The vaping technology market is a constantly evolving landscape, driven by the changing needs and preferences of consumers. Staying relevant in this competitive market requires companies to deliver exceptional vape experiences. Airo Brands has risen to the challenge since its inception, offering a diverse product portfolio that includes multiple vaporizers, pod blends and flavor combinations, all crafted with the latest technology, natural ingredients and intuitive features. Airo Brand’s commitment to delivering state-of-the-art products has resulted in impressive year-over-year growth and expansion into new markets.
Maintaining Consistency Across a Diverse Product Portfolio is Challenging
With three types of vaporizers and an array of cartridge oil formulations, Airo Brands needed a machine that could accommodate various products, streamline operations and produce consistent, high-quality devices to grow the business. But given Airo’s complex product offering, there were potential challenges with oil viscosity, temperature and dispense control, making it essential to find a reliable machine that could switch between products easily and streamline operations without compromising quality.
Finding an Easy-to-use Machine that Evolves with Time is Critical
Airo Brands recognized the significance of investing in a machine that could handle product variations, was simple to use and could accommodate their growing footprint. Airo Brands turned to Thompson Duke Industrial, an original equipment manufacturer that creates automated solutions for filling and capping vaporizer cartridges. Early on, our teams worked together to test and revise a custom septum-fill adapter to fit their needs. Airo was impressed with our availability to troubleshoot issues and come up with solutions in real-time. As the industry evolved, Airo Brands updated to a new cartridge design and switched to automated machines, a transition that our machinery and team handled with ease.
With Thompson Duke Industrial’s IZR machine, Airo Brands’ partners can fill a variety of different products, up to 30 variations. The machine’s straightforward design allows its operators to turn over and switch between various products in only a few minutes. The IZR’s simplicity and efficiency with setup, clean-up and maintenance make a huge difference in output. Airo now has the ability to train partners on how to fill their products with one machine versus several, which has also been a huge advantage.
Strong Partnerships Go a Long Way
As a result of our partnership, Airo Brands was able to implement automatic solutions that evolve with the industry to accommodate its diverse product portfolio and growing footprint. Erik Stewart, COO of Airo Brands said, “Thompson Duke Industrial’s machinery handles viscosity, temperature, and processing challenges with ease – and this is exactly what we need to create consistency and quality across our growing business.”
How to Choose the Right Equipment to Set Up Your Business for Success
When choosing cannabis equipment, it is important to work with a partner who is capable of developing innovative solutions that align with evolving industry needs. In the world of machinery, simplicity is key. Streamlined setup, uncomplicated maintenance processes and quick product turnover enhance operational agility. For companies managing multiple partners, the ability to train teams on a single machine is also an advantage.
As your business expands into new markets, consider your equipment’s adaptability, scalability, and capacity to deliver high-quality consistent products. Airo Brands is an example of how automation can drive unprecedented growth. Due in part to the introduction of efficiencies and speed through automation, they were able to expand their footprint across 17 states and increase their SKUs, rising from 38 to 180.
Ten years ago, “cannabis packaging” didn’t extend very far beyond throwing buds into a plastic baggie – in fact, the term wasn’t even really a recognizable category. The lack of product packaging attention-to-detail was understandable at the time; the industry was still predominantly underground, and brands were much more focused on staying afloat amidst global prohibition and crackdowns.
Fast forward to today’s cannabis landscape, and it’s practically unrecognizable. Brands have figured out that, not only is proper cannabis packaging essential for providing consumers with a safe, reliable product, but it offers businesses an inimitable opportunity for marketing to their audience and establishing brand identity.
Because of this, the legal industry has gotten increasingly creative and playful with their packaging, using the space to connect with their audience, leave a lasting mark and obtain that covetable consumer loyalty the retail world is always hungry for.
The beginnings of cannabis packaging: Preserving integrity in a growing market
I entered the cannabis world as a home grower – exclusively for my brother, who has pretty intense cerebral palsy and gets tremendous medicinal relief from the plant. I’ve been growing for him for years, and in my earlier days I found myself losing a lot of cannabis to the elements as time passed: mold, pests, etc. I figured there had to be a better way to preserve what I was cultivating for long-term storage.
After visiting a dispensary in Colorado to get some ideas, I realized all of their packaging was overkill. It didn’t do anything to actually nurture the plant, or give it what it needs for successful lasting preservation. So, I got even more interested.
I started looking into what chemically happens to cannabis after you dry it and I discovered there was no real information on the topic yet. So, my team and I started looking into how we could contribute to this arena – sort of creating this whole new category and awareness around curating, storage, long-term plant viability, shelf life and conditions for quality cannabis.
We looked at a variety of elements for proper packaging – like UV protection, humidity and moisture control, odor control and oxygen control – and worked hard to develop some materials that would factor in all of these considerations for an end-goal that I believe should be universal.
When it comes to cannabis packaging, the most important thing you should be thinking about is integrity throughout the supply chain: delivering products to patients in the way that it was intended to be delivered from the grower for optimal medical results.
Proper packaging is critical for the industry. It contributes to operational efficiency, eliminates waste, maintains full moisture and humidity rates and helps businesses protect their bottom line.
It allows operators to deliver better, more viable and more potent medicine to patients – and that is absolutely what’s most important. Giving patients the full efficacy of the plant, unadulterated and unmolested by the supply chain.
Utilizing cannabis packaging as a powerful marketing tool
That’s how cannabis packaging was first developed – to protect products and keep them safe and effective for consumers. Since then, the sector has totally evolved to encompass even more elements. There’s a lot more education about drying and curing, and how to preserve the integrity of cannabis as it moves from seed to sale.
Brands have also started recognizing a dual opportunity alongside safe cannabis packaging: an effective means for marketing and advertising. In a space where we’re so restricted on how we market our brands, having great packaging is beautiful, convenient and reminds the patient of the brand behind the product they’re currently enjoying.
This is a critical opportunity for brands to cement their reputation and form a relationship between themselves and their clients. “Consumer loyalty” is a magic term that a lot of brands are chasing today, and the biggest way to achieve that is with consistent, high-quality packaging that allows operators to maintain integrity within a supply chain they just can’t control.
Cannabis packaging is the consumer’s first reaction to your product. It’s the plating. And the way it’s presented has a major effect on how customers view your brand. Think of your packaging as a type of billboard: every consumer carrying around a branded bag of your pre-rolls is a walking advertisement and ultimately an ambassador.
The 12-inch vinyl LP cover art of our generation is the one-eighth flower pack. Just like those records are all music, these packages are all cannabis, but these brilliant creatives all over the world are getting to attack an identical canvas with radically-different approaches and aesthetics.
It’s a ubiquitous thing – like designing a watch. From Timex to Rolex, all of these brands have been creating iterations from the same basic layout to do the same basic thing: tell time. That is constraining, but it also pushes people to get really innovative and imaginative.
In the cannabis realm this is just the beginning of utilizing packaging for brand identity and loyalty. Innovating your cannabis packaging provides an incredible framework for seeing different ideas and inspirations come to life. It’s a cannabis collaboration with artists in its most newborn infancy and there’s a lot of exciting potential there. Beyond a billboard and a brand voice, packaging is a keeper of the quality, consistency and potency your customer deserves.
Even the most traditionally-minded, tech-averse entrepreneur accepts their success relies on providing customers with a superior online experience in 2023. Trying to succeed without a robust web presence is akin to running the 100-meter with your legs tied together.
On that note, the legal cannabis industry might have a leg up over other sectors in providing superior experiences online. After all, the legal cannabis market is relatively new, meaning no legacy systems require any rehauling. Still, many dispensaries must start their websites from scratch.
A website bolstered by an excellent user experience offers many benefits (e.g., branding and additional revenues), but ground-up projects are daunting. Fortunately, the insights below will make your web design process more manageable.
Design Your Website To Click With Your Customer Base.
The primary commodity of all dispensaries is the same. Yet, each dispensary is different. They all have unique branding, voices, and stories they’re trying to tell.
Moreover, every dispensary wants to provide customers with a brand-specific experience. There’s no one-size-fits-all dispensary website for the above reasons.
Even so, the following general best practices will be conducive to streamlined, successful dispensary website design. While every website designer or agency has their own process, this process has proven to be extremely effective for the dispensary clients we’ve helped:
Develop an outline and wireframe for the website’s structure and content:
A guiding principle during this process is to include the necessary pages and sections to optimize vital brand components and effectively promote products.
Other factors to consider are sections, features and calls to action.
Dispensary websites should contain educational content and resources.
Fluid, straightforward navigation should also be prioritized.
Move onto the front-end design:
Incorporate and harmonize multiple brand elements.
Identify aesthetically pleasing typographies and imagery.
Design each page outside of the content management system. This makes it easier to make changes and adjustments after the first draft has been completed.
Get feedback from relevant parties (e.g., clients, colleagues, management, or other stakeholders):
Transparency and open communication are paramount to this step.
This phase will ensure that all expectations for the new design are met while providing a platform for course correction as needed.
Use the feedback to create a foundational website framework:
Meet for a second feedback session before committing 100% to a web design framework.
Develop the website inside of your content management system of choice:
Now that the front-end design has been created, the website will be built out in the actual CMS platform, ex. WordPress.
Share every page with other relevant parties to maintain and foster the web design process’s fluidity.
By now, you should have a solid base for the website’s final form:
The stage involves fine-tuning as the launch date nears.
Also included at this point are the following:
Ancillary page development.
Dispensary menu integration.
Contact form designs.
Lead capture setup.
One last guiding principle in web design is to view your website through a user’s eyes. Continually assess how intuitive and convenient it is to navigate your site as a customer.
Optimize The Customer Experience With Seamless Navigation
Dispensaries benefit by guiding visitors to their website’s most important sections.
It’s an understandable oversight only to prioritize seamless navigation to the menu page. However, customers will be less inclined to order if they can’t access educational content to learn more about your products. Plus, they may want to visit your physical store, so they’ll wish to view your location information.
Furthermore, visitors sometimes need clarification about what they want from your website. Build their pathway with insightfully structured navigation systems with clear prompts, calls to action and an emphasis on the following:
Specifics about store and location
Where to find responses to FAQs
Lastly, be mindful of the mobile experience on your website. Your customers expect seamless navigation on their phones and tablets as much as on their laptops and desktops.
More people will visit and shop your menu on the mobile version of the website than the desktop version, so it needs to take priority in the design process.
Create an Intuitive Online Ordering Process
The ordering component of the customer experience is integral to receiving desirable returns on your online investment.
Of course, every visit counts and brands are happy to educate consumers. A steady, always-growing stream of eCommerce transactions paints a winning picture of your site’s navigation. More to the point, success with online orders means you’ve optimized the ordering experience.
Intuitive, easy-to-parse menu systems are a must when optimizing online ordering.
Ensure that your customers are one click away from their preferred menu and location (if you have multiple locations), regardless of where they are on your website. It’s even better if those pages can rank on Google based on local searches (e.g., Pennsylvania dispensary menu).
Online shoppers also respond well to search filters on your menus, such as:
Products with the highest or lowest THC levels
Products with the highest or lowest CBD levels
Specific strain types (i.e., Indica, Sativa and Hybrid)
Product types (e.g., flower, concentrate, oil or edible)
Build A Robust Resources/Information Section
Almost every branded website has a resource/information section. In some instances, it’s a blog. For other brands, it’ll be eBooks, guides, case studies, press releases, videos or news articles.
A resource/information section is uniquely vital to cannabis brands. Many prospective customers will be first-timers and require sure-handed wisdom to guide them through the experience. Also, many seasoned enthusiasts want to learn about the latest trends and the best new strains.
Furthermore, providing resources and information is a form of education. This “teacher” approach helps push back against stigmas by focusing on cannabis’s nuances and benefits.
Consider using a “pillar page” system to organize your informational content (e.g., blogs, videos, eBooks). Doing so will make it seamless for website visitors to learn about strains, terpenes, upcoming community events, consumption methods or information about local cannabis laws.
It helps to customize each pillar page with an icon and create an individual page for every post in a given category. This way, newly published content will automatically appear under its associated pillar page.
We understand the budgetary challenges many dispensaries face when getting off the ground. You can grow your budget by making decisions and taking educated risks that generate returns.
Your customers’ online experiences are a worthy investment. Nonetheless, are you investing wisely by building (or redesigning) your website in-house? After all, your team’s expertise is in cannabis sales (or cultivation). They’re smart enough to learn as they go, but would this trial-and-error web design process be efficient or ideal for your dispensary’s bottom line?
Conversely, working with a Consulting Group like MOST who specializes in dispensary website design can ensure your website generates the desired returns and results. Contact us today to learn more.
Like any industry, cannabis can experience ups and downs, especially when it comes to a doors-open retail business. Dispensaries that operate in towns or cities that attract tourists experience this more than anyone, seeing sales spike during the busy months and reach lows during the off-season.
We spoke with the folks at Dragon Hemp, a hemp retailer based in Sag Harbor in the Hamptons. As a brand that has first-hand experience with seasonal spikes, they were able to provide more context when it comes to anticipating the ebbs and flows of seasonal retail cannabis sales.
What is the Best Way to Prepare for Post-Busy Season Retail Lulls?
In Sag Harbor, Dragon Hemp awaits a spike during the busy summer months, as well as lulls when the tourist season is down and visitors head back to New York City and beyond, many becoming loyal online customers year-round.
According to Kevin Menard, LAc, founder of Dragon Hemp, the best way to prepare for post-busy season retail lulls is to build a community of loyal customers that take your brand home with them.
“Post-busy season lulls can be very useful in setting strategies and goals for the coming year. In our case, we do a thorough inventory review and align what we have with what we need for the upcoming peak season,” says Menard. “As the season winds down, they prepare for online orders that come from the impression left on customers in the store. “We also focus on cultivating our owned channels where we can have more direct communication with our community.”
Advice on Preparing for Busy Retail Seasons
Before the busy season is even over, it’s important to start preparing for the lull in business that’s bound to set in. For Kevin Menard and his business, preparation starts with inventory. So, what’s their secret? “Make sure you have budgeted for an inventory of your most popular items and hire excellent storytellers in both your retail locations and e-commerce marketing teams.”
Keeping an eye out on inventory management can be a great way to spend the slow months. Give brands a chance to monitor sales trends and keep up with changes in consumer preferences, putting more time and effort into online retail and social media and implementing promotions and sales online and in-person. Grow the team behind the brand, keep up with all new regulations and focus on customer loyalty to maintain trustworthiness even from afar.
Turning a Seasonal Customer Into a Lifetime E-Commerce Customer
In order to turn a seasonal customer into a life-long client, it’s important to connect beyond just the sale and product. For Dragon Hemp, the most important part is personalizing the experience for their customers: “For us, it’s all about achieving personalization with each customer,” says Menard. “Typically, a seasonal retail buyer will be opportunistic about their purchase in-store, but that purchase is indicative of a longer-term need. We try to create customer profiles based on in-store buyers and craft recommendations that fit that customer’s health needs over the long term.”
In order to turn a one-time buyer from out of state or city into a lifelong loyal customer, there are a few things to consider that can make this connection happen. First and foremost, building a relationship by maintaining impeccable customer service and personalizing the experience.
Focusing on online retail is also important in order to maintain the connection with clients. Making sure the website is in perfect shape and offer loyalty programs, incentives, promotions, sales, discounts or rewards to returning customers.
Marketing and publicity are other essentials, as you want to target those who have a long-time need that needs to be filled. Allowing for a fuss-free online shopping experience, targeting people who fall in line with the brand’s products and values, being creative and innovative when promoting the website and keeping in touch with active social media and newsletters.
How to Project Goals In Places That Swell Seasonally
It can be difficult to project year-on-year retail goals when the geographic location has a tendency to swell seasonally and have off-seasons but preparing and knowing what to expect can help with reaching those goals (and even surpassing them).
According to Menard, the secret to projecting their goals starts with their first location: “Since our first retail location in Sag Harbor, NY has been open only a year, our projections are still a work in progress! We’re using 2022 data to budget for this year, accounting for marketing efforts, increased awareness, and seasonality. We have some sensitivities built into this model based on different growth scenarios.”
The instabilities and fluctuations that come with a business that works on a seasonal tempo can be challenging when it comes to reaching and achieving specific goals, but there are things that can be done to make the whole process more seamless, and hopefully, more successful.
Looking back at previous years can be helpful in pinpointing tendencies and habits that can be observed in the consumer, and the lower sales allow space for the time that can be used in innovating and creating new products that are based on what the client base wants.
Researching not only the immediate region, but the regions that people often visit is another handy trick. Knowing who is coming, why they’re coming, and what they’re looking for can help set objectives that can be brought to reality throughout the off-season and the busy season, even experiencing more foot traffic in town. Moreover, making the most of the local events, occasions, changes and circumstances like holidays and local events can keep the brand connected to its roots and primary clients.
The off-season is a great time to set up a budget or specific monetary goals to reach, and off-season fluctuations can be added in to give a more complete idea of what the year might look like. Keeping an eye on the market by monitoring it and using forecasting models to predict results can also help set the stage for changes in the year-to-year goals.
Expanding From a Cannabis Retailer to a National E-Commerce Brand
Dragon Hemp didn’t start off with a bang, but they sure have achieved it over time. Dragon Hemp products were conceived by renowned alternative health practitioner and founder, Kevin Menard. Using hemp oil, Chinese herbs and native botanicals, they have managed to create a variety of beneficial and natural products.
“Our apothecary in Sag Harbor has been a great success, but the most rewarding aspect of the location has been the ability to have direct conversations with customers and get a deep understanding of how we can support their journey to better health,” says Menard. “We’re excited to expand our mission of helping people feel like themselves again by using next-generation natural botanicals and time-honored herbal remedies.”
As the country continues toward legal and accessible cannabis, new businesses are learning the ropes and those that have been there all along have been leading the way.
Having ups and downs in any business is to be expected, but just like any industry, knowing what to expect and what to do can make these challenges seem like less of a hassle. Building an online presence that clients connect to, developing e-commerce strategies, expanding product lines, building a loyal customer base and staying up-to-date with the latest regulations are surefire ways to stay on top of the cannabis business.
Remember those heady days of the Green Rush a decade ago, when markets were small and it seemed everyone had a chance? Now it’s more of a mad rush to get some green in the form of investment capital.
The majority of states in the country now have some type of legal cannabis market. Businesses in those states operate in spite of regulations that are restrictive, confusing and make it very difficult to make a profit. Meanwhile, heavy tax burdens, differences in enforcement techniques and varying degrees of oversight are other factors that influence bottom lines in the cannabis industry.
Inflation also continues to be a prominent force across world markets. Sales of cannabis products have fallen as consumers adjust to inflation and post-COVID supply chain issues that are causing higher prices on necessary staples like food and gas. An oversaturation of cannabis flower is becoming a perennial problem in some states and another factor causing industry distress.
When cash flow slows to a trickle, companies of all sizes seek out investment funding to keep their momentum. But catching the eye of an investor group requires more than just sticking your hand out.
What Attracts Potential Investors?
A company is best positioned to attract those interested in cannabis investment opportunities when it appears serious about its growth plans. That means being well positioned with a solid upper-management foundation and so much the better if there’s an advisory board in place too. A company built with a diverse group of talent—ideally from consumer packaged goods companies—presents an attractive opportunity for investors.
Top-quality and industry savvy finance employees who maintain sound financial books and establish a solid banking arrangement are also important. If the company’s financial scenario is robust enough to provide confidence in case of an audit and the books are in good shape with auditable METRC logs investors will be far more inclined to put money on the line.
A cannabis company with full inclusion (or seed to sale) is often a smart choice for investment. The vertical integration of cultivation, processing/manufacturing and retail allows them to sell their own products while also stocking other brands’ products on the floors of their dispensaries. If their products are respected and the brand is held in high regard, even better. Similarly, a cultivation enterprise that can grow crops for multiple brands can also be very attractive. The ability to pivot and adjust production to reflect the market and consumer demands indicates a strong business foundation.
Despite the current headwinds and saturated markets, other chances for growth exist. When a local municipality finally decides to “opt-in” to adult-use cannabis sales, there’s opportunity for both established brands and startups. It’s a matter of being ready for those opportunities and having a plan to leap in whenever new licenses become available.
What Businesses Will Struggle to Attract Investment?
Culture is key here. Poor employee relations and weak cohesion across departments are indicative of deeper problems. Do people actually want to work for the business? Do they feel supported by human resources? A company with underdeveloped or non-existent workers’ compensation policies and a management team that is not respected by its employees is not going to look good in the eyes of potential investors.
Non-diversified cannabis businesses are also at a major disadvantage when seeking investors. Cultivators of one type of product or service are locked into a single operation geared to do one thing. Any changes to market whims or problems with the supply chain can wreak havoc on a business based around a single product.
Stick to Business Basics
The cannabis industry is unique, but the basics of running a business well enough for success still apply. Strictly adhering to the traditional methods that any successful organization follows is extra important in cannabis. Businesses that are active in their community and make a real effort to be involved will be held in higher regard by investors. They want to see cannabis businesses that are not just setting up shop to make a quick buck, but are dedicated to bettering their community. That indicates a relationship with customers that involves mutual respect and promotes business longevity and financial stability.
Remedy currently has two locations, one in Baltimore and one in Columbia, Maryland. The first thing you notice at these dispensaries are the large parking areas. When you step inside, you’re greeted by an entrance that is less like a waiting room and more like a lounge.
Their massive open floor plans offer space for brands to have their own area, akin to branded counters in traditional department stores. Remedy has partnerships with big cannabis brands like Cookies, Curio Wellness, Holistic, Rhythm, Trulieve, Green Thumb Industries and others for this reason: to create the “store within a store” feel.
We met Mitch Trellis and Brandon Barksdale, co-CEOs of Remedy, in Las Vegas last year. After hearing about their ideas and vision for the future of cannabis retail, we followed up with them for an interview.
Cannabis Industry Journal: Give us some brief background on your company. How did Remedy get to where it is today?
Mitch Trellis: I have been a patient and consumer since 1994. I have always loved and respected the plant. I spent much of my career on Wall Street, but really I’ve been an entrepreneur most of my life. I started looking at the cannabis space for my next venture. 2014 was a very exciting time for cannabis with a lot of other states were coming online around that time. Colorado had legalized adult use and California had been going for a while. I was looking for an opportunity to jump into the space. Maryland wrote a very progressive law legalizing the plant for medical use, marking the first time on the East Coast where cannabis could be prescribed for pain.
I saw some real business opportunities there so I reach out to my business partner, Blaize Connelly-Duggan, whose family has a long history working with alternative medicine. We were both born and raised in Columbia, Maryland. About a year after coming up with the idea, we submitted an application for a fully vertical license. We did not win the growing or processing license, but we found out we had won a dispensary license.
We decided to move forward in late 2016. We opened in December of 2017 and we just had our five-year anniversary of operating a dispensary in the state of Maryland. We have seen over 30,000 individual patients and we’ve done around 45 million retail sales over that time. We are on a good pace right now with our two stores, each of which we call “superstores” with around 10,000 square feet of space. We have built some pretty interesting retail experiences, what we call our in-store ad network. We are a little different than other dispensaries; we’re not going for the Starbucks or corner store model.
Brandon Barksdale: I came from professional services. I was in a management consulting practice and a leader within our cannabis industry advisory group. We were working with clients on performance management, business improvement and organizational maturity that would help drive operational excellence within complex compliance and legislative landscapes.
The clients that I had spanned over a lot of different states, so I think a lot of my initial experience comes from California in 2015 and 2016. Outside of consultancy, I stepped into operations within a vertically-integrated cannabis operation in Colorado. From there I gained the full breadth of experience in understanding the business from cultivation to manufacturing to retail. We were also operating on both sides of the market, medical and adult use. This put me at a little bit of an advantage for new markets coming online, understanding the economics and how things would play out, you know, history repeats itself, just faster and faster.
I met Mitch and Blaze through a mutual acquaintance and we shared a lot of the same vision and thoughts for where the industry was heading locally in Maryland and nationally. Ultimately, I came on board in an advisory capacity and then joined the team full time.
CIJ: Tell us more about this Nordstrom business model. What brand partnerships are you developing and how is your idea different from the traditional dispensary?
Mitch: We have basically built a platform for the brand and vendors to interact with the patients and the customers. There is a big gap between the two and we operate as a conduit between the two. In that plan, we need to have spaces for each individual brand to interact with the consumer, which is why we have such large floor plans. Brands set up semi-permanent stores within our store, almost like pop ups. Right now, on our floor we have Trulieve, Holisitic, GTI, Curio, Cookies, Sunmed and 2 or 3 more coming. That’s the equivalent of the Sephora and Nike in Nordstrom.
We have a handful of our own brands we are working on bringing to the state of Maryland, which is kind of like those generic brands you see, like Nordstrom Rack or a 365 brand in Whole Foods. So, it is a more traditional retail model than what you might think of in the cannabis market.
People ask us, ‘well, what do you do differently?’ And really, we try not to do things differently. We try to do things like regular retail. At the end of the day, it’s about the experience, the price, the convenience, customer service, simple retail stuff.
Brandon: The differentiator that separates us from other dispensaries is that retail experience. On our floor, we have a massive amount of brand power coming from the strongest Maryland supplies and household brands entering Maryland from other thriving markets. From there, it’s really just about driving the patient and adult consumer experience, helping them come in and learn about brands, what makes them different, what drives their quality, price, etc. Ultimately it allows brands to present themselves the way they intended. That in itself is enough of a unique experience. Then it’s about execution. What we hope as we come into a new adult use market while we continue to support the medical market is that there will be a way for patients and consumers alike to learn about more products, wider brand selection and learn what best aligns with their values, their experience and the overall value proposition.
CIJ: With Maryland legalizing adult-use and the Virginia market expected to open soon, how do you expect your retail business will fare in the new, larger market?
Mitch: We have very large stores in incredible locations that are very well known with tons of parking and the ability to do tremendous volume. I think we are well prepared and our business is built for a larger volume scenario.
Brandon: I am personally very optimistic. Maryland is leading the way in the mid-Atlantic market. We will continue to steamroll forward. Different states and neighboring states will be coming online at some point in the future. That potentially advanced runway will really pull us apart. Our strategy around retail is about growth and operational excellence. We’ll continue to find opportunities to support that broader market vision as it comes into view. We’re constantly seeking how we can expand our market footprint. When I think about Maryland in general, it is a pretty unique market. I don’t think we have seen a newer market come online that was as unique as this region, wrapped around this gray market and other states operating in this limbo.
I think we’ll see an increase in cannabis comfortability with the adult population in Maryland. I also believe that and other unique factors will drive a huge jump in the number of consumers and patients in Maryland as we mature into adult-use. There are a significant number of government employees in Maryland. There are other unique sensitivities to cannabis that will also become normalized. As Maryland moves forward with the rollout of the adult use program, that’ll be something that starts to pull uncomfortable stigmas away which will be increasingly favorable to the market.
CIJ: What are you excited about for 2023? Any new or exciting plans you can share with our readers?
Mitch: We’re definitely watching all of our neighboring states and we’re keeping a close eye on our own state to see how everything shakes out. We will start our adult use sales in the state of Maryland very soon and we are moving forward in that direction. What do we look forward to? The beginning of adult use sales in Maryland. This is the start of our next big chapter and a culmination of a lot of work. 8 years later here we are.
Brandon: Maryland is next up. To Mitch’s point, that is where our main focus remains. We are constantly looking at opportunities within the state and nationally as well. I’d like to think of us as a market leader from a retail perspective. Our primary focus right now is how to capture a lot of the excitement in the Maryland market adult-use program, however, our eyes and ears are always open.
Jushi Holdings is a large multi-state operator with a massive national footprint and a presence in key markets, including Pennsylvania, Illinois, Virginia, Massachusetts, Nevada, Ohio and California.
About a year and a half ago, Aaron Green interviewed Andreas “Dre” Neumann, Chief Creative Director of Jushi Holdings to learn about his journey to the cannabis industry, Jushi’s market presence, brand development and key trends in the marketplace.
This time around, we’re checking in with Neumann to hear about his progress since the last time we spoke. In this interview, we delve deep into the world of creative influence, brand building, technology, what Neumann is working on now and what he is excited about in the future.
Cannabis Industry Journal: It’s been a while since our readers have heard from you. What’s new at Jushi? What Are you currently working on?
Dre Neumann: When I joined Jushi, we were building the foundation and laying the groundwork for a lot of the things we’re doing right now. One of them of course is our online pre-order platform. We have been focused on connecting all the dots in our vertically integrated markets to make sure our retail experience is really fine-tuned and represents what a diverse range of cannabis consumers find helpful and truly enjoy. In my time at Jushi, I have gained a much better understanding of the average cannabis consumer through constantly analyzing data from our retail spaces, and I very much look forward to analyzing more robust data that’s coming in through our new smartphone app.
The data we have now is allowing us to look at what product developments are most important for us to move forward with and what product categories we should be focusing most on. Because we may be on the cusp of a recession, the consumer value of our product is that much more crucial. With the introduction of new categories of fast-acting edibles and unique and exciting genetics and types of flower, we are paying close attention to how we can innovate in ways that will both excite our current customers and attract new customers to our brands.
Jushi is interesting because the company really came together from two key pieces: the first being our strong financial and management backbone, and the second, the powerful creative team that I am a part of. We have such a special focus on the quality of products, with the goal of creating high-quality and consistency across our house of brands.
We have had a lot of acquisitions, which have played out very successfully over time, but early on, through these acquisitions, we found there were products and procedures that weren’t up to our standards. It takes time to fix those things from a quality, genetics and consistency perspective, and I’m thrilled to say we’re really getting there. Notably, we felt the need to improve our edible fruit chew brand, and we poured a ton of time into reinventing and relaunching simple, but high-quality, organic, 100% real-fruit chews.
Now, we are really seeing the value in our three retail brands and the unique attributes of our branded flower, pre rolls, vapes and edibles. Also, we have been really focusing on improving sustainability as we move towards using much more sustainable, standardized mylar packaging across our product suite. This packaging not only reduces our carbon footprint, as mylar is a much more sustainable, recyclable and lightweight material, but also offers us more real estate to express Jushi’s personality through artwork on packaging and allows us to display our products with a larger presence in stores.
CIJ: You mentioned Jushi’s new app and you sound so excited about it. Tell us more: how are you using the data to analyze what your customers want?
Neumann: When we were building our online platform, we knew we needed to better understand our customers. What we found was that the most important marketing tools in cannabis are promos – specifically promos through text messaging. Our loyalty program has become our biggest channel to reach consumers, as we have over 200,000 people we can reach with a simple text message. The big problem with texting campaigns, however, is that mobile phone carriers can limit your deliverability if you don’t have the right verbiage and messaging. So working with and figuring out how to deliver the right message to our customers can be very challenging.
Our smartphone app, The Hello Club (THC), came about as a natural progression of our customer loyalty program. Our team has a lot of experience working in UX and UI, so we were able to dive right in and build the app through Apple. We really took our time to build something that would add value to our customer, and it’s paid off. For instance, starting out we launched an exclusive weekly deal only available in the app. So, guess what happens? Just yesterday, on the 15th of November alone, 11,000 people downloaded the app.
The app will be something that we play around and experiment with as more and more customers download it. It provides us with a platform to be creative and have fun with our customers, where we can launch exclusive events and strain drops and grant exclusive access to our products before they’re available to the general public.
The Hello Club was completely designed from scratch. It allows customers to choose their local, preferred store, with the ultimate goal of it becoming the central hub of their cannabis needs. The data we get from the app is so vast and there are so many opportunities on the horizon – we have only just scratched the surface. In the future, as we look to enter new markets, we’re excited to utilize the customer data from our app to guide us in deciding what to sell and where and create unique retail experiences tailored to each market. As we’re just in version 1.0, there’s tons of untapped potential ready to be unearthed and applied.
CIJ: Around this time last year you said that PA was the most important market for y’all. Tell me about the states that Jushi does business in. Are you paying particular attention to any market more now given the midterm elections?
Neumann: Yes, so Pennsylvania is still our most important market today, mainly because we have so many retail locations in the state (18). Pennsylvania is interesting because it’s also the site of Jushi’s first acquisition ever. I think the inevitable move from medical to recreational in the state will be extremely significant; it will be one of the greatest transitions in cannabis history. Because of our footprint and brand presence in Pennsylvania, we are in an excellent position for when adult use comes online.
We call Virginia the sleeping giant because it’s a market we have really cornered. We will have six stores in northern Virginia, close to Washington D.C., in areas with large populations, very diverse demographics and a lot of young people. Our retail locations in the state are freestanding buildings with ample parking – key attributes that benefit customers and lift sales, as we found from the data we collected in Pennsylvania. Virginia has incredible potential because we have made such a formidable early presence with our vertically integrated, IKEA-sized grow operation there. We have applied our findings from other states to Virginia, and we’re thrilled about the opportunity for us to showcase high-quality products in this market.
California is such a tough market to be in, as it’s the most competitive cannabis market in the world, with some of the most discerning customers, so operators often fear entering the market. But it’s proven to be great for R&D for us, and we continue to learn how to navigate and work in this competitive market through our Palm Springs, Grover Beach and Santa Barbara retail locations. By necessity, we’ve been particularly creative with our marketing and operational strategies to carve a place in the market; we have to show people we have better products and a better experience, which is very difficult with stringent regulations in places like Palm Springs. So California, for us, continues to be a proving ground where we are learning how to be as competitive as possible, and this benefits Jushi as a whole.
As the cannabis industry grows and the category becomes increasingly crowded, package design is more important than ever. Impactful and meaningful branding is key to getting noticed, differentiating from the competition, connecting with consumers and ultimately making the sale. Today’s cannabis labels are more varied than ever before. They can be fun or luxurious, contemporary or retro, colorful or simplistic. Many brands are moving beyond traditional cannabis leaves to more unique, modern, and unexpected interpretations of cannabis plants. Others are forgoing leaf imagery altogether in favor of more evocative graphics, minimal design or mainstream motifs.
While there is no one-size-fits-all design for cannabis packaging, there are many regulatory requirements and branding best practices to consider. We’ve outlined some critical things to keep in mind before starting your cannabis package design.
Know Your Target Audience
There are a variety of cannabis users, each with unique needs, interests and attitudes. Understanding who you’re targeting is essential in determining the appropriate brand design strategy. Graphics for millennials will look different than those for baby boomers. But demographics aren’t the only thing to consider when identifying your target consumer. Euromonitor International has identified several lifestyle and personality-driven consumers segments:
Seasoned Consumer – consistent, daily consumer who defies stereotypes and often consider themselves connoisseurs.
Casual Social – regular but not daily consumer who uses cannabis as part of their broader lifestyle.
Dabbler – occasional user who is familiar and comfortable with cannabis but unlikely to use it regularly.
Cannacurious – consumer who is interested in cannabis and demonstrates an openness to using it.
Understanding the motivations of various consumer groups and looking beyond stereotypes or traditional age- and gender-driven demographics can help reach consumers in a more targeted, authentic, and compelling way.
Have a Unique Brand Personality
Design often provides the first impression for a brand, especially in the cannabis category. The first step in developing a winning package design is to determine the best design strategy to differentiate from the competition, communicate your brand story and connect with consumers. Start by thinking about what personality fits your brand, what kind of experience you want to create and what emotions you want to evoke. Do you want to feel healthy and medicinal? Earthy and natural? Sophisticated? Whimsical? Each personality inspires different design solutions. The designers at Studio One Eleven, the Design & Innovation Division of Berlin Packaging, begin each branding project by developing design platform boards that showcase different ways to communicate the brand personality through design, including color, typography, imagery, and more. These platform boards are a great tool to gain alignment on the most effective and appropriate design strategy before digging into tactical design approaches. They can also help guide brand design across other touchpoints, including digital, social media, and advertising.
Understand Regulatory Requirements
Packaging in the cannabis and CBD industries is heavily regulated. In addition to attracting consumers, your package must comply with local, state and federal regulations. Some states mandate that cannabis packaging can’t appeal to children – so no cartoon images or graphics that resemble familiar candy brands. The FDA prohibits cannabis products from making health-related claims, so it is essential to carefully assess the language used on packaging. Vital information such as ingredients, warnings, health risks, impairment of abilities, proper dosage, batch number and more must be included on cannabis labels.
These are just a few of the package design requirements to consider. Regulations can vary from state to state, so finding a packaging partner who understands the complex and constantly change rules is critical. Berlin Packaging has been a trusted resource for cannabis packaging since 2014. We are uniquely positioned to help cannabis and CBD companies of all sizes in the fast-paced, ever-changing cannabis industry.
Consider All Aspects of Your Package
Beyond graphics, tactile elements can be important to the overall brand design experience. Label material, thickness and texture, embossing and foil stamping, and die-cuts can create a premium impression and add visual interest. Structural design can also help differentiate from the competition and create an elevated user experience. How a package opens and closes, dispenses and doses, and protects and preserves the product inside are all essential considerations. Berlin Packaging has a vast network of manufacturers with hundreds of stock bottles, tins, jars, tubes and closures in a variety of shapes, sizes and materials to choose from, as well as custom solutions available through Studio One Eleven.
Understanding your target consumer, identifying and communicating a unique brand personality, complying with all regulatory requirements and taking a holistic approach will lead to impactful packaging that wins with consumers and grows your business.
Cannabis has been used to treat symptoms of cancer and chemotherapy including severe and chronic pain, nausea and vomiting. Many athletes also turn to cannabis for pain relief, incorporating cannabis into their pre- and post-workout routines. Though many states have legalized cannabis for medicinal and recreational purposes, stigma still exists – even in legalized markets.
MSOs and brands will often employ a brand ambassador to help combat local stigma and gain traction within new markets. Trulieve, America’s largest cannabis multi-state operator with over 160 storefront locations, recently launched Momenta, an everyday wellness and overall well-being brand, in Massachusetts.
We interviewed Ethan Zohn, Brand Ambassador for Momenta, to learn more about his pathway to becoming a brand ambassador and how he incorporates cannabis into his running routines. Ethan is a former professional soccer player, Survivor: Africa winner, and two-time cancer survivor. Ethan is an active runner and incorporated cannabis into his training for the 2022 Boston Marathon. The interview was conducted on April 14, 2022.
Aaron Green: Ethan, tell me, how did you get involved in the cannabis industry?
Ethan Zohn: My entry into the cannabis industry was through cancer, unfortunately. I rarely smoked marijuana growing up and later became a professional soccer player, so cannabis just wasn’t part of my daily life.
After being diagnosed with a rare form of blood cancer in 2009, I found a lot of research on the benefits of cannabis mitigating the side effects of chemotherapy. At the time, I was being treated at Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York, where medical marijuana was not legal yet. This meant that none of my doctors could discuss incorporating cannabis into my treatment plan.
Having to resort to illegal methods just to obtain medicine was a horrible experience. At that time, I was very interested in changing minds and educating people about the benefits of cannabis, but it didn’t go particularly well. After initially having positive results from chemotherapy, I relapsed and had to go through it all over again.
That’s when I really leaned into cannabis and CBD. It just became a part of my daily routine and part of my wellness journey. So, that’s where I am now, leading into my partnership with Trulieve and Momenta.
Green: We don’t often hear the story of how a brand ambassador comes to be. How did you link up with Momenta?
Zohn: I was a keynote speaker at Boston Cannabis Week, and Trulieve was also attending the conference. I was already familiar with the brand based on their medical footprint in Florida and introduced myself to the team. During our conversation, I learned they were opening a new dispensary in Framingham, Massachusetts.
As I learned more about Trulieve, I grew to really love their passion and focus on research, patient education and providing quality products. From my experiences in the cannabis world, I just wasn’t seeing much of that. Trulieve was coming at it from a medical perspective, and that aligned more with where I stood. So, I pitched them this crazy idea, “Hey, why don’t I run the Boston Marathon on Momenta products?” From there, it took off as a campaign that included product launches, charity initiatives and even some celebrity support. I think it was a perfect combination of everyone coming together, and we’re all winning in this situation. I’m also running for Active Against Cancer because I support their mission to make exercise an integral part of cancer treatment.
Green: So, you had the sports background prior to cancer and then several years of treatment. What got you back into running?
Zohn: When I was diagnosed, I was training for the New York City Marathon and ended up not being able to run. Cooped up in my hospital room, I’d look out the window and I noticed people were just running up and down First Avenue. I said to myself, “Oh my God. If I get out of this thing alive, I’m going to run. I’m going to put on a pair of shoes. I’m going to break out of this cell and I’m going to just run the streets -and run with freedom.”
That’s when I really started running marathons. I ran my first marathon nine months after my first stem cell transplant. The second marathon was while I underwent chemotherapy. Eleven months after my second stem cell transplant, I ran in the 2013 Boston Marathon, which was the year of the bombing. Amidst that tragedy, I was celebrating one year in remission.
I’ve always measured my health and wellness based on how I felt while running. It might sound weird, but I know I’m in good shape if I can run a mile in seven minutes. If it takes me 10 minutes, I need to work out a little bit more. Measuring my life in terms of fitness has always made sense.
It’s a goal of mine to use sports as a platform to educate others on healthy lifestyles. I have a charity called Grassroots Soccer, where we use soccer to teach life lessons to kids. I’ve also worked with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in training for triathlons to raise cancer awareness.
There are still many people out there who think of cannabis as an illicit or gateway drug, and I feel a responsibility to challenge those dated stigmas. I feel fortunate to work with Trulieve and educate people on how cannabis can be integrated into anyone’s daily lifestyle as part of their wellness journey. Cannabis has so many applications in my own life and has helped with my insomnia, pain and anxiety. I’m hopeful that my advocacy work around this plant will help other people who are just as invested in their mental and physical health to find relief in more natural ways.
Green: What does your running regimen look like with cannabis and how did you develop that?
Zohn: Before, I always kept sports and cannabis separate. Integrating cannabis into my running routine was a slow process, and I still don’t take any high-dose products when I’m running. Before each race, I take a five-milligram Momenta capsule and take another dose around the hour and thirty minute mark.
People talk about athletes getting into the zone, and I feel like cannabis gets me into the zone quicker. I can lock in and stay laser-focused. Cannabis also plays a huge role in my recovery regimen. I like to use Momenta’s THC-infused creams and cooling gels that come in a variety of cannabinoid ratios.
Green: What makes Momenta products unique?
Zohn: Momenta is a great entry point for anyone looking to incorporate cannabis into their exercise routine or wellness journey. Trulieve started as a medical brand and its products reflect the company’s ongoing commitment to research and quality. I also tend to seek out consistent products, especially when I’m exercising. In my own experience, a gummy will sometimes be too potent, and other times I don’t feel anything. Momenta products, on the other hand, deliver the same experiences every time. I don’t want any surprises on race day or when I’m getting into a workout.
Green: What’s next for Momenta?
Zohn: Momenta recently launched in Massachusetts at three of Trulieve’s locations but I’m confident that it will quickly become a local favorite. The wellness brand is also available in Florida and West Virginia, and I can see Momenta gaining traction among other medical patients interested in supporting their holistic health. I’m excited to watch Momenta grow into a recognizable national brand as Trulieve continues to increase its retail footprint across the country.
Green: Final question: what in cannabis or in your personal life are you most interested in learning about?
Zohn: There needs to be more research on cannabis and how cannabinoids and terpenes impact the body from a health perspective. Federal legalization will be a gamechanger on the research front, and I hope more members of the medical community will study cannabis’ applications for different health concerns. I’m a cancer survivor. My nephew is autistic. I think there’s a lot more exciting research to come.
It’s refreshing to look at cannabis as a new industry growing from the ground up. Whether it’s branding, marketing or technology, people are trying to figure this all out! A lot of what I do influences how cannabis is perceived in society. How can we use cannabis to share messages and draw awareness to what’s happening in the world and the environment? I love seeing cannabis play a role in social issues.
I’m also interested in developing more constructive ways to educate and deter teens from using cannabis. I currently volunteer for the Safe Roots Foundation, which raises money from the cannabis industry and invests those resources into evidence-based teenage drug prevention programs. The industry plays an important role in reducing substance use among minors, and I’m proud to be a part of a movement that educates the youth on safe cannabis use while arming adults with accurate information.
Green: Okay, great thanks Ethan. That concludes the interview.
The cannabis retail market is very unique. What began as compassion clubs and wellness centers in the early days of legal cannabis, eventually morphed into dispensaries, quickly becoming the retail model that regulators around the country adopted and businesses implemented.
For most states with legal cannabis markets, the dispensary has been the only way for consumers to buy cannabis and cannabis products. Before the pandemic began, we started seeing a handful of states warm up to allowing delivery services. During the height of the pandemic, more states adopted curbside pickup, e-commerce in some shape or form and delivery services that finally expanded cannabis retail beyond the dispensary. Still though, regulations hamper commercial growth in the retail space and the dispensary remains, by far, the place where most people buy their cannabis.
When Jack Roosevelt, co-founder of LucidaClub, entered a dispensary back in 2019 in Massachusetts, he shared an experience all too common in the cannabis industry: An overwhelming number of options, jargon like sativa, indica and strain names that make no sense to the uninitiated, confusing product types and an all-around unpleasant shopping experience. Jack saw all those barriers to entry for the canna-curious or novice consumer and thought that there must be a better way to shop for cannabis.
So he started LucidaClub, a membership-based platform that is designed to guide and educate consumers with the advice of experts who can help people understand cannabis products and make the right purchase decision without all of the frustration and trial and error that is so common.
The name, Lucida, comes from a Latin phrase meaning the brightest star in a constellation. Jack and his co-founder, Lucinda, want their company to be the guiding star on your cannabis journey. LucidaClub isn’t just for the cannabis newbie; their in-house curator and team of experts can help any cannabis consumer find products to better fit their needs for sleep, wellness, relaxation, stress or just to have a good time. We sat down with Jack to chat about the cannabis retail market, what his company is all about and what the future of cannabis retail might look like.Jack Roosevelt will be speaking on the cannabis retail experience at the Cannabis Quality Conference & Expo. Click here to learn more.
Cannabis Industry Journal: Tell us about your background and how you came to the cannabis space.
Jack Roosevelt: I began my career in finance, working for JP Morgan and Barclays. I left Barclays and joined a renewable energy start up before eventually joining the cannabis space.
My move into the cannabis space was due to an event in the summer of 2019. Adult use cannabis had been legal in Massachusetts since November of 2018. Now, I smoked some weed in high school and college, but hadn’t touched it in at least 20 years. However, cannabis was now legal, so I said maybe there’s an opportunity to find something that would help me unwind at the end of the day, help with sleep and manage some of my stress.
Knowing that I smoked in high school and college, I figured that buying weed was buying weed. How difficult could this be? That took me to going to a dispensary for the first time. Walking through those doors made me realize that buying cannabis today is nothing like buying weed back when I was in college. It’s a fundamentally different experience.
I stood there looking at the menu of strains, with names that meant nothing to me, jargon like terpenes, and even the idea of sativa versus indica at that time was foreign to me. Twenty years ago, we didn’t pay attention to the strain name or anything like that. We’d walk into someone’s dorm room and your option would be ‘this is twenty bucks an eighth, forty bucks an eighth and sixty bucks an eighth.’ You weren’t paying attention to the strain or the name of anything like that.
Coming into the dispensary that day, I thought I’d walk out of there with an eighth of flower and something to help me unwind at the end of the day. I walked out of there with a tincture and it really wasn’t because they upsold me to a better product, it was because it was the least worst option I could see on the menu. It was something I felt that I could understand from a dosing standpoint and it was something that didn’t require knowing the strains or names that mean nothing to me. I was quite frankly looking for the easiest way to purchase something and get out of there as quickly as possible
Sitting in the car afterwards, I was mulling over that experience, the feeling of intimidation, how awkward it was, how frustrating it was. I am 6’8” and 300 pounds I am not a small guy, and I’m not a wallflower. I don’t intimidate easily, so if this was my experience, what was this going to be like for everyone else?
That made me reexamine and take a stronger look at the retail market and the potential growth. How do you engage the consumer like me, for whom there are lots of barriers to entry, most of which are perception-driven. Some of the barriers are regulatory and geographic, but most are perception based. Here in Massachusetts, a lot of the dispensaries are in inconvenient locations. Not all towns allow for rec sales, and not all of those towns that do will allow a dispensary to open on the High Street, so consumers often times have to drive out of their way to get to a dispensary.
So, for me understanding what this new consumer base would look like and how they would come into the market was key. Obviously there would be a natural growth progression for the cannabis market. However, if we could build something to help guide people, answer their questions and make them feel comfortable with what they were buying and how to consume, really hold their hand in the initial stage of a consumer coming back into the market or coming in for the first time, then we could help grow the market quicker and put that natural progression of growth on a faster track.
That experience made me start to do some market research, look at the market size, and what that potential market could look like. Our research shows that, depending on the maturity of the market in question, there are between 1.5 and 4 times the number of Cannacurious sitting on the sidelines than there are active consumers in a market. Here in MA, conservatively there are at least 1.5MM Cannacurious sitting on the sidelines, waiting to come into the market. Because our research showed such a large opportunity he in MA and the Northeast, where we live, we decided to focus our efforts here.. Because we are Cannacurious consumers ourselves, we have a natural understanding and empathy for the consumer. I was definitely not and still am not an expert on cannabis. But if we can find the right experts that can answer the questions that we have then we can do the same for the Cannacurious. For 70+ years, we’ve been told that cannabis is bad, smoking weed is bad and everything associated with it is bad. So, we want to break that negative perception, that stigma that is still lingering and open it up to a more mainstream consumer.
CIJ: What gave you the idea to start Lucida Club?
Jack: What I just told you sums it up pretty well. It was basically built out of personal frustration. I thought that if I had this problem, those feelings of intimidation, awkwardness and frustration, then undoubtedly a lot of other people would too. Therefore, we’re looking at how we can create a platform that would make the buying process as simple and convenient as possible, while educating the consumers at the same time.
CIJ: How does Lucida Club work?
Jack: It’s a concept of simplicity and convenience. There are two sides to this: The E-commerce side, when you sign up and become a member and you want to make a purchase, all you have to do is answer three questions: What experience do you want? Do you want to smoke something or not? And how much money what do you want to spend? We put together three experience packages with three key price points, around $100, around $150 and around $250.
It is based on available inventory, which products and price points match up with different packages. We have fully integrated with Flowhub and are doing the same thing with some other POS systems as well. We see the inventory for our retail partners on a live basis. When one of our members makes a purchase, if they choose the sleep, nonsmoking, $100 package and put that option in their cart, by the time it populates in their cart, our platform has already gone to the dispensary inventory, we’ve allocated their inventory by experience and by order preference. So it will put those top two or three or four items in the cart automatically. The consumer doesn’t have to worry about what brands are available.
We’ve done all the work for them. They just need to pay attention to what experience and price point they want and we take care of the rest.
The other side of our business involves our head curator who combs through all the inventories and manages the product selection. But he also works with with our members as a concierge. When you sign up for our service, you automatically get a free consultation with our head curator, which we encourage all of our members to do before they make their first purchase. That way, we can answer all your questions and make sure the package is really tailored towards you individually. You also get a follow up consultation, which helps to guide additional advice and make sure you get the experience you’re looking for. On top of that, we’re also trying to advance consumer education through a lot of content, answering common questions and help to guide consumers on their journey with cannabis and the role it can play in their lives.
CIJ: How do you think you are innovating the cannabis retail experience?
Jack: When I was sitting in the car that fateful day back in 2019, I looked at retail the same way everyone else does: you build a store, an e-commerce platform, you have a product you’re trying to sell and focus on the product itself. What opened my eyes being the consumer that day was that cannabis unique.
We’ve been told for decades about how bad cannabis is for us and for society and these negative connotations have been drilled in to us. We need to look at the retail space from the consumer’s perspective and the barriers to entry that they feel. It’s not something that a regular retailer can do easily.
By definition, a brick-and-mortar retailer, needs to be everything to everybody, for all of their customers. They have to work with the connoisseurs, the regulars that have been consuming for a long time, who really understand what they’re looking for. At the same time, they need to engage with the canna-curious, the newbie that’s walking in the door for the first time. It’s difficult to focus on one market segment for them. If they were to focus all of their efforts on just the canna-curious, they would be missing out and losing traction and not engaging properly with their other customer bases.
We have the ability to engage with a very specific market segment, the Cannacurious, which is a very large group of people by the numbers but still niche. Our research shows that there are at least 1.5 million Cannacurious in Massachusetts alone that are either sitting on the sidelines or engaging in the market in a very small way. We’ve spoken to a lot of people that have other people make purchases for them, their sister or brother going to a dispensary that feels comfortable picking up a single package of edibles for them. That’s a form of hand holding that we want to provide. We want to make consumers feel comfortable and educate them on how they can choose products for the experience they want.
In my mind when we look at the cannabis space, it’s about how we can help people come into the marketplace, how we can help open their eyes to a litany of other opportunities for them and also how to approach things from a consumer perspective.
CIJ: What do you think the future of retail in cannabis looks like?
Jack: That’s a tough question because so much of that is driven form a regulatory standpoint. I know where I think it would go if regulators were just there to make it easy for consumers and for everyone to do business. It changes so much state to state and market to market. In retail in general, so much is moving online and on to e-commerce. Where you have a situation where people actually understand what they want and they tend to buy the same products on a regular basis, e-commerce is great and easy for them to make a purchase. Delivery opens a lot of doors as well with that. But again, it’s really difficult to look at what is going to happen because the market is so fragmented from a regulatory standpoint.
It won’t develop in one direction easily. Delivery is an option but we don’t have it on a mass scale in Massachusetts. It’s the same with e-commerce. Technically in Massachusetts, purchasing online is not an easy thing to facilitate. It still has to be done at the point of sale in-person with pickup and it hampers e-commerce. This potentially slows down how the market could develop. I definitely know where it could go, but looking into that magic eight ball will still be very cloudy if you ask it for an answer. Sorry, I have to obfuscate things a little there because it’s just so hard to figure out what the regulators will greenlight next and where they want the market to go.
We really just don’t know. There are so many ways to look at that question. If you’re a brick-and-mortar dispensary right now and you’re looking at how the market itself is growing in the state of Massachusetts, it’s tough to say. We went from about sixty licensed retailers during the height of the pandemic to well over 200 now. There’s going to be some consolidation. Whether that means that the growth of MSOs will proliferate and everything will be homogenized going forward, I don’t know what that could mean because at the moment it’s very difficult to have that full homogenization when you’re only allowed to have a handful of retail licenses. How do any of the MSOs gain real traction with three locations? If that changes, if you go somewhere like Florida where the rules are different, you see the true growth of the MSO with dozens of retail locations. Here, we still have a lot of mom-and-pop retailers along with a lot of much smaller MSOs who might have locations in one or two other states.
E-commerce will bring a lot to the market and help brands grow significantly. How we grow depends almost entirely on what the regulatory environment looks like. There are so many different things we could do with our platform, but we are so hampered by the regulations in just this one market alone. We built our platform and business model the way we did because it allows us to be flexible and adapt. As we move into a new market, we can build relationships and new markets open up. It’s all about being flexible if you can be.
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