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Ontarians gobble up cannabis edibles

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Ontario cannabis shoppers scooped up thousands of edibles and vape products within an hour of them going on sale for the first time on the Ontario Cannabis Store’s website.

The online retailer experienced 2,000 transactions on Thursday in the hour after 70 products–cannabis-infused chocolates, cookies, soft chews, mints, tea and vapes–were made available at 9 a.m. local time.

Some products sold out within a half-hour, said the cannabis distributor’s spokesperson Daffyd Roderick.

“At 8:59 a.m., we had 3,000 people in the lobby hitting refresh, waiting to get online, so there was obviously some excitement in the marketplace,” he said.

“We were sold out of soft chew products within 25 minutes.”

The rollout is part of Cannabis 2.0, where the country is allowing a second wave of products like edibles, extracts and topicals to hit the market following the October 2018 legalization of cannabis in Canada. The frenzied pace of sales online Thursday comes after the products first appeared on store shelves last week. Such items were approved for sale in Canada in mid-December, but several provinces, including Ontario, delayed their rollout.

When the OCS website was first launched and the first round of cannabis products went on sale in 2018, Roderick said the site experienced “high demand,” causing online deliveries to take as long as five days to arrive. Ontario Premier Doug Ford said in the first 24 hours the OCS processed 38,000 orders.

Roderick said the online debut of the edible and vape products went well, but acknowledged that there were “a few bumps.”

“Because there were so many people simultaneously refreshing, their page would drop and then they would hit refresh a couple times and they would get back,” he said.

When shoppers Thursday did make it through to the site, which was down between 12:01 a.m. and 9 a.m. to prepare for the launch, Roderick said they were most interested in soft chews.

Several packs were priced for between $6.65 and $12.35 and came in flavours such as raspberry vanilla, peach mango, pineapple orange, apple green tea and grapefruit hibiscus.

Roderick figured there popularity stemmed from soft chews having a “convenience factor” and because “not everybody loves chocolate.”

There were only three kinds of chocolate left for shoppers by noon, when The Canadian Press reviewed the website.

Roderick would not share when more stock would arrive or how much of each product was available for sale, but said its allotment is equal to physical stores and the distributor has a limited supply it has been provided with by licensed producers.

“We know that they’re doing their best to ramp up their production capacity and like everyone else, we’re waiting and watching for when those products are going to come,” he said. “The producers are very interested in getting these products to market, so they’re working as quickly as they can.”

The OCS expects cannabis topicals, concentrates and beverages to be sold in the coming months.


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Edibles, vapes and other cannabis products on sale in Ontario but hard to find

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Ontario cannabis store shoppers with a hankering for edibles were out of luck Monday.

Most of the province’s licensed retailers had yet to receive their first shipments of 59 products including soft chews, cookies and chocolates that were slated to start appearing in stores that day.

But the Ontario Cannabis Store, the province’s pot distributor, said products are on their way and likely already in some shoppers’ hands.

“Some stores outside the GTA have received products,” spokesperson Daffyd Roderick said.

Roderick said he could not name which stores have received shipments of edibles for security reasons, but said they were all outside the GTA.

Those that have placed orders are guaranteed to get them on the regular delivery dates that their other cannabis products usually arrive on, he said.

The OCS had previously warned that the supply of edibles could be tight and sell out quickly. It vowed to rapidly replenish supplies and roll out more products in the coming months as they receive regulatory approvals.

Alcanna Inc.’s Nova Cannabis store on Queen Street West in Toronto was among the locations without cannabis stock on Monday, but handfuls of shoppers there and at the Hunny Pot store down the street told The Canadian Press they were either uninterested in cannabis edibles or unaware they were scheduled to hit shelves this week.

Dave Crapper, the Alberta company’s senior vice president of communications, wasn’t surprised to hear there was no wave of disappointed customers clamouring for products because he is expecting most of the interest in edibles to come from people who have yet to dabble with cannabis but who want to “begin nibbling.”

“They are not on pins and needles about when the product will be available,” he said. “We are not antsy about any of this. It’s a new industry. It is going to have growing pains.”

Dan McKay, a 23-year-old business student who visited Nova on Monday to pick up dried flower, said he plans to try edibles when they’re available.

He wasn’t aware that they were slated to be sold in the province this week, but said he wasn’t surprised some customers are having to wait a little bit longer for them.

“It took us what seemed like forever to get cannabis in stores in the first place,” he said. “It would be silly to think edibles will be any quicker.”

He didn’t hear anyone asking about edibles at the store, but said he expected people who were interested in the product either anticipated a delay or made their purchases through the black market.

Crapper is “optimistic” that Nova will have some edibles in stock this week, but was unsure what day anything will arrive.

Once the company gets its delivery, all eyes will be on what customers grab and how that can be used to inform future ordering decisions.

“It is going to be a bit of a trial and error process on everyone’s part,” says Crapper.

The company has decided to “err on the side of more availability” and stock a wide variety of items until it can better predict what will satiate shoppers.

Prices for legally sold edibles will range from $7 to $14, beverages are set to cost between $4 and $10, and vapes will be priced anywhere from $25 to $125.


Quebec raising legal age for cannabis to 21, the strictest in the country

cannabis_packages_frQuebecers under the age of 21 won’t be able to buy or possess recreational cannabis as of Wednesday, ushering in the toughest age restrictions in the country since pot was legalized 14 months ago.

The Coalition Avenir Quebec government passed legislation in the fall that upped the legal age for accessing cannabis from 18, citing the impact of cannabis on young minds in deciding to act.

But policy experts suggest restricting legal access to the drug for the segment of the population most likely to use the drug will not have the intended effect.

Daniel Weinstock, director of the institute for health and social policy at McGill University, said it’s clear where the Quebec government is coming from, citing research that shows a risk factor for developing brains.

“The problem is the amount of cannabis that’s already present in the illegal market. We have to think long and hard about our ability to effectively enforce prohibition,” Weinstock said. “And if we can’t – and I strongly suspect we won’t be able to – … we risk finding ourselves in the worst of all possible situations.”

That situation would see 18 to 21 year olds _ armed with no information about the potency of what they’re consuming _ buying from illegal dealers and using contaminated, unregulated product.

A Universite de Montreal addictions researcher said perhaps a small minority of youth – those already deemed not at risk – might put off using cannabis because of the measure.

But Jean-Sebastien Fallu notes that when it was illegal, nearly half of Quebecers had tried cannabis once in their lifetime by 17.

“You have 50% who’d used once in their lifetime, despite the threat of criminalized prohibition,” Fallu said. “So I don’t think this (new rule) is going to have any significant impact on underage, minor or adolescent use.”

Weinstock said policy makers should understand a ban isn’t always the right choice, even if most parties agree the goal should be to moderate young people’s consumption.

“We really have to think about the second-best (option) – to give them access to a safe product,” he said.

The province’s junior health minister, Lionel Carmant, declined a request for an interview through his spokesperson. Carmant has said previously the stricter age rules were adopted with the idea of protecting the developing minds of young adults from cannabis.

But Fallu said he’s also concerned youth will be consuming illegal cannabis with no quality-control standards for levels of THC – the drug’s main psychoactive component.

The Quebec Cannabis Industry Association, which represents more than 25 of the province’s licensed growers, has raised concerns that the stricter rules go against the reasoning behind the federal government’s move toward legalization – improving public safety and getting rid of the black market.

While the federal law sets the minimum age at 18, it leaves it to the provinces and territories to establish their own rules. The legal age for consumption is 19 in every other province except Alberta, where it’s 18.

Given the legal age for drinking alcohol and smoking tobacco in Quebec remain at 18, the Quebec Bar Association has warned there could be constitutional challenges around the issue of age discrimination.

One constitutional lawyer called the law a “form of paternalism that is entirely unjustifiable in our society.”

“I think it’s absurd and I think it’s contrary to the charter, I think it’s discrimination as to age,” said Julius Grey. “It seems to me that it’s perfectly absurd to say that alcohol – which kills many more people than cannabis – is safe at 18, but cannabis is only at 21.”

Grey said it’s a strange situation whereby adulthood comes at 18, where one can be considered fully responsible for one’s acts, yet can’t access a legal product.

“Differential ages are not reasonable – you have to have an age of majority,” Grey said. “Once you become a full adult and you have the full responsibility for what you do, you should have free choice.”

Recreational marijuana use became legal across Canada on Oct. 17, 2018, but Quebec quickly adopted tougher provincial measures.

The province is one of two jurisdictions where home cultivation is forbidden, along with Manitoba. The province has announced it will appeal a provincial court decision that invalidated that provision after a judge ruled it infringed upon the jurisdiction of the federal government.

When Quebec passed its age restriction this year, it also banned public consumption of cannabis. It has also introduced the toughest restrictions for edibles, which are being phased into the market elsewhere in the country, by targeting anything that might appeal to children.

Weinstock said the approach may change, given legal cannabis remains relatively new.

“My hope is that as time goes by, the drug becomes normalized, we’ll be able to go to a series of evidence-based policies, rather than ones that are driven by fear and panic,” Weinstock said.

 


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Brisk early sales of weed edibles at Nova Scotia Liquor Corp. outlet

Stocking stuffers with a kick moved briskly off the shelves at Nova Scotia’s government-operated cannabis shops and at other Canadian vendors that managed to bring in a supply during the leadup to Christmas.

In showing off the early offerings of various “edibles” at a Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation outlet on Christmas Eve, spokeswoman Bev Ware noted quite a few cupboards were already bare.

“Judging by conversations I heard in the lineups on Monday, it seems people are buying them as stocking stuffers and some for their own enjoyment on Christmas Eve,” she said.

Ware said lineups of customers filled the store on December 23rd, and all of the chocolate, mint and chewable types of marijuana products were sold out by day’s end.

Customers doing last-minute shopping on Christmas Eve had to content themselves with various infused teas and vaping products at the Clyde Street location in downtown Halifax.

Ware laid out a few samples, such as CBD-infused vanilla rooibos tea bags that were going for just under $8 each.

Regulations governing next-generation cannabis products such as edibles, beverages, vapes and topical forms of cannabis came into effect on Oct. 17 – exactly one year after Canada legalized recreational pot.

Due to the mandatory 60-day notice period companies must provide to Health Canada before selling these products, the earliest they could legally go on sale was mid-December.

Companies have been unveiling details of products ranging from spring water to mints that contain CBD and THC, the two active ingredients found in cannabis.

These cannabis-derived products are subject to strict regulations, including a cap on the level of active ingredients and rules around packaging.

In the Nova Scotia stores, there’s a quantity limit of 30 grams or its equivalent per customer for marijuana edibles, extracts and topicals.

“It can be difficult for people to figure out, so our employees will help them do the equivalents,” said Ware.

PEI Cannabis was also selling edibles on Christmas Eve, with some products available since last Thursday, a saleswoman at the Charlottetown shop said Tuesday. A spokesperson wasn’t available to indicate how sales were going.

The British Columbia Liquor Distribution Branch said in an email that it has registered more than 260 individual products that fall within the new categories of edibles, extracts and topicals.

“The first shipments of the new classes of legal products were received last Wednesday and shipped out to retailers Thursday,” wrote Viviana Zanocco.

Zanocco said the wholesale website sold out in 30 minutes, as did the online store.

“Customers can expect to see them on shelves of legal retail stores shortly – that depends on each store’s shipping schedule,” she added.

However, in Alberta and Ontario, consumers will have to wait until 2020 for offerings.

Heather Holmen, communications manager for Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Commission, said in an emailed statement that her province’s 380 private retailers won’t have the products until next month.

“Once product is ordered, shipped to us, received and put into inventory, retailers will be able to place their orders,” she wrote.

“Factor in order processing and shipping time to retailers, that brings us to mid-January before consumers will be able to find product on store shelves.”

The AGLC is still in discussions with licensed producers to determine the types of products will be offered from about half of the 42 producers who will be participating, Holmen said.

In Ontario, a spokeswoman for the Ontario Cannabis Store said stores would begin selling on Jan. 6.

Joanna Hui, communications manager for OCS, said the agency has been receiving “a very small amount of cannabis edibles and vapes from producers that were ready to deliver these products at the earliest legal opportunity.”

“Our licensed producer partners are aware of consumer interest in these new product types and are working around the clock to begin delivering these products to Ontario.”

It’s expected the selection will be “limited” initially, but will grow through January and February, said Hui.

Sales are also only expected to start in Quebec beginning on Jan. 1, according to published reports earlier in December. A spokesman was unavailable for further comment.

Vaping products have come under particular scrutiny after more than 1,400 related lung illnesses in the U.S. have been reported _ many of them involving THC-containing products – as well as recently diagnosed cases in several provinces.

Health Canada said in an emailed statement that it is not delaying the legalization of pot vapes, but is actively monitoring the situation on both sides of the border.

It “will take additional action, if warranted and as appropriate, to protect the health and safety of Canadians,” the government agency has said.


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Canopy says new generation of cannabis products won’t be on shelves until January

Canopy Growth Corp. says its new generation of cannabis-infused food and beverage products won’t be on store shelves until January in most markets.

The Ontario-based company says it was not allowed to sell its new product formats into distribution channels until Dec. 16 and it is rolling out products in a staged fashion from then to ensure a smooth rollout.

Canopy has been describing this phase of Canada’s legalization of marijuana products as Cannabis 2.0.

It has previously warned that it was unlikely to deliver on its previously announced sales targets for its financial fourth quarter due to difficulties with distribution in Ontario, the country’s biggest provincial market.

It now says that its Cannabis 2.0 products, beginning with its first chocolate bars and beverages, should be in stores in early January. It says its new line vape pens and cartridges should launch in late January.

Based in Smiths Falls, Ont., Canopy has been a pioneer of Canada’s commercial cannabis industry but has seen its stock price decline from a peak in April due to difficulties in the first year of legal non-medical product sales.

In October, Canopy purchased a majority stake in BioSteel Sports Nutrition Inc.


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The rise of the munchies

snacks-teaserHave you ever wondered if devouring a bag of chips, ripping through a jar of pickles or indulging in an entire box of chocolates post pot-intake is a real thing?

One of the main things people associate with recreational cannabis use is the onset of the “munchies.” There are even some well-documented neuroscience-based theories that support this often referenced behaviour.

Given the milestone passing of the first year of legalized recreational cannabis use in Canada, where overall cannabis usage has hit the 16% mark (up from 3% post legalization), Ipsos can now confirm that the munchies phenomenon is occurring in a sizeable and targetable fashion.

Robust findings from Ipsos FIVE daily tracking of consumption habits, situational dynamics and motivations reveals almost three-quarters (73%) of Canadian cannabis consumers are snacking during post-pot moments and opting for a wide and varied assortment of foods and beverages within three hours following recreational use.

While snacking is an ingrained behaviour in almost all Canadians’ daily eating patterns, this new occasion will no doubt expand as recreational cannabis consumption increases, providing an interesting growth opportunity for Canadian businesses.

Not surprisingly, cannabis snackers are slightly more likely to be males between the ages of 25 to 34 years, though there is solid development among all consumer cohorts under age 50. Munching mania peaks between 9 p.m. and midnight, with over-development on Thursday and Saturday evenings.

Top foods and beverages consumed on munching occasions include a wide variety of both traditional snack foods and beverages as well as non-traditional options that satisfy needs for hunger, indulgence, craving, taste and experience. These munchers also seek bold flavours that are both sweet and spicy, and they are far less concerned about health or guilt during these moments.

Items that are easily available or accessible and ones that require virtually no preparation are also influencing these consumers’ choices. These demands are presenting an opportunity for foodservice. In fact, almost one in five (18%) munching moments are sourced from foodservice establishments, with late night goodies more often sourced from easy access drive-thrus as well as online delivery services.

While there is already a clear correlation between cannabis and food consumption, the legalization of edible products (on October 17) marks a new chapter in this relationship.

While legal edible or beverage products will not be available to consumers until December 17 (taking into account the mandatory Health Canada new product review period), perhaps the organic connection that already exists, given our current intake patterns, will put edible product launches in a good position to hit the ground running.

Undoubtedly, as the Canadian market continues to green, manufacturers, retailers and foodservice operators who are well-positioned to capitalize on Canadian munching mania will have budding growth potential in the future.

A recent Ipsos poll confirmed that most Canadian cannabis users (70%) admit they have already sampled a cannabis edible or drink, with the overwhelming majority (82%) confirming that their last consumption experience was a positive one.

This article appeared in Canadian Grocer’s November issue.


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Cannabis at work 

An operator’s guide to developing policies for employees and customers

cannabis_packages_frWith the legalization of recreational cannabis in Canada in October 2018 (and, more recently, edibles), many businesses, including convenience retailers, are now faced with the challenge of managing the effects of the legislation on their workplace while also protecting their rights as employers. It’s important for convenience retailers to know about cannabis, its potential effects, ways to detect its use, and what to do if you suspect your employees are under its influence.

Canada has one of the highest rates of cannabis use in the world. 

Cannabis 101

There are two types of cannabis. Sativa cannabis affects the functions of the brain, creating a sense of uplifting and euphoria, creativity and increased energy. Indica cannabis affects the body, resulting in relaxation, appetite and stimulation, and is helpful in aiding sleep and pain relief. 

Cannabis contains hundreds of chemical substances including delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD). Medical cannabis has been legal in Canada since 1999, and although it may have lower amounts of THC, which is responsible for the psychoactive response, it may have an impact on how the brain and body function. 

Cannabis impairment is usually subtler and longer-lasting than alcohol and may be harder to recognize. Effects include diminished mental alertness, physical coordination, reaction time, sustained vigilance, manual dexterity and judgment: These can last as long as 24 hours.

Those authorized to use cannabis for medical purposes must have a registration document from either a federally licensed seller or from Health Canada for personal or designated production or possession only. In workplace situations arising from medical cannabis, employers have a legal duty to enquire and investigate the possibility of accommodating the disability. It’s important to note it is the disability that must be accommodated, not the employee.

What’s your workplace policy?

Develop a workplace drug and alcohol policy that clearly defines impairment, requires employees to be fit for work, outlines disciplinary procedures up to and including termination, support for employees struggling with addiction, the use of cannabis in and around the workplace (as well as in company vehicles), and the use of medical cannabis on an individual basis.

As well, retailers should develop procedures for identifying, reporting and removing employees from the workplace, identify resources and supports for employees, accommodation measures for those who disclose a substance problem, training for employees on workplace risks and policies, and training for supervisors to identify, respond to and record evidence of workplace-related impairment. Reinforce workplace harassment policies and implement wellness programs to support physical and mental well-being.

C-stores and cannabis consumption

Different provinces and territories are handling the sale of cannabis differently. While some make it available only through government-operated stores or online, others are offering cannabis through private retailers.

For instance, in Ontario recreational cannabis is available online through Ontario Cannabis stores – and at licensed private retail stores. Unlicensed convenience stores can sell cannabis consumption paraphernalia, such as hand and water pipes, but these items should be positioned so children cannot reach them. 

Train your staff

Be clear on what is legal and not legal with regard to cannabis and train your staff to know the law and be able to defuse difficult situations should they arise with customers. 

Cannabis is here. Its use is real so it must be taken seriously.

 

Larry Masotti, director of strategic partnerships with Workplace Safety and Prevention Services (WSPS), appeared recently at The Convenience U CARWACS Show.


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Saskatchewan opening up retail cannabis market to help meet consumer demand

shutterstock_1140581744Saskatchewan plans to lift the lid on legal cannabis sales to help meet consumer demand.

The government says it will open the market to more retailers in the hope of discouraging competition from illegal sellers.

Last year, the province used a lottery system to select 51 retail permit applications, of which 39 have been issued and 12 are still being assessed.

Gene Makowsky, minister for the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority, says starting in April the government will accept applications for cannabis retail permits in communities with populations less than 2,500.

In September, it will accept permit applications for stores in all communities without any cap.

Municipalities can still opt out of having cannabis retail stores if they wish.

“We believe opening the market to more retailers will help meet customer demand while also helping discourage competition from unlicensed stores,” Makowsky said in a release.

He says the supply of cannabis for permitted retailers will continue to come from permitted wholesalers and federally licensed producers registered in Saskatchewan.


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The convenience industry is ground zero for cannabis-infused product innovation

“Greenfield” refers to a virgin market yet to be commercially exploited. From a business perspective, it’s elusive and appealing because of how infrequently it occurs, as well as the potential for windfall results.

Greenfield opportunities are generally not for lack of foresight, but rather a function of structural, technical, regulatory or other barriers. When circumstances change, competing parties typically scramble for prime positioning. 

The passing of Bill C-45, The Cannabis Act, in 2018 ushered in a new age of cannabis legalization in Canada. Legal sales of cannabis via retail outlets, as well as limited personal production, opened up for the first time, setting the stage for future cannabis-related innovation. 

On Oct. 17, 2019, the commercial sale of cannabis-infused edibles (baked goods, drinks etc.) became legal, however there was already much work ongoing to define a framework for what many see as the next greenfield opportunity. For instance, CBD-infused products will start hitting store shelves before the end of of the year.

This is no doubt of interest to the convenience industry and c-store operators, who may be uniquely positioned to grab a piece of this greenfield market.

Screen Shot 2019-10-18 at 3.45.57 PMIt’s also welcome news to consumers. According to a study out of Dalhousie University in Halifax, of the 68% of participants who were in favour of legalizing cannabis in 2017, 93% were also very likely to try at least one edible product, while 46% of all Canadians would try cannabis-infused food products if they were available. 

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Consumers have a taste for cannabis

In 2019, Deloitte surveyed 2,000 adult Canadians regarding cannabis and edibles consumption, concluding that edibles and cannabis-infused beverages represent a multi-billion dollar opportunity. 

The Arcview, a cannabis investment and market research company, projects the cannabis edibles market will be worth more than $4 billion in Canada and the United States by 2022, with Canada representing nearly 40% of the opportunity.

 As a means of projecting the potential of cannabis for the Canadian food industry, Sylvain Charlebois, professor of food distribution and policy at Dalhousie University, examined data from U.S. states that have already implemented legalization. The data pointed to rapid market penetration in Canada, with edibles sales expected to account for more than 10% of total cannabis sales within two years of opening the market.

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CBD: The first wave

The first wave of change will be food and beverage products that reference cannabis, but include non-hallucinogenic cannabidiol (CBD) derivatives and/or hemp-based products.

Hemp and CBD products became legal in the U.S. with the signing of the Farm Bill at the end of 2018. In its annual Chef Survey, The National Restaurant Association and the American Culinary Federation found that 75% of the 650 chefs surveyed said CBD and cannabis-infused food would be a hot trend in 2019.

In the U.S., legalization has sparked innovation and, ultimately, consumer demand.

Screen Shot 2019-10-18 at 3.47.46 PMThough, it is still early in the adoption process for CBD-infused foods and beverages, there are many examples of both emerging and global drink companies aligning to prepare for the coming market gap. 

For instance, L.A.-based Kickback Cold Brew offers coffee and tea-based CBD-infused beverages made with organic ingredients, 100% single origin and shade grown coffee beans, and high-grade hemp.

In the QSR segment, Carl’s Jr., a burger chain with 1,500 locations, including more than 20 in British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan, recently tested a CBD Burger in Colorado. The limited edition $4.20 Rocky Mountain High: CheeseBurger Delight featured a Santa Fe sauce infused with CBD, a non-psychoactive hemp derivative. It was a nod to consumers’ pent up desire for cannabis innovation and may yet find a place on Carl’s Jr. permanent menu.

 “(It) ties back to our core strategy of being the first to bring bold and unexpected flavours, that are at the forefront of hot restaurant trends, to a quick service menu,” says Patty Trevino, Carl’s Jr. senior vice-president of brand marketing.

Cannabis express

Convenience operator Kohanoff Affiliated recently partnered with Swissx Oil & Confectionary to distribute its Swissx CBD products in more than 500 convenience stores and gas stations across Southern California. 

in 2019, Canada’s Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. entered into a multi-year agreement with Canopy Growth Corp. to open a Tweed-branded cannabis store in London, Ont. “Alimentation Couche-Tard is excited about taking a leadership role in the development of cannabis retailing excellence,” says Brian Hannasch, president and CEO of Couche-Tard, adding Couche-Tard is looking at this venture as a vital entry opportunity to a new market.

Then, in July, the convenience giant announced a partnership with cannabis retailer Fire & Flower. “Couche-Tard is excited to make this strategic investment in one of the fastest growing cannabis ‘pure-play’ retailers,” said Hannasch. “This investment in Fire & Flower, with a path to a controlling stake, will enable us to leverage their leadership, network and advanced digital platform to accelerate our journey in this new and flourishing sector.”

With the legalization of cannabis, we are in the midst of a revolutionary paradigm shift. Having lived in The Netherlands during the 1990s, I was first exposed to a tolerant attitude towards cannabis: Legalization blows open the door to normalization, commercialization and potentially explosive growth. It promises to be one of the largest “land rushes” in modern memory and the time to get your claim flag in the ground is now.

 

Darren Climans is a foodservice insights professional with close to 20 years’ experience partnering with broadline distributors, CPG suppliers, and foodservice operators. His practice is to understand issue-based decisions by taking a data-driven approach to strategic decision making.


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Couche-Tard vying for piece of North American cannabis market

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Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. wants to be one of the “key players” in the North American cannabis market by using its position in Canada – where use of the substance for recreational purposes is legal – to achieve this goal.

But the expertise to be developed by the operator of convenience stores and gas stations in selling the drug will have to be done outside of Quebec because of provincial rules limiting the sale of marijuana to government-run stores and online, company founder and executive chairman Alain Bouchard said Wednesday following its annual meeting.

“I think it’s a shame for Quebec because this expertise will go outside Quebec,” he said. “When we deploy a network in the United States or any other activities in the U.S., it will come from outside Quebec.”

Unable to penetrate the Quebec market, the Quebec multinational has invested in Alberta retailer Fire & Flower, which could enable it to eventually acquire a majority stake in this company.

This is in addition to its existing partnership with Canadian cannabis giant Canopy Growth surrounding the operation of private stores.

Even though the recreational cannabis market is still in its infancy, Couche-Tard wants to go out of its way to set up a strategy that is ready to be deployed where regulations allow it, Bouchard added.

“It’s still very small. We will learn from that and I really believe we can succeed.”

The parent company of Circle K has turned its sights to the United States, where recreational consumption of marijuana is legal in 13 states, says CEO Brian Hannasch, who noted the retailer has long experience selling age-restricted products. But it must take the time to know the rules of the game, he added.

Couche-Tard has already started selling cannabidiol (CBD) products, a compound with potential medicinal qualities but without significant levels of THC – a compound in cannabis that produces a high – in some stores in the U.S. and Ireland.

“It’s kind of the Wild West, but I think we have a place in this market,” said Hannasch. But this is only the beginning. “

By 2023, the multinational wants to double its operating profit, which was about US$4 billion last year. However, it did not identify marijuana as a growth driver in its strategic plan because of the many regulatory uncertainties.

Hannasch did not hide the fact that the market for recreational marijuana could, however, make it easier for the company, which currently operates a network of approximately 16,000 outlets in Canada, the United States, Europe, Latin America, Asia and the Middle East.

In the meantime, the retailer hopes that its organic growth will allow it to generate half of its growth target. The company particularly wants to focus on millennial customers who are “less loyal to stores, but more loyal to brands,” said Bouchard.

Couche-Tard is offering more efficient and faster payment options and has begun deploying its Lift digital platform in Canada, which sends personalized offers to consumers. The company is also testing home delivery in Texas and expanding its offering of food and beverage products.