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Impact Seminar: Green Thumb’s Ben Kovler On Building Brands In The Cannabis Space

March 31, 2020

Ben Kovler, founder, CEO, and chairman of Green Thumb Industries (GTI), represented the cannabis industry at the 44th Annual Impact Marketing Seminar, held earlier this month in New York. While Kovler is focused on the cannabis category, he also has ties to the drinks business as the great-grandson of Harry Blum, who spearheaded the development of the Jim Beam brand.

At the Seminar, Kovler delivered a comprehensive look at the state of cannabis in the U.S. and the opportunity it presents, both for newer companies like GTI as well as legacy players. He noted that, while the $13 billion U.S. market is currently tiny in comparison to beverage alcohol, it’s projected to maintain a 20% compound annual growth rate over the next decade, ultimately leading to a mature market of $80 billion, on par with spirits and $10 billion larger than wine.

Kovler compared the coming end of cannabis prohibition to the repeal of alcohol prohibition in 1933. “During alcohol prohibition there was bathtub gin and moonshine, which gave way to Jim Beam and Jose Cuervo and Jack Daniel’s and all of the others. With cannabis prohibition, there was weed in a baggy; now that’s turning into our brands Rythm and Dogwalkers, as well as others that will develop a relationship with consumers.” Even though the U.S. is a patchwork of state-level legalization, Kovler explained that in some ways the rules are far more lenient than in Canada, where strict regulations preclude labels and designs that convey personality and distinguish a product from its competitors.

Turning specifically to Green Thumb’s progress, Kovler discussed the company’s goals, strategy, and portfolio. With a mission of “promoting well-being through cannabis,” the Green Thumb has maintained a dual focus of achieving rapid expansion and developing strong, trusted brands. The company is now in 12 markets, weighted toward the East. Kovler is particularly focused on Illinois and Pennsylvania as states that have massive potential, estimating that both could be worth $3 billion.

“This is a House of Brands approach,” Kovler noted. He highlighted Dogwalkers, a line of pre-rolled joints, as a standout. Pre-rolls are seeing 44% growth rates right now, the highest of any form factor. “We think we have the leading national brand in pre-rolls with Dogwalkers, which are mini pre-rolls that come in a tin of five. A lot of people who consume cannabis are out smoking a joint when they walk their dog, so we tee it up for them and it’s high-quality flower. We can’t make these fast enough, so we’re investing in production on a very large scale.”—Danny Sullivan

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