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The Best & The Rest

THE BEST & THE REST

Flower sales continued to dominate the North American market in 2021, despite extract-based products gaining significant ground. Premium products remained popular, with companies restructuring to target high-end consumers and higher profit margins. Intensified competition has lifted cannabis standards, with those unable to compete on quality doing so on cost. This has resulted in the creation of budget brands, with ounces under $100, as Canadian producers look to shift approximately 1.5 million lbs of unwanted product.

It is now estimated grams under $9 comprise 17% of Canadian flower sales, with Ontario’s provincial wholesaler threatening to delist budget items that fail to sell. Roughly 200 products could be removed, as the Ontario Cannabis Store purges surplus stock in favour of craft cannabis. This indicates a sharpened polarisation in the market, where increasingly only high-end and low-cost cannabis sells.

CANNABIS CONNOISSEURS

Buying the best flower on the market are the connoisseurs, who consume daily and constitute 10% of Canada’s adult population. As they spend roughly $320 per month on cannabis, producers hope the lucrative demographic can pave their return to profitability. However, these customers also have the highest standards and are the hardest to please. To entice enthusiasts with exceptional product, growers must cultivate cannabis exclusively for the cognoscente consumer.

This requires growers to constantly keep connoisseurs front of mind, with processes refined to excite even the most fastidious customer. This starts with procuring unique and sought-after genetics, which appeals to the savant that sees cannabis diversity as an opportunity for discovery. When exclusive genetics have been acquired, growers need to adopt farming methods that attract aficionados and accentuate the strain’s coveted characteristics.

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PRODUCTION PREMIUMS

Seasoned consumers increasingly favour clean cannabis, sustainably grown in living soil with natural inputs. Over a quarter of Canadian cannabis consumers are more interested in organic products than before the pandemic, with cultivators adopting ecological practices to distinguish their flower. Organic designation can enhance product popularity, but it also significantly increases costs and obstacles to growing premium cannabis. Although organic cannabis can fetch $20 per gram, growers must forego hydroponics and irradiation, which 80% rely on to pass regulatory testing and safeguard standards.

Irradiation has been linked to terpene and cannabinoid degradation, but it guarantees the crop can be sold legitimately as naturally occurring microorganisms can be hard to remove – especially without pesticides. To capitalize on outstanding genetics and organic farming, growers need specialists able to harness these resources and techniques to cultivate superior cannabis.

Superior cannabis demands superior cultivation practices, which raises overheads and erodes profitability. To preserve margins and remain competitive, growers need to streamline operations and simultaneously improve standards. As harvesting is typically the most labour-intensive process, automation can create substantial cost-savings. Although artisanal techniques are often romanticized, hand trimming significantly increases expenditure and rarely improves flower enough to justify its cost.

As hand-trimming relies on a motivated and skilled workforce, the appearance of finished product can vary greatly between personnel and from crop-to-crop. Conversely, specialist harvesting machinery can be as versatile as a manual trimmer, but capable of infinitely greater efficiency and consistency. With the ability to process wet and dry cannabis to replicate hand-finished flower, the best trimmers can be adjusted by strain and flower density to constantly deliver the best results. This consistency is crucial to drive brand loyalty and protect market share, with over 80% likely to recommend a cannabis product following a positive experience.

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PROTECTING POTENCY

As frequent consumers, cannabis connoisseurs have a high tolerance with 84% revealing strength drives their purchasing decisions. To protect potency, specialist cannabis trimmers benefit from non-stick coatings, which preserve trichomes. Any trichomes that detach from flowers when trimmed are stored by kief collection technologies, which can be processed to create extracts and maximize the crop’s value. As the top two concentrates favoured by aficionados are hash and kief, trichome storage devices could provide premium cannabis producers with a lucrative additional source of revenue.

A failure to satisfy connoisseurs in the face of market polarisation may see growers ensnared in a race to the bottom, against multi-national corporations able to leverage far greater economies of scale. To avoid this fate, growers must commit to exceptional cultivation techniques to produce exceptional flower. This significantly raises production costs and while connoisseurs are willing to pay a premium for superior flower, a price ceiling exists and high-end brands still need to remain competitive. To combat increased overheads, growers must analyze operations and refine processes, with solutions that augment high-end horticulture.

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