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Interview, Part 1: Southern Glazer’s Doug Wieland On The Progress Of Cannabis Subsidiary Great North

January 7, 2020

Southern Glazer’s, through its subsidiary Great North Distributors, has been among the key beverage alcohol players branching into cannabis in Canada’s recreational market. While Canada’s adult-use cannabis category has seen its share of growing pains over the past year—among them oversupply and an uneven retail rollout—Great North and others have been laying the groundwork for future growth. According to Statistics Canada, adult-use retail sales totaled C$908 million ($690m) from October 2018 through September of last year, with more than 400 brick-and-mortar retailers in operation. Shanken News Daily executive editor Daniel Marsteller caught up with Doug Wieland, president of both Southern Glazer’s Canada and Great North, to get an update on progress.

SND: What have been the biggest successes and challenges respectively for Great North and the Canadian cannabis market in general, now that we’re over a year into the recreational market?

Wieland: Our biggest success to date has been the relationships we’ve established with retailers through brand education, and our consistent coverage model. We’re also excited about continuing to grow our supplier relationships and expand our portfolio with great partners such as Aphria, Pasha, and Tinley. The biggest challenge, which has affected the entire industry, has been the volatility by market in terms of supply. The rollout, in terms of number of stores and licenses across the country, has been slower than anticipated, especially in major markets like British Columbia and Ontario.

SND: How is Great North’s supplier portfolio developing? What types of producers are most attractive from Great North’s perspective?

Wieland: We’ve been very selective in the brands that we’ve added since first announcing our partnership with Aphria. We’re looking for suppliers that complement our existing portfolio. With the launch of 2.0, we’ve added vapes, beverages, topicals, concentrates, and edibles into our portfolio, and we’re excited about the potential of these developing categories.

SND: Have any specific products or product types proven especially popular with consumers in the early going?

Wieland: High THC and CBD products have had a lot of traction out of the gate. Our teams work with “budtenders” across the country to have a better understanding of what consumers are looking for. This is where our industry-leading data insights really come into play. Price was a big factor initially, but we’re starting to see growth in premium and ultra-premium price segments. For flower, our analysis on price segments is focused on 3.5-gram products in the Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS). We define “premium” as C$40-C$50 ($30-$38) per 3.5 grams, and “super-premium” as C$50 ($38) and up, with “standard” being between C$30-C$40 ($23-$30) and “value” being anything below C$30 ($23).

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