By Chloe Aiello
Canadian cannabis pioneer Paul Rosen, the serial entrepreneur behind companies like Tidal Royalty and PharmaCan, which rebranded to Cronos Group in 2016, is teaming up with big names in business and food to make high-end cannabis edibles with quality ingredients that — they hope — consumers will actually want to eat.
Called Pantry, the new company will offer nine different cannabis-infused sweets to start, including two different types of ganache, four types of fruit-based gummies, and even a keto-friendly chocolate. Rosen will announce the new company alongside his partners at cannabis trade show Hall of Flowers in Santa Rosa, Calif., Tuesday evening, and the sweets are expected to hit shelves in select dispensaries across California as early as June.
“It’s not going to be vapes, flower, none of that,” Rosen told Cheddar in an exclusive interview. “I just want to dominate, if you will, the foodie market in cannabis, which I think is going to emerge more powerfully and persuasively than we are currently seeing right now.”
Rosen plans to corner that market with help from actual foodies. He’s partnered out the gate with New York-area chefs Frank Castronovo and Frank Falcinelli, or “the Franks” who own and operate Frankies Spuntino restaurant group and produce a several Sicilian olive oils — one is featured in Pantry’s ganache bonbon.
Rosen’s also partnered with cannabis marketing agency Green Street, which is partly owned by entrepreneur and wine critic Gary Vaynerchuk; and Indus Holdings, a vertically integrated cannabis cultivator which also supplies cannabis for luxury brands like Beboe.
Rosen said Pantry was born of a simple observation. The Canadian entrepreneur and venture capitalist was hanging out in Los Angeles — he’d just parted ways with his latest successful venture, royalty financing company Tidal Royalty, after it announced a deal to merge with Michigan-based MichiCann in February — when he said he got sick of eating bad cannabis gummies.
An admitted cannabis consumer and wellness enthusiast, Rosen said he wasn’t prepared to eat sub par candy with high fructose corn syrup and other mystery ingredients just because he wanted to avoid smoking.
“The only time I would ever eat gummy bears or a sugar loaded chocolate bar is if you put in THC; otherwise I wouldn’t put that in my body, it’s just not good for you,” Rosen said. “And that was kind of an ‘aha.’”
Rosen later expanded that he aims to bring to market healthy super foods, like keto bars for example, that have the added purported benefits of cannabis, but with none of the bad stuff, like processed sugar.
“It is pretty elemental — let’s take out the out all the bad stuff e.g. refined processed sugar, trans fats and high fructose corn syrup and replace it with healthier and frankly better tasting options,” he said.
So, for lack of reliable cannabis food brand to turn to, Rosen recruited some partners and launched Pantry, a company on the forefront of trends in wellness, food, and cannabis.
Brands have struggled to assert themselves in the industry especially when operating within the confines of strict regulations on advertising, marketing, manufacturing, and licensing that tend to differ state-by-state and country-by-country. Experts have predicted that 2019 will be a big year for brands as the industry continues to mature, but Rosen said he wasn’t overly concerned about rushing to be first. He is, however, optimistic that the market will be embrace the products.
“People are still disrupting coffee and it’s been sold for 6,000 years. Like Bulletproof coffee, Blue Bottle coffee, Tokyo Smoke — we are still disrupting coffee,” said Rosen, who sits on the boards of iAnthus Capital and Hill Street Beverages. “I love the fact that right now the battle for the heart and mind of the consumer is wide open in every single product category in cannabis, but food is the most wide open in my mind.”
The company came together at a breakneck pace — in about six weeks all told. The speediness means they are still finalizing pricing days before their launch, but Rosen did hint that the brand will be “premium” and items will be priced more like gourmet food than cannabis products.
What he does know is that he’ll first tackle California — “if we can succeed here we can make noise anywhere” — before hitting Nevada. Then, the entrepreneur said he’ll likely take on his home country of Canada, where as a board member and advisor to numerous companies, he’s very well connected in the industry. Canada is expected to legalize a variety of new product categories, including edibles and infused beverages, in October.
And as for what’s next on Pantry’s menu, Rosen said products infused with CBD, the latest health and wellness trend, are coming soon.