More than 40 international companies applied to address the assembled investors and industry experts at Benzinga's Cannabis Capital Conference April 17-18, from major industry players to rapidly growing startups looking to scale to new markets. The following are some of the highlights from presenters at the conference in Toronto.
Pure Global Cannabis
Pure Global Cannabis Inc. (OTC: PRCNF) is a vertically integrated cannabis company with a goal of becoming the most trusted LP in the medical channel. The company aims to do this by focusing on four main pillars, but also by learning from the past, said CEO and President Maylay Panchal.
"We like to call ourselves the next generation of cannabis companies," he said. "We have the advantage of learning from the mistakes of our predecessors."
The four pillars Panchal outlined are manufacturing, medical, consumer and export.
Pure Global is expanding its cultivation capacity while also preparing consumer extracts and other products tailored to targeted market segments.
In the medical segment, Pure Global has developed a B2C patient licensing platform that, through partnerships, has accrued a patient database of more than 100,000.
Speaking to the "global" part of Pure Global Cannabis, Panchal said the U.S. is the company's primary expansion target. Pure Global is also looking to establish routes to market in Germany and the U.K. and is in talks with Chinese hemp cultivators for the Asia-Pacific CBD market, the CEO said.
What does it mean to be the world's strongest cannabis brand? Plus Products Inc. (OTC: PLPRF) CEO Jake Heimark said it's a matter of the customers your product reaches — not the number of store shelves on which it sits.
Pure, which started out of Heimark's family garage, has grown to become the most popular edible brand in California, the largest cannabis market in the U.S. All four of PLUS' products were among the top 10 products sold in stores through the fourth quarter, according to the company.
This is where brand strength comes into play. According to the company's own client research, 70 percent of PLUS customers had bought before, while a full 50 percent had purchased at least twice before.
For the future, PLUS plans on expanding its edible product line by growing the already launched mint market, along with a baked goods line stemming from its recent acquisition of Good Brands. Beyond that, Heimark said PLUS will continue doing what has made it successful.
"We make really good products," he said. "We make them with love and we make them with care."
While finding success with disruption and new ideas is a compelling story, the truth of entrepreneurship is that success is often found by applying good ideas to new and underserved markets.
That's the approach being taken by VerdeMed, which aims to take what's worked in cannabis markets and apply it to a largely untapped Latin American market.
"We are not innovators; we do not intend to reinvent the wheel," said VerdeMed President and CEO Jose Bacellar. "We are going to use whatever technology is the best and to deploy it to Latin American countries."
Although headquartered in Toronto, many of VerdeMed's operations are located in Sao Paulo, Brazil, whereh they are fully licensed provider; Cali, Columbia; and Santiago, Chile.
VerdeMed's advantage in the coveted Latin American market is that the company understands the regulatory and cultural characteristics unique to each country and is prepared with solutions for each, the CEO said.
"Our model is matching each product to each country and doing what is legal and possible now."
The name of the game in cannabis right now is scaling, and it's a front-of-mind matter for Canadian LP Zenabis Global Inc. (OTC: ZBISF).
Now operating with more than 660,000 square feet of indoor cultivation and 2.1 million square feet of greenhouse space, Zenabis is notching just over 10,000 kilograms of licensed cultivation per year.
CEO Andrew Grieve laid out how those operations are already set to expand this year with the addition of new cultivation locations that, by the end of 2019, will increase the company's annual cultivation capacity more than tenfold to 131,000 kilos.
In addition to the company's two product lines, Zenabis is in the process of launching a high-THC content line, Blazery, and is looking to enter into the edible and beverage markets in coming months, Grieve said. The company is also beginning to use its facilities to manufacture products for partners and smaller LPs.
"It’s a fantastic approach that will allow more partners to have their products being produced at a licensed facility and get onto store shelves."
Cannabis is a commodity.
That's the assessment of Vinzan International, said CFO Donald Stewart, So why is it not treated as a commodity?
"Government regulations and trade restrictions have made it unfit for global trade," said Stewart. "But the real reason is, there is no reason."
That's why Vinzan is looking ahead and preparing for the imminent time when he said cannabis will be a global product on par with, and in some cases exceeding, sugar, coffee and oil.
Vinzan is doing this by enacting 150-year-old best practices of the global commodity trade to streamline the supply chain, ensure quality and maintain competitive pricing, the CFO said.
This includes establishing relationships with contract farmers in low-cost, high-capacity agricultural areas where cultivation is legal and from where exports can easily be made to larger markets. Vinzan is already building cannabis and hemp cultivation and processing facilities in Colombia and Laos, with plans to expand into Thailand.
Harvest One Cannabis
Because of the global research blackout of the past 30 years, the medicinal application of CBD and THC is only being discovered now, and that has resulted in a crush of similar companies selling products that purport to do similar things.
Harvest One Cannabis Inc. (OTC: HRVOF) is looking to change that.
“Everything we’re doing is about highlighting why we are different,” said CEO Grant Froese.
Harvest One gained its market through its Health Canada- and FDA-approved Dream Water product line, natural sleep aids that available in over 30,000 outlets. It is now preparing to launch a new line of CBD Gelpell capsules branded Satipharm that areaimed at enhancing overall well being.
"At the end of the day, consumers are going to have the choice, and they’re going to choose the products that work, and we believe Dream Water and Satipharm will deliver that," Froese said.
Due to packaging and marketing restrictions, brand building is quickly becoming one of the biggest challenges facing most cannabis companies. That's one issue High Times has covered, as it's arguably the only global cannabis brand in existence today.
"We built that brand using the medium and the magazine and the centerfolds that we’re all known for," said High Times Executive Chairman Adam Levine. "We were able to get the branding and the trademarks because we weren’t a cannabis brand."
And while most people probably know it from the long-running magazine, High Times has evolved substantially in the new environment of legalization to include everything from new media initiatives to international events to licensing its name to cannabis products. The company is gearing up for a Reg A+ IPO, Levine said.
All of it is built on the back of the legacy and unique dedication of the more than 40-year-old magazine.
"We have information on THC potency that goes back 20 years, and we are one of the only companies with access to this kind of data because of our history," Levine said.
Harvest One Cannabis CEO Grant Froese speaks at the Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference on Thursday in Toronto. Photo by Juil Yoon.
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