Two young entrepreneurs turned their zeal for fizzy drinks and cannabis into a craft beverage brand, using tasteless full-spectrum cannabis as well as organic and simple ingredients. Canada-based Zèle (pronounced zéll) is helping to transform the cannabis beverage game, led by CEO and Formulator Callum Hanton, and National Brand Manager Jonathan Martin.
Both were under the age of 20 when Hanton first developed the company’s proprietary technology, and when they launched the brand.
“We have overcome many hurdles to get to where we are today,” Hanton says. Their facility in Edmonton, Alberta, for instance, landed at the only industrial building available that didn’t require three-year advanced payment.
Hanton’s passion for soda began in his youth. But fore most people, the appetite for drinks with high sugar wanes off with age, or for health reasons, so he gravitated to more balanced sugar levels.
“I had always adored the sweet, fizzy taste of soda pop. In fact, some of my earliest photos are me as a toddler sipping on a Coke bottle,” says Hanton. “But at age seven, I learned I was no longer allowed to drink full-sugar sodas for health reasons. I got tired of the diet alternatives pretty fast and since I was a clever kid, I began to try to make my own drinks.”
Things changed when a chance with fate set Hanton on a new path: the formulation of cannabis-infused fizzy craft drinks, minus the bitter herbal taste.
Hanton continues, “My major breakthrough came when I found an old apothecary book belonging to my great grandfather in my parent’s basement which included many soda and tonic recipes. I started to learn the art of soda brewing and over the next 13 years, I truly immersed myself in the craft.
“After Legalization 1.0, before edibles were permitted, my mom asked me to make a drink for her,” Hanton says. “She couldn’t ‘figure out’ inhalants and a gluten intolerance made baked sweets a no-go. Nevertheless, she was curious to discover if cannabis could help with her health. After asking how hard it could be, I spent the next year relentlessly crafting the best tasting drink possible, one that was worthy of my mom.”
After endless trial-and-error and many earlier versions of the drink—some 3,700 iterations—Hanton is confident that Zèle excels in both taste and delivery. Zèle Cannabis-Infused Craft Beverages are hand brewed in craft-sized batches using natural and organic ingredients. Best part of all is you don’t get any unwanted herbal taste, but they say it retains the qualities of full-spectrum cannabis, superior to the typical drinks made with only distillate.
“It’s an artisanal balancing act,” Hanton says. “Our soda syrups are thoughtfully craft-brewed by the barrel to be naturally delicious with flavorless full-spectrum cannabis extract.”
Flavors include black cherry, sarsaparilla, orange, lemon-lime, vanilla cream, and cola, with both in indica- and sativa-leaning options. Simple ingredients makes choosing what you put in your body a easier task.
“The long scientific ingredient names at the back of food labels can be both daunting and scary,” Hanton says. “We wanted to create a drink that mitigated consumer concerns as cannabis is already a new product for some, so we made a natural drink within a simple ingredient list that is easy to understand. Take a look at the ingredients used to create your favorite edible products some time, you might be surprised what’s in there.”
Using full-spectrum cannabis as well as organic and natural ingredients has its benefits, but you don’t necessarily have to accept the skunky smell or herbal taste.
“Zèle Cannabis-Infused Craft Beverages are a natural, full-spectrum experience for those looking for something sweet, discreet, and non-inhalable,” Hanton says. “It’s for those that want a delicious psychoactive without the skunky smell or taste. Dried flower is considered full-spectrum because it contains a myriad of cannabinoids (i.e., THC, CBD, CBN, CBG, etc.) and terpenes that work synergistically to create the ‘entourage effect,’ yielding a much broader psychoactive experience.”
Hanton continued, “Our proprietary nanoencapsulation infusion process allows us to create delicious sodas with flavorless full-spectrum cannabis extract. Plus, the organic and natural ingredients we use not only taste great, but also help improve the effectiveness of our nanoencapsulation technology, which has been specially designed to eliminate the bitter cannabis aftertaste altogether.”
The brand is currently undergoing expansion across Canadian markets.
“Zèle Cannabis-Infused Craft Beverages are currently launched in Canada,” says Jonathan Martin. “You can find our full-spectrum drinks in Ontario, Saskatchewan, and soon will be available in Alberta. We’re also excited to launch our naturally light Zèle LO collection this summer as well. In the future, we look forward to expanding into international markets, including the United States.”
Zèle works with Canadian cannabis cultivators to find the right genetics—from a potency and consumer experience perspective. Next, they take craft flower and carefully extract THC, minor cannabinoids, and terpenes in-house. They then take their own finished hand brewed syrup and infuse flavonoid-wrapped cannabinoids and terpenes into the liquid using a proprietary nanoencapsulation process.
“Cannabis stability is further enhanced by our glass bottles,” Hanton says. “For example, think of M&M candies, the candy coating is the flavonoid wrapped outer layer, while the full-spectrum cannabis extract within is analogous to the chocolate inside the M&M. This result is a stable, consistent, and great-tasting beverage every time.”
“In contrast, the industry-standard infusion method involves creating nanoemulsified distillate,” Hanton says. “Distillate is not considered full-spectrum as raw cannabis is stripped down to the most concentrated form of the cannabinoid (i.e. THC), thereby removing the other naturally occurring terpenes and minor cannabinoids in the plant. This distillate is then sonicated into tiny THC nanoparticles and suspended in the drink. The result is a semi-stable, bitter-tasting drink that has lost all trace elements in the plant. The distillate particles also tend to stick together, leading to a more pronounced bitter taste and THC distillate sticking around aluminum cans. This has been an ongoing issue for most of the cannabis beverages.
Zèle Cannabis-Infused Craft Beverages, though, uses a proprietary nanoencapsulation process that ensures infused cannabinoids and terpenes remain flavorless while retaining their full-spectrum qualities, with both indica and sativa flavors, Zèle full-spectrum craft sodas with 10mg of THC.
Visit Zèle’s website to learn more. (Full Story)