CFN Media Interviews Wana Brands


Rachelle Gordon

January 11th, 2018

Policy


The popularity of cannabis-infused food and drink in the United States has grown exponentially with the advent of legal cannabis. The edibles market raked in an estimated $7.2 billion in 2016, and is projected to grow up to 25% annually. Wana Brands is the leader in cannabis-infused gummie products, which have quickly become the most popular types of edibles for consumers of all types. The Wana Brands name is synonymous with high-quality, delicious, and all-natural treats that offer cannabinoid concentrations for all types of consumers.

CFN Media recently sat down with Nancy Whiteman, Owner and Founder of Wana Brands, to discuss the company’s rise to fame and market dominance in the edibles space.

Rachelle Gordon:  What is the history of Wana Brands?

Nancy Whiteman:  We’ve been in business since 2010; we’re one of the original edibles companies in Colorado and are best known for our gummies. We have the distinction of being the #1 edibles company in Colorado with market share of about 20 percent. In addition to being in Colorado, we’re also in Oregon, Nevada and Arizona. We’re in about 85 percent of the dispensaries in Oregon and about 75 percent of the dispensaries in Nevada. We are getting ready to launch in four more markets. We’re launching in Illinois, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Maryland in the next six months or so.

In addition to our edibles line, we have a line of extended release capsules, which to my knowledge are the only extended release capsules on the market. Those come in a variety of formulations. We have three high THC versions – the Indica, Sativa, and a hybrid. We also have a high CBD version and we have a one-to-one balance.

When we founded Wana, it was very early-stage in the Colorado market. We got in the early stages of regulated environment; since then, the amount of regulations has increased. For example, since we’ve been in the business, Colorado instituted seed-to-sale tracking, third-party testing, child resistant packaging and a whole range of labeling rules.

I mention that because it really changed the industry tremendously. I think a lot of people got into it thinking it would be fun. It would be a lark. It would be easy to do. As it’s become more and more regulated, the people who are not able to keep up with that level of regulations have had to drop out of the market. It’s a different group of companies now. We’re one of the early companies that ended up staying in and surviving and thriving. One of the things that happened early on was that there really was no industry level data about what was popular and what was selling. Everybody tried a little bit of everything.

Over time what we saw is that some things sold better than other things. I always laugh because when we first got into the industry, there were people making infused pizzas and infused salad dressings. There was this belief that you could infuse anything, and you would want to. As we grew and began to understand the market, we ended up in the confectionary space. We did not know that gummies were going to be the #1 edibles category in the whole country when we started. We put a lot of time and energy into developing a really fantastic gummie recipe. We chose a category that was really good and we were really able to grow with it.

RG:  What sets Wana Brands apart from other edibles on the market?

NW:  First and foremost, we are committed to continually learning and evolving the science of product consistency. We also spend a lot of time and energy thinking about where the industry is going and trying to make sure that Wana products are reflecting that. I think that over time, that will become the big differentiator in the industry – people who are keeping track of the science and incorporating it into what they’re doing versus people who are just making a product and hoping for the best.

One of the reasons that Wana gummies have been so incredibly successful is our recipes. We hired a food chemist to help us perfect the recipe. We call him the “Gummie Guru.” He’s the man who consults just in the gummie space. He actually tested around 42 different types of pectin for us, in order to keep the recipe both vegan and delicious.

I think one of the most common questions that we get from people is, “Could you please make these in non-medicated versions because we want to just eat them? We can’t eat that many of them if they’re medicated!” That’s probably the biggest request that we get!

RG:  What are your projections for growth over the next few years?

NW:  Our intention is for Wana to be a national and international brand, and we’re already on our way. We’re in four markets now and will be launching in another four in the next six months or so. We are also in active discussions with potential Canadian partners as the country is preparing for full legalization in July. That’s a big important decision for us:  who will be our partner with there? The other obviously huge decision is who our partner will be in California. Those are probably, from a partnership point of view, our most strategic decisions right now.

RG:  Who do you consider to be the ideal business partner(s) for Wana Brands?

NW:  Choosing the right partners is one of the most challenging parts of my job. When I have discussions with potential partners, there is the business side of it. “Do you have the capital? What is your investor group look like? Who’s on your team?” Then there’s the heart and the people piece of it. I am a firm believer in the “life’s too short” point of view. I always say, “If I can’t imagine having dinner with somebody, I probably shouldn’t go into a partnership with them.”

We also want to know potential partners are genuinely interested in our brand. If we’re just one of many brands they’re representing, the chances that our brand is going to be getting the attention that we would like goes down substantially.

RG:  What else should potential partners and general consumers know about Wana?

NW:  Wana’s tagline as a company is Enhance Your Life. When we say Enhance Your Life, what we’re really saying is that cannabis doesn’t have to be the center of your universe. It enhances your life. If you’ve got a medical condition, it could make you feel better. If you enjoy it recreationally, it can enhance the things that you already like to do. That requires education and getting people comfortable with it. For some, topicals are going to be a good introduction because you can try it without having psycho-activity. For some people, edibles are a great introduction. For other people, vaping might be a great introduction. It all comes back to the fact that the public must be educated about responsible, safe, fun, enjoyable use of cannabis.

We try to do a ton of work with budtender training because they typically are the first line of people who are dealing with our consumers. It’s very common for people to go into dispensaries and say to a budtender, “Here’s the effect that I’m going for. I have anxiety or I have this or that. What do you recommend?” We spend a lot of time in training budtenders, not just on Wana products but on cannabis overall, and then also extending that out to the consumers.

Rachelle Gordon

About Rachelle Gordon

Rachelle Gordon is a Minneapolis-based writer. She was the president of her college's chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy and worked in Amsterdam for a brief time. Find her online at www.rachellegordon.net.


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