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Why Curaleaf is focused on the U.S.: Executive Chairman

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Boris Jordan, Curaleaf Executive Chairman joins the Yahoo Finance Live panel to discuss Curaleaf's cannabis legalization in the U.S. and their THC-infused beverage focus.

Video Transcript

ZACK GUZMAN: Welcome back to Yahoo Finance's Business of Cannabis special. We opened the program here today on 4/20 with the focus on Canadian operator, Canopy Growth, which is fitting for the way the sector has evolved. But now, some of the US companies are quickly growing beyond those levels. And one of them, Curaleaf, based in Massachusetts, has a footprint now in 23 states. And it's quickly growing.

In an interesting twist, though, it invested across the pond, taking a shot at international growth. But paying $286 million in a deal to acquire European cannabis company [INAUDIBLE] Life Sciences not too long ago. And for more on how that acquisition plays into Curaleaf's strategy to keep building both abroad and here in the US, happy to welcome back Curaleaf's executive chair Boris Jordan with us today.

Boris, good to be chatting with you. The last time we talked before that deal was interesting because it sounded like a lot of the investment on the part of Curaleaf was going to be going into some of your projects here in the US. So I was interested to see that move across the pond. But talk to me about why you did it and what you see for growth maybe over there in Europe.

BORIS JORDAN: Well, listen, Zack, it's great to be here. Our focus still remains the United States. That's the primary market. You're going to see more moves by Curaleaf in the US market. You'll also see really dramatic growth this year. I think the markets will be very surprised by second, third, fourth quarters this year for Curaleaf. We're really starting to hit our stride. The European acquisition was something focused on the fact that an opportunity came up to get an eight-country footprint in Europe in advance of what we think will be a pretty dramatic liberalization in Europe. And we want to make sure we can get in cheap.

And, you know, like what we did over the last five years in the United States, where we were buying assets and being criticized for it four or five years ago, you know, we paid a fraction of what everyone else is paying now. People are paying $35 million a store in Arizona, $25 in Illinois, $30 in Pennsylvania. We paid $2 to $3 to $5 million a store in all those markets three to four years ago. And I think that that's really coming to fruition now in terms of where we're going. And I think that that was the reasoning behind the move into Europe. We think Europe is going to be liberalizing. And we're very excited about being in that market early.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, footprint's important. As I said, your US footprint among the largest that we see. And obviously, your lead in New York and New Jersey, we talk about kind of the medicinal side and what that might do to spring the retail side, which is up and running in these states. Talk to me about how Curaleaf might have a lead there and what your investment plans look like in those states.

BORIS JORDAN: Listen, Curaleaf historically has really been the dominant player on the East Coast. We have number one market share in almost every single market we operate, New York and New Jersey being no different. New Jersey, we have a 30% market share, down from 40%, with some of the new players that have arrived. And the New York, I think we probably have almost a 40% to 45% market share at this point. It's difficult to determine. But almost everybody sells our product through their stores, including our competitors.

And so we feel very good about these two markets. I think if you remember back in November, I said that I thought with New Jersey approving adult use, that I thought it would be a domino effect for the East Coast. And I think it's happened faster than we even thought. New York has now passed legislation and signed it by the governor. We expect the same thing to happen in the summer in Connecticut and we think sometime next year in Pennsylvania and probably in 2022, end of '22 in Florida. So we really see an acceleration on the East Coast of adult use proliferation. And we think that that will continue. And our-- we have very, very strong positions in all of those markets. And so, we're very excited about it.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, it also seems like it's pulling forward a lot of plans here when it comes to other form factors. You and I discussed before an emphasis on beverages. Select Squeeze, the name of the one you guys are going with in terms of the launch there across 12 states. Talk to me about what maybe this moving faster than you and a lot of people expected means for maybe those product launches and what it's going to take to get those off the ground, running at a scale you want to see.

BORIS JORDAN: Listen, we're very excited about the Squeeze launch. We cannot hold that product on the shelves. We sold out within days around the country. I think we're now close to, as of today, I think we're in 15 states now. We'll be in 17 by the end of the month with Squeeze. And our biggest problem right now is manufacturing the product fast enough to get it out. It's really worked. I think it really works well as a form factor. People can dose and microdose their own drinks now.

Whereas, you know, the problem with canned products is that-- is there isn't enough capacity in the regulated stores to carry them. And it's very expensive to distribute them. And then you've got to build bottling plants with every single state that you operate in. So it makes it very cost prohibitive to do proper drinks at this point, although I think that's going to be a major, major form factor going forward, as legalization approaches.

And Curaleaf is definitely working on that area. But Squeeze really works well because it's easier to distribute it. It's not a costly product. And everybody can dose their own amount of THC into their products and into their water or their coffee or whatever it is they're using. It tastes really good. And it's really, really resonated well with our customer base. We're super happy with that launch.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, when it comes to maybe M&A or maybe other deals that can be done here, you know, we were talking with Canopy's David Klein earlier. Everyone knows their beverage background with Constellation and the money, the billions that they poured into Canopy here. When it comes to Curaleaf and your plans, what does it look like in terms of, A, the consolidation you're expecting as Canadian competitors enter the market, but then, B, if we're so focused on drinks, what Curaleaf might need to do on the partnership's front to make sure that they protect that lead if more people are going to be coming into it with an intense focus on the drinks front?

BORIS JORDAN: Listen, Zack, I'm not concerned about the big strategic players like Constellation. I've seen this in every industry I've ever built companies in. They're typically slow to get moving. The entrepreneurial companies are much faster. And it's about people. There's nothing special about creating the drinks. It's about the people that formulate them, the food scientists. We can hire all those people. And they all want to come work for an industry like cannabis, and more importantly, Curaleaf as well.

And so we're very, very-- we're way ahead of the pack. We've got drinks-- I've already tasted our seltzer's. I've tasted our beers. I've tasted all the different products that Curaleaf will launch when we get legalization. But we're very careful about how we allocate our capital. Everybody knows that. I'm very, very consistent on that. And right now, I just don't think it's price effective to launch drinks on a national basis. And I think it's a national product.

And so, Squeeze is the product that we launched with. And as I said, we've been-- the results have been absolutely spectacular. I mean, sales-- we cannot hold this product on the shelves. And we're going to launch nationally with a CBD product, which goes to everyone, all the different big box retailers here in the next several months. And so, you'll see Curaleaf and select product now going into mainline big box retailers with the CBD version of our sweet spot.

ZACK GUZMAN: All right, Curaleaf executive chairman Boris Jordan, appreciate you coming on here to give us the update. Happy 4/20. And thanks again for chatting.