In the pantheon of Canadian cannabis companies, 48North looms large. Founded by Alison Gordon in 2017 and publicly traded for over two years, the vertically-integrated cannabis company has something most of their competitors do not—a brand.
Like their peers, 48North sells pre-rolls, and quantities of flower and vapes, but they begin to differentiate with their new line of topicals, available via their Apothecanna line. Industry-wide, they have a reputation. They’re synonymous with attention to detail, female-forward products and an environmental ethos that suits our moment of craft connoisseurship, which may only blossom during this time of COVID-19.
When Gordon left the company in March, replaced by 31-year-old Charles-Alexandre Vennat, who cut his teeth in his family-owned Quebec-based tobacco company, it raised eyebrows. Like Bruce Linton, John Fowler, Adam Miron and Terry Booth, Gordon is a well-known, well-liked first-wave Canadian cannabis pioneer that helped build our industry. Weed years move quickly and it’s hard sometimes to remember that even Canopy is only six years old.
Vennat, a hash smoker currently based in Toronto and excited about the next phase of 48North, says he admires Gordon and the work she did. He wants to build upon her legacy.
“Alison Gordon deserves a tremendous amount of credit for highlighting needs for brands in this space and it was something no one was talking about until she hammered it home,” says Vennat, also adding that it was Gordon who hired 48North’s Chief Marketing Officer Kirsten Gauthier, one of the pillars of his oldish/new company. “The brand has been put in such a tremendous position and we have a vast opportunity and consumer demand. I think that’s why this moment is so exciting. I want to deliver our 48North product to everybody that knows our name.”
48North is launching an unprecedented number of new products—28 different skus between now and October 6. There’s accessories, organic outdoor-grown flower from the Good:Farm, vapes, topicals and extractions. It’s a heavy load from a small company and represents an enormous challenge at a particularly difficult time. However, it’s the kind of pivot that Gauthier says has been brewing for years.
“Being in the industry and watching the behemoths take over, I feel like that’s our greatest strength because we sat back and sometimes cooking what you have in the fridge is better than blindly going shopping in the grocery store,” says Gauthier, who has been with 48North since it was known as DelShen Therapeutic and operated out of a not fully-licensed single facility in Northern Ontario. “We built our brand with emotional offerings and people gravitated towards us because they liked the way we behaved—now the moment is perfect to deliver our products.”
48North, says Gauthier, still stands by their values—fair pay, smart design, ecological compassion—but they’re now entering a new phase, a phase of operational execution.
“I believe that cannabis isn't like anything else; it’s not alcohol, it's not tobacco. It's a different kind of product and I feel a responsibility to the culture to treat it in a different way,” she says. “Henceforth, I’m really excited that we’re doubling down.”
That doubling down has CEO Charles-Alexandre Vennat chomping at the bit to reintroduce his brand to the world. He knows he’s inheriting a company with a lot of love built-in amongst cannabis consumers and he wants to apply what he’s learned in food and tobacco operations to his new home in the weed world. Of course, COVID-19 creates an environment of uncertainty across every sector, but numbers have shown that demand for cannabis products has only increased during these anxiety-wrought days. In a sense, the moment seems ripe for 48North—with its new team and desire—to emerge as a leading brand in Cannabis 3.0, or wherever we are in this current stage of the cannabis world.
“We’re hungry, motivated and bullish on our ability to deliver great products and delight all those consumers who already feel something for our brand,” he says, mentioning a new partnership with Indigo as an example of how 48North plans to reach consumers outside of the typical cannabis wheelhouse. “Our industry is so young and there’s so much potential. It’s just hugely exciting to present—right now and through the summer and fall—this exciting new phase of 48North.”
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