When Troy Brosnan and fellow co-founders of Massachusetts-based Cultivauna, LLC set out to develop a cannabis product, they did so with health and wellness in mind.
They visited legacy cannabis markets such as California, Colorado, and Washington to survey existing products, discovering several popular beverage brands that didn’t quite match their vision.
“While these brands had success, we quickly realized how much sugar was used to mask the flavor of cannabis and emulsions,” Brosnan said. “With our journey being wellness-focused, we returned back to Massachusetts and set out to create what’s now known as LEVIA.”
The LEVIA brand, available in zero-calorie, zero-sugar seltzers and tinctures, offers three core effect-based varieties, but over the last year, it has built interest by launching several limited-edition seasonal offerings. Its work caught the attention of multi-state operator Ayr Wellness, which acquired Cultivauna in February.
Flavor and formulation development
Brosnan said every Cultivauna employee—from management to operations—was involved with the creation of the LEVIA brand.
“We all aligned on positioning the brand with a post-Prohibition feel, drawing inspiration from alcohol brands that were popular during the 1930s,” he said. “We landed on the LEVIA gem drop for our prominent logo, which signifies a drop of excellence in every can.”
LEVIA’s first three SKUs feature names tied to their desired effects. Available in 12-oz. slim cans featuring 5 mg THC, the core seltzers include:
- Achieve: A Raspberry Lime seltzer with a sativa blend and the tagline “get stuff done”
- Celebrate: A Lemon Lime seltzer with a hybrid blend and the tagline “brighten your day”
- Dream: A Jam Berry seltzer with an indica blend and the tagline “ease your mind and spirit”
“We thought this would make the choice easy for the novice cannabis consumer rather than playing the strain name game,” Brosnan said.
Each seltzer—and corresponding tincture—sold in Massachusetts includes oil extracted at the company’s facility in Georgetown, MA. It’s incorporated with a proprietary emulsion technology that offers an onset time of 15-20 minutes.
“We take the flower purchased from Massachusetts cultivators and make the oil onsite using CO2 extraction,” Brosnan said. “We then take the oil and make it water soluble using emulsion and blend in our tanks. Once we have our test results back from the third-party testing company, the product can be sent out to the 150-plus dispensary partners.”
Building on this platform, LEVIA began introducing limited-edition seasonal seltzers, starting with Cranberry Lime in fall 2021. The brand followed with Pomegranate Punch in winter 2021, Mellow Mule in spring 2022 and Strawberry Creamsicle in summer 2022.
This fall, LEVIA launched Blueberry Cobbler, which features a sativa blend and a Berry flavor.
“We look at what flavors are selling well in the non-alcoholic seltzer category, as well as the hard seltzer category, and put our own spin on it,” Brosnan said. “LEVIA employees have been at the helm of flavor innovation.”
The seasonal seltzers also feature artwork from Massachusetts artists. The Blueberry Cobbler variety, which features a witch leaning on top of a blueberry, was designed by illustrator Dean McKeever, also known as Keever, who specializes in craft beverage can design.
“Consumers love the innovative graphics associated with each can, in addition to trying new flavors,” Brosnan said.
Ayr Wellness acquisition
LEVIA’s customers weren’t the only ones attracted to the brand. In September 2021, Florida-based Ayr Wellness announced plans to acquire Cultivauna and LEVIA.
Ayr Wellness closed on the acquisition in February, paying $20 million upfront with $10 million in cash and the remainder in stock. An additional earn-out payment of up to $40 million will be paid in shares based on achievement of revenue targets in 2022 and 2023.
Jeff Finnerty, chief marketing officer, Ayr Wellness, said the company was drawn to LEVIA’s rapid onset, zero calorie, and zero sugar attributes, as well as its positive consumer reception.
“LEVIA fit well into Ayr’s national brand and product portfolio as it offers consumers a positive, predictable experience,” Finnerty said. “With the stigma surrounding cannabis still existing, we believe LEVIA to be a game changer when it comes to mainstreaming cannabis consumption in the United States.”
LEVIA recently launched its water-soluble tinctures in Arizona and Nevada. With the backing of Ayr Wellness, Brosnan said exploration of co-packing relationships in other cannabis markets has begun with the goal of expanding beyond its current retail footprint.
In the meantime, LEVIA continues to develop new products, Brosnan said.
“The LEVIA team is always hard at work with new projects,” he said. “Consumers will start seeing some innovative products coming out of the lab in the coming months. We’re always trying to be on the cutting edge of flavor development.”