growing, the pair needed to determine a market for their product. They examined options including CBD crude oil biomass.
“We started to realize that the price for crude (oil) wasn’t even going to allow us to break even,” Swanson said.
Hopf and Swanson wanted to find a niche before going to market while creating a brand that could continue to grow. They eventually landed on the idea of a drink additive.
“Justin and I are also drinking buds so that seemed rather serendipitous,” Swanson said.
The pair set out to find a way to infuse CBD into Wisconsin’s iconic drink, the Old Fashioned. This proved to be a challenge. They initially tried putting CBD oil into bitters, but the oil would float to the top of drinks. They realized they needed something water soluble and created a unique CBD isolate. They also found a supplier of a dry bitters substitute for their mix.
They continued growing the Drinkin’ Buds brand with margarita and Bloody Mary mixes. All their drink mixes are below 0.3% THC.
“Some of the main categories of why CBD can be useful to you (are) it helps quite a bit with anxiety, inflammation, pain, and it also helps as a sleep aid,” Hopf said. “As far as putting it in our products, we think there are health benefits to CBD. It also enhances the experience of having a cocktail.”
Hopf and Swanson have been bootstrapping the company since its inception in 2020 but recently gained some support through the Sheboygan County Economic Development Corp. and Small Business Development Center at UW-Green Bay.
As for next steps, the pair want to build brand awareness and expand their distribution model to include grocery stores, bars and restaurants.
“We want to keep developing the brand to be relevant in wherever the space is that beverages and cannabis meet,” Swanson said.
Founders: Justin Hopf and Matt Swanson
Service: CBD-infused drink mixes
Goal: Continuing to grow the Drinkin’ Buds brand and expand distribution
Experience: Past experience in the ag industry at Bayer’s Crop Science division