The cannabis industry continues to evolve in fascinating directions in 2023 as increasing consumer knowledge drives demand for more specialized products. Rare cannabinoids, format fusions, savoury edibles and lots of craft cannabis are hitting shelves in coming months. Here are just some of the exciting new brands and products to come.
Minor cannabinoids are showing up in a big way
There’s a world of cannabinoids beyond THC and CBD, offering consumers more tailored cannabis experiences in 2023 — “the right high for the right moment,” says Alanna Fonseca, vice-president of marketing and innovation at Spinach FEELZ (Cronos Group). Although the scientific community is still collecting evidence and research on the effects of minor cannabinoids, they’re already getting a lot of attention from the cannabis industry and consumers.
Using cultured cannabinoids produced by way of fermentation, Spinach FEELZ gummies, including new THC+CBC Day Trip gummies, deliver consistent, easily measured minor cannabinoids. Fonseca says CBC is the minor cannabinoid to watch in 2023, adding that many consumers report a clear, uplifting cannabis experience — a different take on the typical reported effects of THC.
Growtown is currently growing Canada’s only pure CBG strain, and CEO Peter Pakalnis sees this minor cannabinoid steadily gaining in popularity. Pakalnis explains that CBG is “non-intoxicating, so it gives you all the benefits of cannabis without intoxication. It’s an interesting feeling.” He says CBG may also help moderate THC in the body, with anecdotal reports of a reduction in THC-related anxiety. Launched in 2022 to focus on niche offerings, Growtown serves up several products like dried flower, pre-rolls and vapes that feature minor cannabinoids like CBG, CBGA and CBN.
Infused pre-rolls are in
Fans of high-potency cannabis concentrates can expect plenty of sensory-rich products on shelves this year. Weed Me CEO Terry Kulaga explains that the brand’s infusions are driven by a “never-ending consumer thirst for higher potency products.” The brand is already known for its infused pre-rolls; its fresh new product for 2023 is strain-specific milled flower infused with THCA diamonds. “Cannabis has limitations as to how potent it can naturally become,” Kaluga says. “Through innovative infusion techniques, we can greatly increase THC content to provide that novel experience.”
Serving customers with exciting flavours is a key focus at Motif Labs, where they specialize in amping up taste and aroma. Their soon-to-launch premium pre-roll will be infused with fresh frozen or live resin extracts to accentuate the natural terpene content for a luxurious sensory experience. “We’ve seen that high potency is what piques the consumer’s interest, but what keeps them coming back are the incredible flavours they can now experience in a pre-roll format,” says CEO Mario Naric. As makers of flavourful pre-rolls infused with minor cannabinoids, Motif Labs is using innovative papers, wraps and size formats to keep products exciting in the coming year.
Over at Good Supply, brand manager Michelle Morin says concentrates allow producers more control and flexibility to curate an experience for consumers. “Like how a juice company might mix its orange juice with other fruit juices to create a delicious blend,” Morin explains. Good Supply has multiple fan-favourite strains coming soon with exciting infusions for unique experiences, “including a new launch this winter that will be a real monster,” hints Morin. Right now, the brand’s Jean Guy Hash Bats — hash-infused pre-rolls — give consumers a longer, fuller experience of the classic strain alone, thanks to the infusion of hash.
Edibles — going beyond brownies
Pushing the boundaries of what people think of as edibles is the driving goal at Bogart’s Kitchen, says vice-president of commercial and product strategy Jordan Rodness. Their recent launch of THC-infused Grade A maple syrup from Quebec, for instance, was inspired by Sunday morning pancakes.
Also exploring breakfast flavours is WellCann. CEO Al Afrouz says his company was formed in 2019 to focus solely on edibles. WellCann’s products are made in response to demand for different formats that suit a regular, everyday diet. “The next generation will include a super seed series: infused hemp seeds, granola and cereal ingredients,” Afrouz explains. “Today’s consumers are concerned with sugar intake,” he continues, adding that edible trends tend to follow grocery trends, with some microdosing and strain-specific influence mixed in. The company now has over 50 edible cannabis products formulated in-house with water-soluble cannabinoids under brand names WELLDRESSED, Dr. Well and BonBon. This year, you can also get excited about new cannabis-infused salad dressings, oils and condiment sauces, seasonings, vegan confections and coffee creamers.
Clockwise from top left: Ice cream topper, sweet and salty popcorn, licorice bits
FLAVOUR PREDICATIONS FOR 2023
Jordan Rodness of Bogart’s Kitchen provides us with their team’s top predictions for what flavours we can expect in cannabis-infused edibles in 2023.
- classic orange cheese
- purple grape
Süge (pronounced “shoug,” like the first half of “sugar”) is a fun, new brand making popcorn, licorice bits and ice cream toppers aimed at consumers who just want to snack and not worry about overconsuming cannabis. “The onset is quick,” says business manager Alex Naldini, “because our THC is both water and fat soluble, it starts to react right away. So if you have four, five, six, seven, eight bits of candy, you’ll probably ingest close to one milligram of THC. If you want to stop there, stop. Or, if you want to keep going, keep eating.” As with all cannabis edibles, it’s recommended to start low and go slow.
Naldini grew up in the food industry and values great-tasting products as much as a “delicate touch” of cannabis, which Süge brings to its nostalgic snack offerings. He hinted at a boxed mac ’n’ cheese product coming soon, as well as a salty line of trail mix, potato chips and peanuts under the brand name Astronuts.
Refreshments-wise, Zèle cannabis-infused craft sodas introduce a range of flavours without any aftertaste, thanks to Zèle’s proprietary nanoencapsulation infusion process. Zèle co-founder Callum Hanton says the process “involves wrapping full-spectrum extract with perfectly paired flavonoids to create a flavourful soda with no bitter cannabis aftertaste.” Two new flavours from Zèle this year are Sarsaparilla and Black Cherry indica craft sodas. Low-calorie flavours coming soon include LO Pamplemousse Sativa Craft Soda and LO Grape OG Indica Craft Soda.
Scott Acton, Frost Cannabis co-founder, says micro Licensed Producers (LPs) represent traditional cannabis grow methods, with a focus on high quality over mass quantity. By definition, a micro LP is restricted to the amount of cannabis they can grow or sell — “max canopy space is about half a basketball court,” says Ontario Micro Growers (OMG) co-founder Jeff Phisanoukanh — whereas a standard LP has no limits.
OMG scours the province looking for the best micro LPs in Ontario. Phisanoukanh says getting cannabis from micros is like buying fresh produce from a farmer’s market in terms of quality and craftsmanship. As such, they highlight the grower, strain and grow methods on their packaging so consumers know exactly where the product is from.
OMG will launch the new strain Devil Driver by F1NE Cannabis in St. Catharines this year. The strain is a unique cross of Sundae Driver and Melonade. “It has a sweet, candy-like aroma and tested at 31 per cent THC,” says Phisanoukanh.
Frost Cannabis recently launched Rotating Strain, a collection of strains that can be released one after another under one SKU, so that small batches can fulfill the provincial requirement. Acton says Rotating Strain “allows people to try different types of cannabis without oversaturating the market.”
“There is not much small-batch cannabis on the market,” explains Acton, “and Rotating Strain allows us to change that while still providing variety and unmatched quality.” Frost can now show off the finest genetics they have encountered, while ensuring the plants are well nurtured, grown to their fullest potential and delivered fresh.
Working with larger LPs is a more typical arrangement to help bring micros to market. ROSE LifeScience (Homage) has partnerships with micros Prairie Craft Canopy and Five Rivers Cannabis. Nathan Seon, owner of Prairie Craft Canopy, says their Grape Escape is a “potent, highly flavourful cultivar that wouldn’t have made it to consumers without our partnership with Homage.” He adds that by supporting micro-cultivators, consumers are supporting hard-working families who are extremely passionate about cannabis. Also under Homage, Five Rivers Cannabis will launch Desi, which president Balraj Gill describes as “a unique cross of Strawberry Kush with a Punjab landrace strain.” Gill notes that Desi “would not have made it to market without this partnership.”
B.C.’s Joint Venture is bringing the best micros of the West to Ontario consumers. Vice-president of sales Janeen Davis says many of their growers are small-batch, mom-and-pop legacy farmers who had “decades-long journeys before entering the legal market.” Davis says these growers have “brought with them vast libraries of cannabis genetics, which they had perfected in the pre-legal market.” Through Joint Venture comes organic micro producer Living Cannabis with their Triple OG Flower and tasty Pakalolo Punch pre-rolls, and micro LP Smoker Farms with their Master Kush Ultra. “Years ago we were told rumours that our cultivators were too small to enter the Ontario market, but OCS has worked with us so we can offer small batch offerings and Ontario customers can enjoy the B.C. bud they have known and loved for decades.”
Craft goes big (while staying small)
Craft cannabis producers are a little larger than micro LPs, but the cannabis is still grown in small batches at a maximum of 10,000 kilograms per year, and the product is strictly hang-dried, hand-trimmed and hand-packaged. Craft offers consumers “bag appeal, aroma, trichome integrity, quality and consistency,” says Sarah Lauzon, product analyst of Bon Voyage (Lyonleaf). Lauzon says consumers are increasingly demanding high quality along with transparency of cultivation. They also want to support smaller operations, which echoes similar trends in other industries like food and beverage. Bon Voyage will launch its first two products, Craft Cherry and Craft Sapphire Cookies, in February 2023.
Steven Conville is founder, CEO and head of cultivation at Kronic, a Black-owned craft LP launching their own products in 2023 after years of producing for other LPs. With their impressive seed bank of over 1,000 different genetics, Conville says they have a “whole host of new-new and old-old,” including winning cuts from the legacy market. Conville is very particular that each grow gets the exact light, temperature and moisture specific to the age and stage of the cultivar. “High THC alone is not quality. If we blind-test our version of a particular strain against other versions, hands down we haven’t lost a battle yet,” he says. New this year to OCS will be Kronic’s Island Pink, their Super Silver Haze (“the Secretariat of cannabis”) and Gorilla Breath — a throwback to 2015-era legacy cannabis.