Bangkok resident and founder of zero-alcohol beer maker Heaps Normal, Andy Miller, notes the prolific presence of cannabis in Thailand’s capital since its legalization a year ago. Weed shops are a common sight, and cannabis is gaining acceptance, even in traditional spaces like music venues. Interestingly, Miller observed the decreased prevalence of booze among the youth – a trend he finds noteworthy.

Co-founder of Heaps Normal, Andy Miller, wishes to spark conversation regarding CBD.

A contributing factor might be the increasing use of cannabis, but Miller also suspects a growing resistance to alcohol among the younger generation. He noted the evident absence of booze in spaces where young Thai musicians hang out- a curious cultural change.

Motivated by the legalization of weed and ensuing boom in cannabis culture, Miller, the helmsman of the Australian sober-beer brand, Heaps Normal, is now exploring potential opportunities within the cannabis industry. In particular, he has his sights set on the growing market of Cannabidiol (CBD). Forecasted to be valued at U.S. $12.9 billion globally, CBD and the nascent market illustrates the immense potential for brands like Heaps Normal.

Miller sees the conversation around non-alcoholic beverages as only the beginning. “It’s time to challenge why alcohol remains the only socially acceptable drug in Australia,” he urges. He draws attention to the significant business and economic benefits of the trade, which he believes Australia and Heaps Normal are missing out on due to the lack of clear legal paths for cannabis products.

Contrary to potential misinterpretations, Miller isn’t promoting an unchecked adoption or promotion of drugs, but calling for appropriate regulation. He underlines the expanding research hinting at the health benefits of CBD products, free of psychoactive THC. Since 2015, CBD has seen wider acceptance and use as a prescription drug for chronic pain, anxiety, and insomnia.

Miller aligns the positive effects of CBD with Heaps Normal’s mission. He reimagines Heaps Normal as a champion of innovative social practices that aren’t necessarily fueled by alcohol. He is confident that the non-alcoholic beer company can positively advocate for alternatives to alcohol and that societal conditioning and stigmas can be transformed (as seen with the rising acceptance of non-alcoholic products).

A keen observer, Miller and his team are tracking the CBD industry’s growth. “Could we, in the future, develop products that integrate these substances given their wellness benefits?” Miller ponders. He questions societal norms and disputes rituals and expectations around them.

However, while Australia has made progress towards decriminalising cannabis, the realization of this idea remains distant. Despite the introduction of draft bills in some states, medical cannabis use, which has surpassed 1 million prescriptions, remains the limit.

Both domestic and international manufacturers are targeting the Australian market. British cannabis product producer Dragonfly Biosciences recently proposed an attempt to list on the Australian stock exchange, joining around 20 other cannabis firms.

In addition, Miller’s team continues to innovate within the non-alcoholic beer sector. Following the successful launch of a coffee stout – an alcohol-free dark beer brewed in collaboration with Newcastle’s Floozy Coffee – Miller believes there are exciting possibilities ahead: “Removing alcohol prompts a different perspective on beverages and their associated occasions”.

Heaps Normal, despite the cost of living pressures, has seen a 50% revenue growth in the past 12 months and now represents roughly 40% of all growth in the non-alcoholic beer category. Alcohol-free product consumption skyrocketed from 15% in 2020 to 32% in 2022. Thus, even with a valuation of $63 million, Miller is hopeful of achieving profitability in the next six months.

In Thailand, the brewing industry, typically dominated by large producers such as Boon Rawd Brewery and Thai Beverages, is seeing some eased regulations for craft brewing. However, it’s still early days for the non-alcoholic beer market there. Mirroring the situation in Australia a few years ago, Thailand shows growing consumer demand for non-alcoholic beer but lacks diverse options. Miller remains enthusiastic about the future potential of the industry.

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As a disclaimer, the opinions expressed in this article don’t reflect those of High Thailand.
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