It seemed a simple proposition – perhaps too simple. JuicyFields, a cannabis investment platform, launched in 2020, allowed trading in both conventional and crypto funds without the background checks typically required for investment banking transactions.
According to Swedish attorney Lars Olofsson, it’s likely that many of JuicyField’s clients – he estimates up to 125,000 accounts – were unaware of the background check requirement or other discrepancies, which should have been red flags. Many of them were inexperienced investors that bought into JuicyFields based on the company’s slick marketing or on word-of-mouth from other clients that had seen significant returns – at first.
“Definitely, there was a grooming process,” Olofsson said of the company’s persuasive sales pitch. “At first, the investors did get some returns on investment, and many of them deposited more money then and told friends about it.”
In June, when JuicyFields was banned from investments and fined by German financial regulator BaFin, Olofsson believes its shadowy operators realized the jig was up. By July, the platform had shut down, with clients locked out of accounts overnight and the company’s social media accounts shuttered.
Olofsson’s research revealed that Juicy Fields GmBH was founded in Germany in 2017, with Dutch (Juicy Fields B.V.) and Swiss (Juicy Fields AG) subsidiaries to follow.
Viktor Bitner, a German citizen with Russian ties, founded the company as a “research & development company,” Olofsson said, but it didn´t start operations until spring 2020.
Following the money
Olofsson, who is also the CEO and founder of Malmo-based business consultancy PrioStarup AG, said that details have surfaced in contracts that JuicyFields held with various consultants and executives that indicate irregular activities.
“Bitner signed an agreement with a Swiss company, ALPINE Asset Management, and (its CEO) Fransesca Grecco, who received an annual management fee for $3 million. This is absolutely crazy and is 10 times as much as normal for these kind of consulting services. The only explanation is that both parties knew this was a criminal operation,” he surmised.
“I’ve [got] the agreement that was later signed with a Mr. Alan Glanse, who has presented himself as the [JuicyFields] CEO. This is not correct according to public records. … You can see that his compensation was $120,000 per year – only a 20th of what the Swiss lady got,” Olofsson added.
In fact, Glanse sparked rumors of Russian mafia involvement in July when he told Spanish finance publication El País Financiero that “three people with Russian passports” had hired him, adding he’d met with them only five times and that he was innocent of any wrongdoing.
During the interview, when confronted with documentation apparently leaked to the publication, Glanse said that Russian citizens and JuicyFields “shareholders” Paul Bergholts, Alex Vaimer, and Vasily Kandinski were “the real owners.”
Bitner also was mentioned as a “front man” in the article, though his actual role at the company has been obscured by a cast of hired consultants and executives that held C-suite positions.
Attempts to reach Bitner for comment were futile on social media accounts that have long been stagnant. A LinkedIn page lists Bitner as CEO at Juicy Grow GmbH. An attempt to reach Swiss consultant Grecco also did not receive response.
Reflections of Wirecard downfall
Clues from JuicyFields are scattered like seeds across news outlets, blogs, and social media, especially in the countries where the company found many of its investors, such as Spain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal, Greece and Malta.
Bloggers and social media observers that track cyber criminals and scams began speculating on JuicyFields as early as 2021, with some making comparisons to the epic downfall of German payment processor Wirecard.
Listed on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange in 2005, Wirecard eventually became Europe’s largest fintech firm with a valuation of $28 billion – more than traditional financial institutions such as Deutschebank at one point. Though alleged money-laundering and fraud at the company had been reported by industry analysts and insiders since 2016, it was listed as one of the 30 most valuable companies in Germany by 2018 and expanded to establish an Asia Pacific branch and subsidiary in Dubai.
In 2019, the Financial Times reported on a series of suspicious transactions at Wirecard, which the company aggressively denied, as it had done with previous allegations. Wirecard filed suit against FT for misrepresenting “company secrets” in their reporting. Independent auditors were brought in by the company to address allegations.
By mid-June 2020, auditors revealed that $2.3 billion of cash balances that should have been in escrow accounts could not be accounted for, amounting to massive, complicated fraud. A search for the funds conducted by the company came up empty. This was quickly followed by the arrests of Wirecard’s top executives and insolvency proceedings by the end of June.
Police raids on the Wirecard offices continued, amid accusations of money-laundering and defrauding of creditors. Repercussions from Wirecard’s downfall brought about the resignation of then-president of German financial regulatory watchdog BaFin Felix Hufeld, and former Chancellor Angela Merkel and then-Finance Minister Olaf Scholz were called to testify in the scandal.
Why did it take so long for financial authorities to act, when irregular activities had been alleged for years? In 2019, regulator BaFin had already announced an inquiry into the company’s accounting and banned short-selling Wirecard stock. And it’s a question that’s come back around in the JuicyFields case.
The German regulator said they are unable to comment on Olofsson’s case but offered further details on JuicyFields.
“On 3 June 2022, BaFin prohibited Juicy Holdings B.V. from offering capital investments in the form of investment opportunities in JuicyFlash, JuicyMist, JuicyKush, and JuicyHaze cannabis plants to the public in Germany due to a violation of the German Capital Investment Act. Juicy Holdings B.V. is therefore not authorized to offer capital investments in the form of investment opportunities in cannabis plants in Germany,” a BaFin representative stated.
“Regarding our warning in relation to Juicy Holdings B.V.’s, I want to highlight that Juicy Holdings B.V.’s (alleged) capital investments were/are unregulated capital market products. This means that a company that offers such products does not require authorization from BaFin and is therefore not subject to ongoing supervision.”
Like the plot of an improbable fintech thriller, cannabis e-investment conglomerate JuicyFields has imploded into an apparent Ponzi scheme of massive proportions, leaving tens of thousands of online investors wondering who is responsible for the biggest swindle in cannabis.
Swedish attorney and CEO of PRIO Startup Ltd., Lars Olofsson, places partial blame on international banking systems, because several transactions generated by the JuicyFields platform should have triggered institutional systems that detect suspicious activity.
Financial regulatory agencies in in Germany and Spain also issued warnings about the company weeks before JuicyFields’ collapse in mid-July, when investors accounts were frozen.
“Several companies, organizations and individuals have facilitated this. An operation like this could never operate in a vacuum. It needs all kinds of suppliers who directly or indirectly facilitated or looked the other way,” Olofsson told Investor Times last week.
Recent developments indicate that suspended Australian fintech company iSignthis (ISX) and its subsidiary ISX Financial EU may be implicated in the scandal. Olofsson confirmed that the Australian bank received funds from JuicyFields.
By the end of July, Olofsson had been contacted by more than 300 victims, with an average investment of €30,000 each. He is one of several European attorneys listed on the JuicyFields’ website as taking cases of victims.
The scope of the scam is potentially enormous.
Fortune.com noted that JuicyFields may be the largest “crypto scam” of 2022, with investors out $273 million in bitcoin alone, though others speculate the actual amount will be in the billions. In Spain, attorney Emilia Zaballos said that her firm has received more than 6,000 emails in regard to the case.
Class action suits are beginning to take shape, though getting to the bottom of the rabbit hole will be complicated. There are dramatic theories regarding who may own the company and if they have absconded with the funds, or if the accounts were drained by hackers.
A revolving door of C-suite players, shady operators behind the JuicyFields website and alleged Russian mob characters left behind a confusing breadcrumb trail of addresses and registrations, in Amsterdam, Switzerland, Zurich and elsewhere – all of which lead to nowhere and no one.
Former JuicyFields executives basically have disappeared. Luxemburg-based publication Delano reported: “Identifying the companies involved – which may well be fictitious – locating their directors and tracing the flow of money will be a long-term task.”
Of no reassurance to JuicyFields’ victims, Olofsson added that he believes Russian organized crime involvement may be a strong possibility, though he has no conclusive evidence supporting that assertion.
Industry insiders and pundits said that JuicyFields’ business model and marketing tactics were suspicious from the start. Some pointed out that industry media on the topic was sparse, but piecemeal posts on social media hinted that all might not be quite right at the investment platform.
That didn’t stop international investors from signing up for promises of rapid returns – more than 50% in little more than 12 weeks – on per-plant investments with the JuicyFields cannabis growers. Clients were allowed to deposit up to €180,000 per account without background checks typically required for such investments.
The company invested heavily in marketing, becoming a splashy presence at industry trade shows where they plied potential customers with open bars and attractive spokesmodels.
At the International Cannabis Business Conference, held in Barcelona in March, JuicyFields was a conspicuous show sponsor, with two logo-ed Lamborghinis parked at the entrance to the show and at VIP events hosted by the company. At that time, accounts were still being opened, and investors were encouraged to sign up friends for financial rewards.
JuicyFields’ Timeline of Decline
By early June, the German Federal Financial Supervisory Authority, known as BaFin, issued a ban on investment in the company because it failed to file a required prospectus. Little more than a month later, BaFin levied a €1 million fine against the company for failing to withdraw cannabis for sale in Germany. JuicyFields responded, saying it was revamping its platform to comply with regulations.
By July 11, the company’s IT, customer support and payments “teams” announced they would strike the next day over disputes with management. The announcement triggered a panic among investors, who found themselves unable to withdraw funds from their accounts.
The next day, a Telegram account used by the company to communicate with clients was shut down, and contact information on the website was altered.
Recently appointed JuicyFields CEO Willie van der Merwe released a statement saying that the site had been shut down during “updating” in order to prevent hacking. It was the first of several confusing statements from various executives attached to the company.
On July 13, Communications Director Zvedza Lauric tweeted a video stating the website had been hacked and that the company was waiting to release funds. Statements on other social media said the situation would be resolved within 48 hours.
By July 14, van der Merwe resigned after less than two months as CEO, and company social media accounts started to shut down.
Three days later, former CEO Alan Glanse posted documents that indicated Paul Bergolts, Alex Vaimer and Alexi Kandinski were in control of the company. All are Russian citizens, spurring the Russian mob rumors.
On July 17, Brigit-Elisabeth Neumann, who claimed to have been CFO and a board member, posted a video and written statement claiming that changes to the website were made to “deceive” the platform’s e-growers. Her statement went on to say that she and a group of “directors” who had been listed on the site never had access to or anything to do with the JuicyFields platform.
Neumann indicated that she and these directors had formed JuicyFields AG and would file a complaint against the team at JuicyFields.io ,including Glanse, strategic partner Erika Misela and the Russian trio.
According to Spanish news outlet El Pais, JuicyFields sent out its last, confusing email to customers on July 19, which advised affected parties to “use the following email addresses to submit your story, speak your mind, send collateral for an emergency refund, or embark on a long road of endless conversations with our lawyers.”
The JuicyFields.io website has changed appearance several times since the collapse in July, and it is unclear who is operating it. The landing page now features a purple marijuana plant with Private Grow Operations Project” in a large white font and the JuicyFields logo in the upper left corner.
The page also features what seems to be an open letter for those wishing to file complaints, full of grammatical errors and links to various attorneys and victims’ groups. Cryptic screenshots of texts apparently aimed former executive Friedrich Graf von Luxberg (and his brother Stefan Ludwig), who have been implicated in the scam, also are included.
A link to refund instructions appears near the bottom the page and includes a statement saying that users that have submitted “required collateral” are already being paid from “remaining cash reserves.”
Cannabis data tech company BDSA released findings from its Consumer Insights Survey, which showed that cannabis consumer markets continue to expand as more states approve adult-use cannabis and acceptance of legal cannabis increased among consumers.
BDSA noted cannabis consumer “milestones” that had been achieved, including nearly 50% of Americans currently with access to legal cannabis. Data from Spring 2022 indicated that in states with legal adult-use cannabis, more than 50% of those surveyed claimed to have consumed cannabis within the last six months, which was up 15% from the same time in 2020.
Survey results also showed that the number of consumers that identified as “rejectors,” or non-consumers not open to consuming cannabis, dropped to 23% in Spring 2022, from 31% in Spring 2020.
“In just a few short years, attitudes towards cannabis across the country have shifted rapidly, with the share of those who have ‘bought in’ to cannabis consumption skyrocketing while fewer and fewer report not being open to consuming cannabis,” BDSA surmised. Survey findings also indicated consumers are becoming more knowledgeable about cannabis products and use, and that in Spring 2022, 35% considered themselves “cannabis connoisseurs,” which was up from 25% in Spring 2019. In 2022, 83% of those surveyed said they knew the difference between THC and CBD. BDSA added that consumers are exploring new activities to pair with cannabis, including alcohol consumption.
“There are several consumption occasions, such as hanging out, or relaxing at the end of the day, that present opportunities for both alcohol and cannabis consumption. The share of consumers who report pairing cannabis with different types of alcohol has risen significantly. The share of consumers in adult-use markets who report pairing cannabis with spirits or liquor rose from 12% in Spring 2018 to 22% in Spring 2022, while the share who report cannabis with cocktails doubled to 20% in Spring 2022,” the report said.
Percentages of cannabis consumers that said they combined consumption with other activities including fine dining and exercise also grew significantly in 2022, to more than a quarter of those surveyed. Overall, markets saw significant growth in the last two years, along with increased consumer participation, BDSA said. More mature markets like Colorado and California showed slower growth, which may signal “nearing” market saturation. Somewhat predictably, states that had recently legalized adult-use cannabis had the most rapid growth.
“Colorado saw its consumer participation jump from 41% in Spring 2020 to 51% in Spring 2022, but the markets saw only 1% growth in consumer share between Fall 2021 and Spring 2022. The survey said that the California market saw its consumer participation grow from 33% in Spring 2020 to 47% in Spring 2022 and only saw 2% growth in consumer share between Fall 2021 and Spring 2022,” the survey said.
In medicinal cannabis markets, consumer participation is lower but still showed significant growth from 26% in Spring 2020, to 41% in 2022. Rejecters in medicinal markets also dropped from 34% to 28% over the same time period. Florida, with its large medicinal-only market, saw a notable increase in consumer participation from 24% in Spring 2020, to 49% in Spring 2022.
Cannabis research firm Brightfield Group released its CBD: FDA Impact and the Path Forward/ 2022 Mid-Year US CBD Report, which found that growth in the CBD industry is “heavily dependent” on Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulation, though there has been little progress on federal regulation for cannabidiol (CBD) since provisions removing hemp and hemp derivatives from prohibition were passed in the Farm Act of 2018.
“If federal regulation were to be implemented by 2024, sales are expected to reach $11.0 billion by 2027, driven by accelerated growth of ingestible products like capsules and gummies as well as increased acceptance by mainstream retailers,” the Brightside report said. “Without such guidance, the CBD market is expected to remain decidedly lower.”
CBD Needs FDA
Currently, the U.S. CBD market is expected to reach $5 billion by 2022, according to Brightside. The report then offered two scenarios – projections with FDA guidance in place by 2024, or without. Their analysis predicted more than $4 billion in growth for the CBD industry by 2027, to $11 billion with the implementation of a regulatory scheme. However, without regulation, the report predicted relatively stagnant growth over the same time period to just over $6 billion.
Lack of FDA guidance, Brightside pointed out, presented challenges for CBD industry businesses by allowing a market environment with “a shifting product mix and competition from other hemp-derived cannabinoids, though price compression has begun to subside, and the industry is increasingly attracting attention from large firms.”
“While waiting for increased oversight, companies have been seeking to define CBD’s place in the wider wellness landscape and using tactics like creating non-CBD products that can be sold through mainstream outlets and partnering with retailers who do not sell CBD to increase distribution and reach a novel base of consumers,” the report surmised.
Brightside said CBD product companies Charlotte’s Web (OTC: CWBHF) and Your CBD Store (SunMed) were the two top leaders in company shares for the second year in a row. Charlotte’s Web saw the largest portion of industry online sales and was third in brick-and-mortar sales behind Your CBD Store (SunMed) and American Shaman. Companies that saw significant gains in Q1 2022 included High Tide and Heavenly Rx/Simply Better Brands.
Grocery store sales of CBD products grew 18 percent since 2021, with $131 million in sales predicted for 2022. Brightside called grocery companies “risk averse” in regards to CBD products, resulting in marketing challenges for ingestible CBD products. Topicals will account for more than 41 percent of grocery store CBD product sales in 2022, with tinctures a distant second place at just over 19 percent. With FDA guidance, the report said, the ingestible CBD product market was set to boom.
Pundits and industry experts are not hopeful for any federal regulations to come from the agency any time soon. Though four years have passed since the hemp provisions were approved in the Farm Bill, only one CBD-based pharmaceutical application has been approved by the FDA; Epidiolex, which was developed to treat seizures associated with a severe form of pediatric epilepsy.
The FDA has said there is not enough data or research on CBD (or other cannabinoids) to allow comprehensive guidance for the industry. The COVID-19 pandemic also apparently slowed progress for the agency, as it prioritized vaccine approval over the last two years.
An open day-long meeting in mid-June was held by the Science Board to the FDA to discuss the challenges to evaluating cannabinoids as dietary supplements or food ingredients, as well as safety reviews and concerns regarding toxicity possibly associated with consistent consumption of large amounts of CBD. The agency claims concerns are based on data gathered during the approval of Epidiolex. CBD industry leaders said the meeting provided only more delaying tactics from the FDA.
In February, the appointment of new FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf, M.D., gave attorney Blair Gue of Rogoway Law, a glimmer of hope for progress. Comments from Califf, though, were nonspecific regarding when FDA guidance on CBD may be forthcoming. Gue pointed out that continued pressure on the agency was needed from CBD industry companies.
“Though Commissioner Califf could not provide a plan or timeline for the adoption of hemp or CBD regulations, he did express a strong desire to work with Congress on the subject moving forward. Given Commissioner Califf’s comments about his willingness and desire to make real progress on the FDA’s industrial hemp product and derivative regulations, now is the time for the industrial hemp community to apply pressure to ensure that he actually does so,” she said.
Canna-tech companies were busy over the long 4th of July weekend, analyzing sales data from their various platforms for what was expected to be one of the biggest weeks of the year for cannabis retailers. In Canada, the national holiday Canada Day is celebrated on July 1, with vendors hoping for a holiday spike in sales.
Last week canna-tech company Surfside predicted that the Thursday before the 4th of July, 2022, might be the busiest day of the summer in the U.S. Their analysis also indicated that Fridays in the summer have a magic of their own and consistently saw increased sales compared to other days of the week and Fridays during other times of the year.
Pregaming the 4th
According to data analyzed by canna-tech companies Akerna Corp. and Flowhub, the Friday before the 4th of July turned out to be the big day for retail sales in the U.S.
Akerna (NASDAQ: KERN) said that according to their data, Friday, July 1, became the second highest-grossing sales day for 2022, with USD $106.7 million in sales. Data from Akerna’s MJ Analytics platform indicated that compared to $89.6 million in sales on the same day in 2021, this year showed a 19.1 percent sales increase. Monday, July 4th, had lower sales, which was attributed to stores being closed for the holiday.
Data from Flowhub’s platforms said sales on Friday, July 1, were up 15 percent compared to a regular Friday. The Saturday and Sunday before 4th of July saw a five percent increase each day, while the 4th of July saw a scant two percent increase. Flowhub added that 33 percent of sales on their platforms for the holiday weekend included a discount.
Delivery and distribution company Lantern said sales were strong before and throughout the weekend, with customers purchasing “flower, then edibles, and then vapes, (with) more customers than usual who bought drinks and pre-rolls.”
SpringBig, a company that develops customer loyalty program technology for cannabis vendors, said their platform saw a slight increase in overall sales, with $16.9 million this year, compared to $16.8 million for the same weekend last year. “The sales and loyalty redemptions numbers are almost identical between last year and this year,” they said.
Data company Headset saw declines in sales this year, specifically on Canada Day and July 4th.
In Canada, on July 1, Headset noted an average decline in sales of 23 percent across all provinces, with Ontario experiencing the biggest drop at 29 percent. Across product categories on Canada Day, there was a decline in sales for typically popular items including “vapor pens (-27%), flower (-25%), oil (-22%), and concentrates (-19%).” The company did not have comment on what may have triggered sales to trend lower or if sales prior to Canada Day were elevated.
In the U.S., July 4th saw a 6.6 percent drop in sales, compared to the four previous Mondays. Across product categories, Headset data indicated, “Not all products fared the same with Pre-Rolls actually seeing an increase in sales of +6% on July 4th while Topicals and Capsules (traditionally consumed in a more health and wellness setting) saw declines of -17% and -28% respectively.”
Dab Day Outlook
With medical and adult-use cannabis vendors now looking forward to July 10 – aka 7/10 or cannabis concentrate event Dab Day – it remains to be seen if the little-known cannabis holiday will grow in popularity. With looming global recession, worsening inflation and market mayhem in effect, consumers may be looking for bargains or more conservative with spending, though July typically sees higher overall sales than other months of the year.
In comparison, Headset shared insights for Dab Day 2021 with Green Market Report after last year’s holiday. Their data indicated that U.S. sales increased slightly, while 7/10 sales in Canada remained flat:
Total Sales Growth: On Dab Day 2021 (7/10/21) total US cannabis sales slightly increased by 3.3% over an average of the previous four Saturdays. Canadian cannabis markets experienced more or less flat sales over the same time frame with a decrease in daily sales of -0.7%.
Category Sales Growth: US cannabis customers showed up for ‘Dab Day’ 2021. Concentrate sales increased by 67.4%, and was the category with by far the highest sales growth on that day. Vapor pens, which we’ve seen also get a little lift from ‘Dab Day’ in the past, increased in sales by 7.1%. Unlike the US, ‘Dab Day’ was not as successful in Canada; concentrate sales increased by only 5.5%.
Concentrate Segment Growth: In the US on Dab Day 2021, Rosin products had the strongest growth, increasing in sales by 213% over the previous four Saturdays. HTE (+153.4%) was the next most successful segment.
Dab Day Discounts: Dab Day was a fantastic day for American concentrate fans to stock up on products this year. In the US the average discount on concentrates grew by a whopping 60%, rising from 16.0% during the previous four weeks to 25.6% on 7/10/2021.
Cannatech company LeafLink’s June Flash report indicated that the month of May was a mixed bag for cannabis category sales, state-by-state performance, and pricing analysis. The report analyzed data from Leaflink’s wholesale brand distribution and retailer platforms, with markets in Arizona, California, Colorado, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, and Massachusetts.
The cartridge category saw the largest overall drop in market share, losing 1.5 percentage points from April to May 2022, though the overall wholesale cannabis industry grew 5% year-over-year (YoY) when measured by “gross merchandise value” (GMV). Edibles showed a 1% drop, month-over-month (MoM), with some markets saturated with products and experiencing decreased sales. Average concentrate prices saw a slight increase in May, at just under 1% for the month.
Flower retained 34.6% of GMV for May, with continued top category status. LeafLink noted that in May, flower saw a 1% increase in sales and 2.2% increase in market share, the largest increase since June 2021. The average price of flower held steady throughout the month of May, at $1059 a pound, up 1.3% from the end of April. LeafLink noted that flower prices saw the greatest jump in Massachusetts, at a 14% increase up from April.
May Drops 19%
Overall transaction volume for May was down 19% YoY, LeafLink reported.
Brand growth saw 44% of brands with an increase in sales, and median growth of 25%. Brands that declined had a median reduction of 20%. LeafLink named the fastest growing brands per state, including Sublime Brands (AZ), Jeeter (CA), Leiffa (CO), Primitiv (MI), City Trees (NV), Grown Rogue (OR), and In Good Health (MA).
Retailers purchased a scant 1% less in May, YoY, according to the data. May percentages were split with 48% of buyers “increasing spend at this time,” the report said. Transaction volume per buyer decreased slightly, both MoM and YoY, at 4% and 1% respectively. Buyers that decreased their spending did so at an average rate of 24%.
Massachusetts Stays Strong
Measured by GMV, “Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, and Massachusetts saw positive year-over-year growth in May, with the latter seeing a 43% increase,” the report said. Massachusetts was followed by Arizona with a 32% increase in growth, and Michigan at 20%. Older, more established markets California and Oregon experienced a decrease for the month, at -13% and -7% respectively.
The data indicated that Massachusetts’ market was experiencing the most robust growth of the states in the monthly report. In comparison, Massachusetts retailers spent only 23% more than Nevada retailers, but with up to five times as many orders than retailers in Nevada.
LeafLink added that wholesale vendors hoping to position themselves in the Massachusetts market might take advantage of the accessories category, with only 13% of brands selling cannabis accessories, while the category makes up 31% of sales statewide. Edibles and ingestibles were the most saturated category in Massachusetts, sold by 72% of brands but occupying only 22% of sales in May. In Nevada, the same trend emerged with 62% of brands offering edible products but representing only 14% of sales in the state.
If predicted trends prove to be true, this Thursday, June 30, may be the busiest cannabis retail sales day for summer 2022, as Americans in legal states get ready to celebrate the long 4th of July weekend. Cannabis consumers are likely to celebrate independence by indulging in their favorite flower and other products that enhance a day at the beach, backyard BBQ with friends, or summer vacation in some legal destination.
Canna-tech company Surfside Solutions’ recently released its first-ever Summer 2022 Ad Planner for cannabis retailers. According to Surfside’s data analysis, several important factors are aligning that may result in a busy July 4th weekend for dispensaries and retail shops. The report “analyzed millions of cannabis transactions across dispensaries and websites from May 2021 to September 2021 to help understand future trends.”
4th of July
July is the busiest summer month for cannabis retailers, Surfside said. The Thursday before the 4th of July was the single strongest retail cannabis sales day of the summer, and the Friday before 4th of July showed 57 percent greater sales than an average day in July. This year, with July 4th falling on a Monday, there seems little doubt that locals and travelers alike will take advantage of the long weekend.
Fridays, from June through August, possess a power of their own with an average of 41 percent higher sales than Fridays during other times of the year. At either end of the summer season, the Friday before the long Memorial Day weekend averaged a 69 percent increase in retail sales, while Labor Day Friday showed a 65 percent more sales.
Though time is short for advertising aimed at 4th of July customers, July 10th – also known as cannabis holiday Dab Day for concentrate enthusiasts – is on the following Sunday. For the uninitiated – when viewed upside down and backward, the date 7/10 spells “oil,” the most common form of concentrate. Though nowhere near the popularity of the 4/20 holiday in April, Surfside suggested that retailers send Dab Day advertising starting on July 5, with special offers on concentrate products.
Cannabis data company Headset in early June released an analysis of concentrate sales data from California, Colorado, Washington, Nevada, Oregon and Michigan in the U.S., and the provinces of Alberta, Ontario, British Colombia, and Saskatchewan in Canada.
“Since our last [October 2021] report on concentrates, market share to this category has increased in Canada (up from 2.9%) and decreased in the U.S. (down from 9.5%). In Canada, concentrates are the third best-selling ‘Cannabis 2.0’ category behind vapor pens and edibles. In both countries they are the fifth highest revenue product format behind flower, pre-rolls, vapor pens, and edibles,” Headset said. The report also noted that Boomer consumers were least likely to purchase concentrates; various forms of concentrate were most popular with male Gen Z consumers.
In Pennsylvania, patients will be able to purchase cannabis vape products after a mid-June ruling overturned a February recall and sales ban on more than 670 cannabis vape products, mandated by the state’s Department of Health. Health officials had cited the use of terpenes (botanical compounds that can be derived from cannabis and other plants, commonly used for flavorings or adaptogenic effects) in concentrate formulations as the cause for the ban. The injunction handed down by the Commonwealth Court allowed vape products back on shelves in Pennsylvania’s medical dispensaries; the state has not yet approved recreational sales.
A cannabis product category that has seen steadily increasing consumer interest – maybe, especially on long, lazy, hot summer days – are THC-infused adult beverages.
“Since the launch of beverages in Canada around January 2020, market share of this category has seen significant growth until reaching a peak of 2.1 percent of the total Canadian market in December of 2021. With a long history of beverages in the U.S., market share has experienced slower, more consistent growth in the U.S. over the same time period,” said Headset’s Cannabis Beverages: A look at Category Trends & Performance report.
Headset’s data indicated also that California leads the infused beverage market, and “by the end of 2021, California had doubled their product offerings to just over 530 distinct cannabis beverage products.” Canadian consumers purchased more carbonated beverages, though, while “drops, mixes, elixirs, and syrups,” made up more than 27 percent of American beverage category sales.
Just in time for summer, artisan soda company Jones Soda recently released an infused offering, Mary Jones sodas formulated with 10mg of THC per bottle, in Berry Lemonade, Orange and Cream, Green Apple and Root Beer flavors. A 100mg THC-infused canned soda is coming soon, according to a company announcement, as well as a 1000mg “syrup” tincture that can be added to beverages.
“Jones Soda is a legendary brand built from bold flavors and doing bold things,” said Bohb Blair, a chief brand officer at Mary Jones Cannabis Co. and chief marketing officer for Jones Soda Co. “Whether you’re a canna-newbie or a cannaseur, our sodas are the most exciting flavors in cannabis today, and our product roadmap will keep our fans delighted by what’s to come.”
Award-winning, California-based Good Stuff Beverage Company has brought energy drink vibes to cannabis beverages with two-ounce, 100mg THC infused shots in sativa and indica strains. Twelve-ounce infused drinks come in sativa, indica and hybrid options, for energizing, calming, or euphoric effects. The line’s summery flavor blends include Honey Lemonade, Raspberry Lemonade, Key Limeade, and Strawberry Hibiscus.
THC-infused beverage manufacturers may be on to something, as warm summer temperatures drive consumers to keep chill and hydrated. Wellness drinks infused with non-psychoactive ingredients derived from hemp, like CBD and terpenes, are already readily available from mainstream vendors including grocery chains and convenience stores and appeal to adults who want more options than plain water or soda, to avoid an alcohol hangover.
Beverage alcohol research company IWSR released a report in January that indicated low- and no-alcohol beverage options are increasing in popularity with consumers. The report analyzed data on beverages infused with CBD and non-psychoactive plant compounds, but not THC-infused formulations.
“The alcohol-adjacent category is emerging rapidly as more people become interested in moderation and avoiding the effects of alcohol,” IWSR researchers said. “Alcohol adjacencies offer mood-enhancing or functional benefits, many employing ingredients such as CBD, nootropics and adaptogens. These products focus on how their ingredients will make consumers feel, and are seen as an alternative way to enjoy traditional alcohol occasions – thereby appealing to health-conscious (and stressed-out) consumers.”
Merchants should make note: Labor Day is not far off, on Monday, September 5, which will mark a long weekend and the unofficial end of summer. According to Surfside, it could also be the second strongest weekend for summer sales.
By then, days will be getting shorter, and it’ll be time to start planning for winter holiday promotions and advertising campaigns.
The Green Market Report focuses on the financial news of the rapidly growing cannabis industry. Our target approach filters out the daily noise and does a deep dive into the financial, business and economic side of the cannabis industry. Our team is cultivating the industry’s critical news into one source and providing open source insights and data analysis