This article is brought to you by Organigram
It’s a familiar story. After a long day at work, you take an edible - a piece of THC-infused chocolate, or a gummy, a cookie or a brownie - to relax.
But instead you end up waiting. And waiting. And waiting. Sometimes it can take well over an hour or even longer. If you don’t consume cannabis, just imagine having a glass of wine with dinner and having to wait an hour or two to feel its effects. Not good, right?
Edibles fans should take heart, however. Canadian licensed producer Organigram has been working hard on an edible that may be able to take effect in mere minutes.
"I've been through this massively immersive educational experience on chocolate and there's so much more it than anybody would have ever imagined."
So says Ray Gracewood, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications at Organigram. When Canada legalized cannabis last October, Organigram was prepared. And as one of only four Canadian licensed producers with recreational distribution in all 10 provinces today, their lines of cannabis flower and oils can be found in stores across the country.
But that was just the first step.
In mid-December, the cannabis landscape will change again as the federal government introduces legislation to legalize cannabis-infused beverages, concentrates and edibles - and Organigram will be ready.
Their major focus now is an infused take on an old favorite: chocolate.
"I've got to try a lot of amazing tasting chocolate products, and some other ones that aren't so amazing,” says Gracewood - it was only a small part of a massive undertaking.
The company has invested $15-million in a high-speed, high-capacity automated production line centred on “world class” machinery from Danish chocolate manufacturing company, Aasted.
Gracewood calls it "a small example of the kind of commitment that we've made to not only compete within the chocolate space but do it better than anybody else in the Canadian market.”
Beyond the machinery, Organigram has secured a batch of important strategic partnerships. Canada’s Smartest Kitchen - the research and development arm of The Culinary Institute of Canada at Holland College - has partnered with Organigram on recipe development, while raw chocolate will be provided by one of the world’s largest cocoa producers. Plus, back in 2017 the company recruited the former VP of operations for Ganong Bros., Canada’s oldest candy company.
Of course, Organigram and other prospective edible makers will have to compete with Canada’s illicit gray market, which has been selling edibles in spite of the law. Fortunately, Gracewood and company have an exciting ace up their sleeve.
“We've developed what we believe to be a water-soluble, shelf-stable solution for a beverage product that would quickly bypass through the liver, which increases onset time. Initial research on this solution looks promising,” Gracewood told Civilized. “We're currently in the process of exploring how we can port that technology into an edible product and we'll continue to do that. We think there's a huge opportunity to develop something that delivers a rapid onset - between 10 to 15 minutes.”
That's right - no more having to wait upwards of an hour to enjoy the benefits of THC.
This commitment to quality and consistency is crucial to displacing gray market edibles. It’s important that "a consumer understands that all of the raw cannabis product that they would find in their edible has been tested by an accredited lab and produced under rigorous controls monitored by Health Canada, just like our dried flower pre-rolls and cannabis oil are today,” said Gracewood. "If we offer an Edison [one of Organigram’s product lines] truffle that's got 10 milligrams of THC and is flavored in a certain way, whether somebody buys that in Nova Scotia in January or in British Columbia in August, that product will be the same.
"Our hope is that, in the next year, not only us, but the entire industry is going to be able to make it very clear that the output can be far superior to what you might see in the illicit market."
Right now, Organigram is capable of producing 47,000 kilograms of cannabis annually. By the end of this year, that is projected to jump to a capacity of 113,000 kilograms*. And as things settle after edibles are legalized, they expect to be able to produce four million kilograms of infused chocolate per year. How big a presence do they expect their edibles to have in the industry?
"Our research suggests dried flower will be roughly 45, maybe 50 percent of the market," Gracewood said. "Vape pens...roughly 20 percent of the market. We'll see edibles anywhere from 20 to 25 percent of the market."
Of course, that percentage could easily grow. Edibles are a preferred option for people who are put off by the idea of smoking dried flower. "There's a convenience factor, a comfort factor and a discretion factor," Gracewood explained. "And I think the combination of those three things are really going to propel the market and bring in a whole new kind of consumer.”
In that sense, Organigram’s chocolate edibles - described by Gracewood as "very approachable, very discreet, very shareable, very social” - are poised to change not only the cannabis industry, but the chocolate industry at large. If we can have cannabis-infused chocolate at the same level of quality as the chocolate we give to loved ones at Christmas, or Valentine's Day, or simply after a hard day at work, that will go a long way to normalizing cannabis.
As Gracewood put it: "When was the last time that there was a major chocolate bar that was new to the market? There really hasn't been a whole lot of innovation, other than flavor extensions and brand extensions."
Final regulations on Canadian edibles were released on June 14. “I think Health Canada has done a pretty good job of auditing most of the regulated states, and has essentially replicated where Colorado is right now.”
So what effect will legal edibles have on the cannabis industry at large in five or ten years' time?
"The running joke is that cannabis timelines are kind of like dog years. So a year feels like seven, and essentially five to 10 years is like 35 to 70 years from now."
While the future is anyone's guess, Gracewood does predict an important paradigm shift in the works.
"As we get further down the road, I think there's also going to be a huge educational opportunity for people to understand that cannabis is just as diverse as any other premium consumer packaged good. When I compare cannabis to beer, for example, a lot of people don't fully understand all the different flavonoids, terpenes and strain profiles.
"There's a huge opportunity for companies to start to explore how different types of consumers can experience cannabis in different ways."
* Please see Organigram’s most recent Management’s Discussion and Analysis available at sedar.com for additional information