Budweiser's ex-marketing chief: Weed is the new craft beer – Syracuse.com

“This bud’s for you” has taken on a whole new meaning for Chris Burggraeve.

The former chief marketing officer for Anheuser-Busch InBev NV, the brewer of Budweiser beer, is moving from barley and hops to cannabis as the alcohol industry casts its sights on the burgeoning market for state-sanctioned marijuana.

Burggraeve, 52, has made two investments in the space. Most recently, he joined the advisory board of GreenRush Group. The San Francisco-based startup, which says it aims to be the Amazon of weed, closed its $3.6 million Series A fundraising round last week. Burggraeve, a native of Belgium with a master’s degree in economics, also co-founded Toast, which makes pre-rolled joints.

The former beer executive is one of many entrepreneurs and investors increasingly flocking to the cannabis industry from the traditional business world. Big Beer took its first step last month when the Upstate New York-based Constellation Brands Inc., which sells Corona in the U.S., announced its investment in Canopy Growth Corp., a Canadian seller of medicinal-marijuana products. In Burggraeve’s view, that’s just the beginning.

“This is one of the fastest-growing categories globally,” he said. “Why? Because people want it. When consumers want something, you ignore it at your peril.”

Sixty-four percent of the U.S. population now wants to lift the federal ban on marijuana, according to a Gallup poll released last month. That’s the largest rating since the firm started asking about the topic in 1969, the year of the Woodstock music festival, when only 12 percent approved.

After leaving the corporate marketing world about five years ago, Burggraeve said he’s focused on teaching, consulting and investing in what he considers disruptive categories. Cannabis, he said, could shake up the large beer companies in the same manner that smaller, independent brewers did over the past 20 years.

“The same

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