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Sylvain Charlebois at The Globe and Mail.

On Thursday, June 20, Cannabis Professional hosted its second in-person round table at The Globe and Mail’s head office in Toronto. We were joined by Sylvain Charlebois, Brian Sterling, and more than a dozen subscribers for a lively discussion on the future of edibles in Canada.

You can read a recap of the key takeaways from the discussion below.

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Review Cannabis Professional’s previous roundtable:

In review: Can Canada maintain its first-mover status as cannabis goes global?

Cannabis Pro roundtable discussion: Can Canada maintain its first-mover advantage?

Background information

Sylvain Charlebois and Brian Sterling are co-authors of the recent Dalhousie University report, “Edibles and Canadian consumers’ willingness to consider recreational cannabis.”

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  • Sylvain Charlebois is one of the most-quoted experts on Canada’s food industry, and is a frequent contributor to The Globe and Mail.
  • Brian Sterling, founder and president of SCS Consulting has worked with companies and conducted research into legalized cannabis and infused consumables since 2015.
REPORT HIGHLIGHTS INCLUDE:
  • 46 per cent of self-identified regular cannabis consumers said they were already “occasional” edibles consumers
  • 38 per cent of respondents expressed a willingness to order a dish containing cannabis at a restaurant
  • Nearly one in five respondents in the latest survey consider cannabis as a healthy ingredient for their diet

The Globe and Mail's publisher and CEO, Phillip Crawley, speaks with Cannabis Professional subscribers.

Glenn Lowson

Are food companies worried about logistic hurdles as they develop edibles?

Logistical hurdles are expected as food companies race to bring their products to market in the next six months.

Peter Neal, Neal Brothers Inc.

“For us, the main delivery vehicle, the main part of it, is food – and we understand food and we can make food happen. The flower coming out was a problem for many reasons. But we’re at a point now where there’s an improvement in flower, and extraction is there. Our food isn’t complicated [and] we are not foreseeing any problems. .... We’re not concerned.”

Ginette Ahier, Organigram

“We had nine months to figure out the legislation – from cultivation, to consumer, to distribution. We built a strong team from the chocolate sphere.

This is the strategy: we are aiming at chocolate, we built a team, we build an infrastructure and everything will be automated. From formulation, production, packaging, labelling – [everything is] automated out of the same room. It is to streamline the three P’s: people, process and product. [The strategy is to] streamline everything into something that is really easy to manage, to make sure we don’t have a shortage or variation in quality.”
Peter Neal

“Going back to food. It’s not really complicated. If you look at some of the top brands in Canada or the U.S. there are some really wonderful products ... [but] you go in behind some of these places, there are people doing things by hand which is shocking for me, someone who has been in this industry for so long. Coming from food, we’re able to apply a lot of procedures that a lot of companies haven’t done yet in the U.S. but have had incredible success.”

Does the industry fear product inspection backlogs?

In a recent Globe opinion piece, Sylvain Charlebois reminded that rules around edibles are set by Health Canada, but will be implemented by the Public Health Agency of Canada. In effect, the government has deemed that edibles are a drug, not a food.

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Sylvain Charlebois

“The CFIA has 3,400 [inspectors] who know the food business very well, but they are out. It’s 70 inspectors for the entire country coming from Health Canada. Good luck with compliance.

I don’t think [Health Canada] understands what it means to consider edibles as a drug, and all the work they have to do now. Health Canada is going to have to be creative.”

From left: Jameson Berkow (The Globe and Mail), Nick Pateras (Lift & Co.), Mark Rendell (The Globe and Mail), and James Sanders (Labatt).

How will cannabis-infused beverages be marketed?

One challenge for industry is products can’t be associated with alcohol.

Nick Pateras, Lift & Co.

“I think there’s a real opportunity to introduce a new term to classify these beverages. Everyone has been somewhat upset or disappointed by the prohibition on associating these cannabis beverages with beer or wine.

But – for me – the opportunity, strategically, remains for someone to reintroduce a new term. I don’t know why we have to call something a cannabis wine or a cannabis beer.

This is a new format. What you then have, as a brand, is the opportunity to have a genericized trademark akin to Kleenex to tissues, or Pampers to diapers. For me, the prohibition on the association to beer or wine, I don’t see it as much of a stumbling block. I think people should see the other side of the coin; we should have a new term entirely. I’m really excited to see which brand leans into that.”
Brian Sterling

In the United States, I attended an event where they were serving wine, beer and “CInBev" (cannabis-infused beverages). All of the cannabis drinks were gone at the end. Most of the beer, hardly any of the wine was touched. They were able to make it an appealing product.

Brian Sterling speaks with members of Cannabis Professional.

Will CBD will be the way in for companies?

Experimenting with the non-intoxicating cannabinoid might make sense for some companies.

Brian Sterling

“The whole CBD movement is probably going to be seen as the low barrier to entry. You get your processes figured out – from a marketing, distribution and manufacturing and ops perspective – and then you can say, ‘we have a formula that works, now we can talk about THC.’ I think that’s being missed in this conversation.”

"When Martha [Stewart] was speaking recently, she was very open about the fact that she has partnered with Canopy, and they were going to make [CBD] dog treats ... She was really on the bandwagon; she said she thinks it’s a smart strategic move by Canopy. You might see that played out a lot more quickly.

Ginette Ahier (Organigram)

How are food companies going to enter the cannabis industry?

Will it be through partnerships, or white label deals with LPs?

Ginette Ahier, Oraganigram

"For us, the discussion is open now: If you are a food brand and you want to enter cannabis chocolate, but you cannot afford to go through the process of having a processing license and investing a new facility, you come to Organigram and have a discussion with Organigram. We will open our doors to white-labelling.

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And the same for use: If we want to go to beverage at a certain point, I doubt we will invest another $25-million in beverage processing. We will knock on someone’s door. "

Sylvain Charlebois
“That’s what I’m hearing: partnerships, partnerships, partnerships.”

Cannabis Professional subscribers.

Related Cannabis Professional reporting:

New edibles rules pose challenge for food makers

Edibles regulations: What you need to know

Companies on their own to determine what ‘appealing to young persons’ means for edibles

Rules for cannabis edibles could advantage white-label production

Future Cannabis Professional events

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