If you’re a contrarian in the cannabis space, you’re likely very intrigued with New Age Beverages (NASDAQ:NBEV). Not only is the underlying plant one of the hottest commodities in the market, cannabis is going mainstream. A particularly attractive subsegment is cannabidiol or CBD-infused drinks. With New Age Beverages specializing in this sector, NBEV stock immediately catches the eye.
Others have embraced the idea of CBD beverages. Canopy Growth (NYSE:CGC) and Hexo (NYSEAMERICAN:HEXO) have secured deals with big-time beverage makers. But as InvestorPlace feature writer James Brumley noted, NBEV was the first to hit the market. Almost always, that’s better than being the first to have the idea. And with the competition lollygagging, NBEV launched the Marley brand last fall.
Subsequently, NBEV stock soared from $1.53 to just under $10. That paradigm shift occurred over a matter of days.
But Brumley is cautious on the longer-term outlook for New Age Beverages stock, and for good reason. Management recently forked over some funds and possibly resources to acquire healthy-products maker Brands Within Reach. Supposedly, it’s an “incredible deal.” But to Brumley’s point, we just don’t know the specifics.
That immediately raises suspicion. More critically, though, CBD-infused drinks are currently a tough sell. Although the concept is appealing, the retail market itself is filled to the brim with competitors. Plus, the market size is very modest.
Investing heavily into this segment will seemingly yield very little reward. As such, investors took their profits and dumped NBEV stock after the announcement, with shares down 15% in the days since the June 3 announcement. To compare, the cannabis-focused ETFMG Alternative Harvest ETF (NYSEArca:MJ) is little changed while the beverage-heavy First Trust Consumer Staples AlphaDEX Fund (NYSEArca:FXG) is up almost 5% in the last few days.
NBEV Stock is Fundamentally Stretched Wide
In my view, New Age Beverages stock is an awkward play. Despite some obvious challenges, I believe in CBD-infused drinks for the long term.
For one thing, the cat’s out of the bag politically. In an unusually vitriolic time, both Republicans and Democrats have found surprising consensus in marijuana-related issues. While the federal government still classifies weed as a Schedule I drug, economic tensions also help the green sector in eventually overturning this classification.
After all, President Trump can’t keep playing hardball with China and Mexico without incurring domestic pain. And that translates into angry voters come 2020.
Second, CBD specifically levers compelling evidence for medicinal effectiveness. Sure, medical doctors downplay this evidence because prescribing plants isn’t exactly super-profitable. But they can’t deny that many patients reported benefits with consuming CBD.
Therefore, I’m willing to extend patience to names like Canopy Growth or Hexo. But NBEV stock? That’s a tough one. If NBEV simply concentrated on cannabis-related products, I believe the investor community would give them considerable leeway. Cannabis is an unprecedented market, so it makes sense that it receives unprecedented flexibility.
But NBEV stock isn’t just a CBD competitor. Its acquisition of Brands Within Reach, which includes brands like Nestea and Evian, provides the proof. Instead, New Age Beverages seeks to dominate the broader healthy beverages market.
In other words, NBEV has very normal ambitions. Because of that, investors will have normal expectations.
One of those expectations is margins: prospective stakeholders will seek outsized profitability metrics. If you look at established beverage-makers like Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO), Pepsico (NASDAQ:PEP), or Monster Beverage (NASDAQ:MNST), they all feature strong margins.
As a rule of thumb, beverage-makers should have on average higher margins than food companies. However, NBEV lags significantly in this department.
No Outstanding Catalyst for NBEV
Another headwind I anticipate is that no outstanding catalyst bolsters the case for NBEV stock. I’m more convinced about this now after having looked at their website.
Like any beverage company, NBEV has their core brands displayed front and center. The problem is, I’m not inspired by any of it. Nor have I heard of any of the brands they carry (outside their recent acquisition).
Of course, my anecdotal observation isn’t the end all, be all of anything. But I do a considerable amount of grocery shopping. Plus, I’m in the market for healthy beverages. If I can’t recognize at least one of these brands, you gotta figure New Age Beverages stock has an uphill battle to climb.
And this segues into my final point: I think NBEV stock has a credibility problem. They’re competing in a very broad and saturated market. I’m not sure if they have the resources to withstand choppy waters that are surely coming.
Although I like the CBD angle that New Age carries, I think there’s too many questions. It might work out as a trade, but I’ll be watching from the sidelines.
As of this writing, Josh Enomoto did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.
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