How Organigram turned cannabis into an all-Canadian experience

By now, most of us will know someone who has purchased cannabis in the legal retail market.

Whether they are your relative, colleague, or friend, if they prefer to partake in the premium brands offered across Canada then they have likely enjoyed one of Organigram’s brands.

The company was the first licensed producer in Atlantic Canada and quickly positioned themselves as one of the most trusted providers of medicinal cannabis to the nation.

There is a good chance you first heard of Organigram through patients who confidently chose the company to fill their prescriptions, or more recently on the news as a frontrunner in leading the charge for responsible recreational use and other safety and research initiatives.

Either way, this East Coast business is making waves as the preferred choice for cannabis consumers who are looking for the finer things, and they’re just getting started.

In 2013, Organigram was founded in Moncton, New Brunswick to meet the needs of those looking for large-scale producers of high quality cannabis, and have remained in the province that has

striven to market itself as the heart of cannabis evolution. As the industry transitioned from a focus on medical to recreational use, Organigram saw an opportunity to meet the demands of both demographics without sacrificing their original reputation as a medical supplier.

“We are and always will be a medical company,” says Greg Engel, CEO of Organigram. “Our patients who we have built a strong relationship with can always trust us to provide them with effective products to ensure their quality of life.” With over 20 years of experience in the pharmaceutical and the Atlantic cannabis industry, Engel understands better than most the value in building brands that consumers can be confident doing business with.

Since joining the executive team 18 months ago, Engel has seen Organigram grow from 48 employees to over 400, and he firmly believes the secret to successful growth is staunchly based in a supportive corporate culture.

“One of the most important things I’ve learnt in the past 20 years in growing companies is surrounding yourself with great people, and putting them in positions to succeed,” he says. “You also need to create a culture of collaboration and making that a key aspect of what you do every day.”

While Organigram remains committed to their patients, their auxiliary brands have been widely praised by recreational consumers looking to enjoy carefully crafted cannabis products. They currently hold three separate brands, ANKR Organics, Trailblazer, The Edison Cannabis Co. and Edison Reserve, which each target a specific niche of the recreational Canadian consumer.

Trailblazer is a high-value brand sold at a slight discount, but without compromising quality. ANKR Organics is a brand for consumers focused on holistic health and see the validity in the attributes of organic product. The Edison Cannabis Co. and Edison Reserve lines are intended for consumers who are very discriminating in their usage.

Building and growing multiple brands can prove challenging for any company, let alone those under such intense scrutiny as licensed producers are, but Chief Commercial Officer for Organigram, Ray Gracewood, has a simple strategy to uphold the brand.

“Our core values have always centered on creativity, sophistication, innovation and quality,” says Gracewood, former director of marketing for Moosehead Breweries.

“It comes down to consumer packaged goods fundamentals. Whether marketing cannabis, beer, or even insurance, you need to have a differentiated product, an authentic brand story, a defined target audience, which is as relevant in cannabis as it is for anything else.”

Gracewood tactfully points out how a quality product is the best marketing tool there is, so Organigram has invested heavily in technology and infrastructure, the pinnacle of which is their new 100,000-square-foot production facility, capable of yielding more than 36-million grams of cannabis a year.

The state-of-the-art facility’s grow rooms are outfitted with a unique tiered growing model. Plants are stacked in rows three high, a method practiced nowhere else in Canada. The model has proven extremely effective for the company, as all available space in the facility is used, resulting in maximum output per square-foot.

“The delivery of our brand needs to be one that is rooted in compassion and holistic health, and the belief that medical cannabis can better our patients lives," says Gracewood.

Compassion isn’t limited to product production, either. Organigram has taken an aggressive stance on social responsibility and supporting the New Brunswick communities that have welcomed them.

The company has funded awareness campaigns at Mount Allison University, designed to educate students about the realities of a cannabis-legal country. Working with campus administration, staff members and directly with students, they center the programming on responsible use.

In 2017, Organigram also donated $20,000 to fund the acquisition and distribution of Naloxone kits and appropriate training to New Brunswick harm reduction workers to combat the rise in opioid abuse cases the province was facing.

“The New Brunswick government has taken a leading role in supporting this growing industry,” says Engel. “We’re very cognizant of what we’re doing to give back to the province.”

The future appears very friendly for the company, as only a limited number of licensed producers were ready to meet the demand when the adult recreational market launched on October 17.

“It’s a great social experiment,” says Engel. “We have a world-class team, and the great thing about Moncton is having members coming from the food and beverage industry, manufacturing environments, or any other field, that show up every day and really show their passion for creating a modern company like Organigram.”

For an industry that is evolving more rapidly than even consumers can keep up with, the potential for brand development is huge for those who have been here since the beginning. As the nation inhales, Organigram is holding their breath, awaiting the results of 2018 and heading into a very green future.