Cannacurio Podcast Episode 1 with Chaz Hermanowski of Grove Bags

Join me and Cannabiz Media's Director of Sales and Trade Associations, Amanda Guerrero on the first episode of Cannabiz Media's Cannacurio Podcast where we talk about interesting data pulled from the Cannabiz Media License Database and interview one of our power users. During this episode, Chaz Hermanowski of Grove Bags shares insights on packaging technology, what's happening at Grove Bags, and his tips for using the Cannabiz Media License Database.

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Cannacurio Podcast Episode 1 Transcript

Announcer: This is the Cannacurio Podcast by Cannabiz Media, your source for cannabis and hemp license updates directly from the data vault. Don’t forget to subscribe to the Cannabiz Media newsletter and follow us on LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook to stay informed of future episodes and data releases.

Amanda Guerrero: Welcome to the Cannabiz Media Podcast, your source for cannabis and hemp data news. We’re your hosts, Amanda Guerrero and Ed Keating. Ed, since we last spoke, what other news has come through the data vault?

Ed Keating: Well, Amanda, there are three states we want to focus on this week. So first off in Florida, we recently added over 5,000 CBD licenses. So these are all food establishments at either the retail or wholesale level.

And what the regulator did is they just required the license holders to add CBD on their license. And they’ve recently started conducting inspections as well. So it’s a program that’s really underway.

The one interesting thing I found in going through the data is there is one license for an alligator meat processor. So please keep an eye out for CBD infused alligator meat.

Amanda Guerrero: Oh my gosh. I hope it tastes good. Do you think other states will follow this model?

Ed Keating: It’ll probably taste like chicken, but I don’t know if other states will follow. We’ve kept an eye on Louisiana, which was sort of the first state to deputize all these retailers in their state and say, “Hey, if you want to sell CBD, you got to let us know.”

So it tends to be mostly big chain stores. If you look at it, it’s a public supermarket in Florida, and other big names that sell lots of other heavily licensed products like fuel or lottery tickets, etc.m so we’ll see.

Ed Keating: After Florida, Maine finally issued 31 conditional licenses covering cultivation, manufacturing, and retail. From what I’ve read, many are citing Maine as the state that took the longest to launch their program since it was approved. Historically, they’ve had eight medical licenses only, but a ton of caregivers, over 2,300.

What’s been interesting in looking at those 31 conditional licenses is that some of the caregivers have secured those retail licenses. So in some ways, it’s a little bit like California where you had these businesses that were collections of caregivers that then turn into license holders. So I think in some ways that’s going to be a little bit similar in Maine.

Amanda Guerrero: Yeah, the ever precarious caregiver model. It’s definitely been prevalent in a few markets, California, Michigan. But what happens next to these licenses, Ed?

Ed Keating: What I’ve seen, they’ve got to jump through some hurdles to get local approval. But I believe Maine is trying to take steps to avoid what has happened in Massachusetts where people who wanted to get licenses had to pay what many consider a bribe to the local town, maybe buy them a fire truck, sponsor the fireworks on July 4th, build a park, all sorts of things to get the letter from the town. So we’re hoping that that doesn’t happen up there because it just slows down the launch and slows down the program.

And then finally in Oklahoma, they have continued to issue licenses. So 365 more went into the database recently, which brings their total up to a whopping 9,936 active licenses, the most in the country. The new ones that came in were distributors, 37 manufacturers, 54 dispensaries, and 271 cultivators.

Amanda Guerrero: Wow. Oklahoma has been the market to watch over the last year in terms of growth. Do you think we’ve seen the point of saturation yet?

Ed Keating: Well, it’s hard to say. One of the things that I’ve been tracking is looking at the number of licenses issued by quarter, and on the cultivation side, it looks like it’s declining. Every quarter seems to be less than the one that came before it, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens.

What I did see just this morning is that they’re starting to consider some rules in place to space out the distance that these establishments can be to churches, schools, etc. I think they’re going to move from 1,000 feet to 3,000 feet, but even if they do that, they’ve grandfathered all the existing ones in. And currently, at least by my math, they have one dispensary for every 1,669 residents in the state.

Amanda Guerrero: That’s insane.

Ed Keating: Yeah. Compared to one for every half million residents in New York, so I can’t imagine how many more they’re really going to be able to support before it starts to come crashing down. But time will tell.

Amanda Guerrero: Yeah, only time will tell. Well, when we come back from our commercial break, we’ll be joined by Chaz Hermanowski of Grove Bags, one of our Cannabiz Media power users. Stay tuned.

Chaz Hermanowski: Grove Bags is one of the most exciting companies in the entire cannabis packaging industry. And the reason for that is we’ve taken a totally unique and novel approach to approaching how to package our cannabis products. All of our packaging is actually tailor engineered around the physiology of the cannabis plant.

Amanda Guerrero: Welcome back. On today’s show, we’re joined by Chaz Hermanowski. He’s a Rocky Mountain manager at Grove Bags and is one of Cannabiz Media’s power users. Welcome, Chaz.

Chaz Hermanowski: Great to be here guys. Thanks for having me.

Amanda Guerrero: Oh, it’s our pleasure. So Chaz, as we’re introducing you to our audience here, how long have you been in the industry?

Chaz Hermanowski: Technically, I’ve been in the industry for about two years now as far as the actual workforce in the industry. But in reality, I’ve actually been in the industry for six years with me starting The Cannabis Symposium Club at my college when I was in college back in Boston.

So with that, I kind of got thrown into just the culture and network of the cannabis industry really early on while I was still in school as far as working with lawyers and doctors and other industry professionals, just putting this event together every year at college.

And that’s actually how I first connected with Grove Bags as far as having my CEO, Jack Grover, come to the Cannabis Symposium and speak for it even before the product even launched on market.

Amanda Guerrero: Oh wow. And what prompted you to open or to start the Cannabis Symposium at your college?

Chaz Hermanowski: It was getting to that point in the industry where cannabis was being seen as medicine, and it was on the docket for Boston as far as being approved as medical and was really up and coming. But there was no cannabis-centric club on our campus as far as the one that actually brought people together for the industry side of things.

Obviously, people on my campus all smoked marijuana and all that, but as far as the actual networking side and business side of it, hadn’t been built out and Babson was the number one school for entrepreneurship in the country. So in my mind, I’m like, we need to be the first people to have this and to do this as far as being the pioneers of this industry on our campus itself.

Took a little bit of negotiating with the school to get me to see eye to eye with it, but with a little finessing, it got pushed through. We have had four great years of the symposium when I was there and then I passed it off. Then still going strong.

Amanda Guerrero: That’s incredible. And what were you doing before you decided to get into cannabis?

Chaz Hermanowski: I wasn’t actually going to go to law school, but then a cannabis company, a startup called Calyx Containers based out of Boston, reached out to me after graduation and asked for me to come aboard for an interim time to help with market testing and focus groups, all that fun stuff. So I decided to put law school on hold for a bit and then joined Calyx Containers and worked for them for good half a year.

Then at that point, I actually went and started freelance copywriting in Southeast Asia for six months. So I backpacked Asia, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam writing for a bunch of companies. And that’s how I started working for Grove Bags as far as I did all their website copy, blog copy, packaging copy. So that was kind of my first work with Grove Bags at that time. And then coming back from Asia, I moved right to Denver and dove into the industry.

Ed Keating: I mean, what a terrific way to learn about the industry, come on board and really get an understanding of how the company is run kind of from the ground up. I was hoping next you could tell us a little bit more about Grove Bag as a company and what makes them unique?

Chaz Hermanowski: Yeah, 100%. So Grove Bags created a proprietary film blend. We call it TerpLoc. It’s our proprietary trademark name for what is truly a first of its kind. So it’s a six layer film blend that is built around the physiology of the cannabis plant itself.

If you ever go to the grocery store and you’re in that store, you’re looking at the lettuce aisle, and you’re seeing all that lettuce on that shelf and it’s in that packaging, it’s fresh for two weeks in that packaging.

But if you were to buy one of those lettuce packages and bring it home and put that lettuce on your counter, in two hours it’s going to start wilting outside that package. And it’s not because of any special nitrogen flushing or package they put in there, it’s just the polymer blend they built around that physiology to maintain the nutrients, the color, the aesthetic. They do that for orange, they do it for bananas. It’s called modified atmospheric packaging.

Chaz Hermanowski: So we did the same thing for cannabis where we took a step back and thought what does cannabis need to be protected for the long term? So it’s a six layer film blend that’s UV protected since UV rays are the biggest degrader of cannabis in the space, degrading within minutes.

Anti-static, also very key. I don’t know if you smoke cannabis yourself, but if you ever go into your bag of weed or pop top after using it for a bit, you see that kind of dusty residue at the bottom, the powder. That’s all the trichomes that got ripped off of your product by packaging itself. And you can’t put that good stuff back on the product afterwards, which is the potency, the flavor, medicinal benefit.

Odor blocking, obviously, is key for compliancy and obviously puncture-proof for long-term storage and transport, make sure nothing breaks open.

But the two coolest layers in my mind, if you think back to seventh grade science class, that lesson about osmosis, the bags actually regulate the internal oxygen inside and the internal relative humidity, like out gassing it through the actual membrane of the polymer itself.

So it keeps that oxygen low in the bag to prevent those terpenes from being oxidized. It also keeps the relative humidity in that 58% range, which we have found is the perfect relative humidity range for terpenes to thrive as far as the flavor, medicinal benefit, taste, color.

So as far as putting product in our bags, you have the peace of mind of knowing that even a year later, if you open that bag, it’s going to be the same weight, the same color, the same potency. You’re not losing any of that just because the packaging you’re putting it in.

So that ability to actually store cannabis for the long term, make sure that what you’re selling at the end of day is what you grew, is so key for brands. Especially right now with saturation in the market like you guys brought up in Oklahoma where it’s the most detrimental thing to a brand if you grew a quality, amazing product, but then when it reaches the end consumer, it is not what you packaged in the supply chain. So they’re enjoying product that wasn’t what you intended them to grow and intended them to consume.

Ed Keating: So Chaz, in terms of the different parts of the cannabis value chain from grow to manufacturer to retail point of sale, where have you really see the receptivity? Does it start right out at cultivation where you use this technology or does it happen more at the store, or is it really throughout the whole value chain where people can use this TerpLoc technology?

Chaz Hermanowski: Yes. Our whole value prop is we have you covered from cultivation to consumption, the entire supply chain of cannabis. But most of our business is focused on the cultivator side of things as we’ve been called the cultivators choice.

It’s so key to do that due diligence on your backend to make sure that one, that you’re reducing your overhead costs and then secondly, that you’re making sure that product is protected in that back end before it even gets out to the customers.

That’s why we have our liners, which fit into the bins or drums that people use for that initial pull down of pulling product off a plant itself. And that one helps those trichomes stay on the bud by the nature of the liners.

But then secondly there is an overhead cost in an insane way as far as some dispensary out here in Colorado that was having three people clean eight different bins each day between batches and spending about $70 probably for cleaning. Now we’re going into it where they’re now using our liners where there’s no cleaning necessary after batches and it just streamlines the back end from that pull down to the drive and trim.

Same with our wicket bags turkey bag replacement. So same exact price point as a TerpLoc bag, if not a little cheaper, made out of TerpLoc film. A lot of people don’t know that turkey bags actually were made for your oven on Thanksgiving. I don’t know why you’d put product in there. Actually leach off trichomes in your product.

So all of these cultivators who have been growing for 10 years, I’m like, “Do you notice how your turkey bag gets a little yellow after use?” They’re like, “Uh huh.” I’m like, “That’s because it’s leeching off the trichomes and putting microplastics on your product.” And they’re blown away as far as they had no idea about that.

Ed Keating: So Chaz, it seems like, just based on your description, it seems like it’s a pretty revolutionary change because you went back to figure out what are the things that are really going to impact the quality of the product and sort of layered in, if you will, excuse the pun, that technology into these bags.

So what’s been the market reception? Because if you’re telling our listeners that they can extend the shelf life of their product safely and effectively, I imagine that’s got a pretty good ROI component when you’re out there trying to sell to people.

Chaz Hermanowski: It really is. The hardest part honestly, is just the educational side of it. Because people look at the bag and they’re like, “Oh, it’s just a bag.” But in reality it’s a microclimate.

So we like to say a lot of the time we sell technology in our packaging. This technology is an important part as far as the packaging science aspect of our packaging where the key parts are,one as far as mold prevention, which is really key in states like Alabama and Georgia with high humidity level, terpene preservation.

Most important thing is weight retention. Where if you go to the dispensary nowadays, you’re going to go buy an eighth, and they’re going to put 3.6, 3.7 in there just to account for moisture loss as far as when you get home, it’s going to be 3.5 because some of that moisture’s going to evaporate in that bag in that short amount of time.

So the ability to actually package exactly what you want to sell and not have to overpack an $8 .1, .2 because that adds up so quickly over time. So the bags essentially pay back themselves and then some as far as the liners reducing cleaning on the back end, our wicked bag auto curing your weed and burping yourself so you don’t have someone going for hours every day, and burp product manually anymore.

The ability to actually make sure that what you’re sending out is going to retain its moisture and that weight so you’re getting paid for what you’re sending out.

Ed Keating: Great. Now Chaz, you mentioned that you’ve had some exposure with this product in some markets like Oklahoma and whatnot. But I was curious, do you have any other new launches, markets, initiatives? I mean, this sounds like a big play for Grove Bags, but anything else going on like hemp and cannabis? What else is on the docket for the team?

Chaz Hermanowski: Well, yeah. You were talking about the Oklahoma market earlier, and you’re so right as far as the saturation of it. We launched the Super Sack almost a year ago now to the Oklahoma market specifically for hemp and biomass. The Super Sack holds 400 pounds of product where it allows these farmers to actually preserve their product and get it to refinement or wait for prices to go up to distribute it.

But as far as some new products coming up in our docket right now, we just launched our Multi-Lock CR Exit bag series. So our custom exit bag line.

We’re also launching single-use joint capsules next month. So those are going to be awesome as far as making sure that that joint that you’re buying from the dispensary doesn’t get dried out and brittle and has the same quality consistent flavor-base every single time. Being a very key part as far as the joint is the hot dog of the industry. Everyone has them. But you want to make sure that hot dog is a quality hot dog every single time.

But as far as new initiatives, we have an updated referral program, updated distributor programs to expand our distribution capabilities or product across the state and across the country itself. So a lot of exciting things going on at Grove Bags.

Ed Keating: Absolutely. Absolutely. Well, that’s great and thanks for giving us the background on Grove Bags and also on TerpLoc technology. I’ve certainly learned a lot today. How about you, Amanda?

Amanda Guerrero: Yeah. No, I’ve learned a ton about a TerpLoc. I didn’t realize that cultivators were actually using turkey bags as ways to preserve cannabis, which to me, it blows my mind.

But Chaz, I wanted to kind of switch gears here a little bit and see what are some of the ways that you and your team utilize Cannabiz Media? It sounds like you’ve had a lot of success over the last few months that you’ve been with the organization, but we would love to learn, what are some of the ways that you utilize our platform?

Chaz Hermanowski: Of course. As far as Cannabiz is incredible. It really does the research for our sales team so the sales team can focus on actually selling, not doing the research ourselves. So we use it from sourcing and updating our compliance records for regulations for our packaging.

We use it to build out leads lists and break it down by region as far as across the team, each team has their own region they focus on. So it’s great for that as far as honing down on different areas and the contact with people who weren’t on our radar initially or we didn’t have the actual contact information for to reach out to. That really opened the door for us as far as just the ability to expand our sales reach and the ability to touch base with these people who we wouldn’t have contact info otherwise.

The fact that it’s specifically geared for the cannabis industry is incredible and we find so much value in that.

Amanda Guerrero: I’m so happy to hear that. In your experience, how does this compare to other sales tools that you’ve used before?

Chaz Hermanowski: It honestly really doesn’t compare as far as it’s so unique and an animal of its own. We obviously have our own CRM platform and whatnot. We use Pipedrive, but that just helps us track what we’re selling and doing. It doesn’t really help us make those sales and generate those leads.

So especially in a time like right now with the whole pandemic climate going on, all these different events being canceled from Hall of Flowers to MJBizCon New Orleans to Indo Expo, all these events that we love going to and showing face at and generating all these awesome leads from.

Cannabiz has really taken the front and center role in our lead generation at this point just because we’re all working remotely and not able to go to these in person events anymore.

Amanda Guerrero: Yeah. I mean, you bring up a fantastic point. Our new, current work from home climate, it’s a big adjustment for businesses. Especially too when your primary outreach is going to be outbound prospecting, in person prospecting, and attending these events. So with that mind-

Chaz Hermanowski: Exactly.

Amanda Guerrero: Yeah.

Chaz Hermanowski: The actual email template builder, the platform itself is incredible as far as making super aesthetic emails that resonate and help educate because the best part of being in person is being able to talk someone through the product and what TerpLoc is and help have them understand it, which is one of the biggest struggles as far as  there’s so many features and benefits.

So the ability to make some awesome templates on Cannabiz to send out that really go through and break down the big key benefits has been a big help to us.

Amanda Guerrero: Amazing. I mean, you had literally answered the question before I even was going to ask it. I mean, any additional tips and tricks you wanted to share?

Chaz Hermanowski: Tips and tricks? Let’s see. Well, I would say whoever is the admin on the Cannabiz platform definitely go into the settings, the tag section, I think only admins can do that to add tags and ask your team the tags they want added to the platform, what they want to utilize as far as helping them organize and sort their leads. So that’s very key as far as I always reach out to my team asking if they have any new tags they want added.

Definitely use the filters to hone in, tailor your outreach in a more authentic way as far as you can tailor it by city or county and just make that little change in email copy to be that county and it just resonates so much more as far as people being like, “Oh, this email was written before.”

And then definitely make sure your pages are fresh when filling out your Cannabiz email template. As far as last week I went in to finish up a template and then didn’t realize I was signed out. I had to save it and had to restart. So make sure you’re definitely signed on when making templates.

Amanda Guerrero: Yeah. I mean, great points, great features. And that’s why we want to do this podcast so that we can share kind of our current clients’ knowledge on what they’re using the platform. So hopefullyl help our other subscribers on their future outreach.

Ed Keating: So Chaz, dialing back a little bit, to give a little bit more of a 30,000 foot view, especially since, as you said at the outset, you’ve been in this industry for a while from a few vantage points. I’m curious what trends are you seeing at play in the industry now and are there any markets that you think are interesting or worth taking a look at?

Chaz Hermanowski: Yeah, as far as hemp with the passing of the Farm Bill almost a little over a year now ago has done wonders for the hemp segment as far as no one could have predicted the amount of explosion as far as licenses just dedicated for hemp as far as like you were just saying Oklahoma before, but now other states on the East coast, like Northern Carolina joining the fold for hemp.

So that’s a huge part of supply. But like I said before, refinement’s a big issue right now where all the supply have a very limited capacity for refinement. So we’re definitely seeing a lot of players trying to get into that refinement space in order to handle that supply of hemp in the market.

And also people are just realizing they need to do a better job protecting their product. As information becomes more readily available, a big problem in the industry is your information is very fragmented.

There’s no centralized source of information to go to educate yourself, which is now slowly changing with new platforms coming online or people are realizing that using a turkey bag to cure your product isn’t the best way to maintain its potency or have consistent cure every single time.

As far as just industry itself, it’s growing in a way where if you look at the liquor store industry, you walk into a liquor store and any bottle on the shelf right there, 20% of the cost of that bottle is the packaging itself. Where in the cannabis space, it’s 8%, so it’s a very huge distinction as far as packaging costs throughout the space as far as what people are doing for their packaging.

Before it was just some of the cheapest bags from China possible, the lowest .001 cent bag. And people are realizing that’s not the way to go as far as making sure that your brand makes a potent impression every time, stays consistent on the quality level every single time.

Ed Keating: Yeah. Especially in the sort of that impression management thing because I could see how as TerpLoc and all this technology grows and becomes more prominent, you’re going to get people hopefully asking for it or demanding it and saying, “Listen, I use these other cheap, bad quality tools on this asset that I have poured thousands or millions of dollars into. Don’t send it to me unless it’s in a TerpLoc.” Right? I mean, I guess that’s what you’re hoping to get to at some point.

Chaz Hermanowski: Well, yeah. We’re hoping to set a benchmark in the space. And as far as making sure that consumers are protected at the end of the day where we’re having a benchmark for packaging in the space, a standard for packaging in the space that raises the bar for everyone.

So we’re trying to make Grove Bag that standard as far as the ability to preserve your actual product and for end consumers, some could buy an eighth. Well, some of them smoke that eighth in a day. Someone else could take a month to smoke that eighth. You want to make sure that frequency of use time, that probably is still maintaining its medicinal benefit, its potency, especially in states like Alabama and Florida where humidity is such a big issue that it’s not growing mold on it after they purchase it and not smoking mold later on in the day, which is a really big thing as far as keeping consumers safe.

Amanda Guerrero: Yeah, I mean, keeping consumers safe, it’s our number one priority here within the industry. It feels great to know that there are companies like Grove Bags and passionate sales individuals such as yourself that really want to provide a resource to the community versus just selling a package that they made it and not really caring about kind of what the impacts it will have on the actual production of the plants.

Chaz Hermanowski: Yeah, we’re definitely seeing the actual culture change with everything going on right now as far as packaging from China being very hard to get. So we’re getting calls every day now as far as we’re a USA made company, as far as everything is made in Cleveland.

So we’re getting calls every day, people like, “Oh, we’re out of gram bags or we’re out of eighth bags.” I’m like, “Oh, have you heard about TerpLoc?” They’re like, “No. We just need bags.” So it’s getting to the point our people just need packaging and we’re one of the only suppliers in this space with everything going on right now that has a consistent supply chain and packaging coming out.

Amanda Guerrero: Yeah. I mean, well, with that I think that USA made Grove Bags, TerpLoc technology, anyone that has any questions or would like to learn more about Grove Bags, please, please, please reach out to Chaz. He’s one of the best.

And we just want to say thank you so much Chaz, for joining us today. We really do look forward to hopefully seeing you after quarantine here, but thank you for joining us.

Chaz Hermanowski: Thanks so much for having me, guys. It’s a pleasure. And thank you for everything you guys do.

Amanda Guerrero: So Ed, transitioning over, what’s coming up next? Who are our upcoming guests or Cannacurio updates we should be on the lookout for?

Ed Keating: Yeah. On the data side this week, the team’s been working in a couple of jurisdictions. Nebraska rolled out their hemp information, so we are adding information on cultivators, brokers, processors, and a testing lab. Virginia had, similarly, we’ve got some new cultivators and processors.

And then perhaps the most interesting story is the West Virginia medical marijuana program. We were able to get a list of the applicants, those who’ve applied to get a license, and covers a whole value chain. One lab, 44 cultivators, 190 dispensaries, and 41 manufacturers. And the interesting thing is a lot of these applicants have gone for many licenses, some as high as 29. So the team will be digging through that and that’ll be part of the next Cannacurio update.

Amanda Guerrero: Fantastic. Fantastic. Well, thank you everyone for joining us on today’s podcast. We’re your hosts, Amanda Guerrero and Ed Keating. Stay tuned for more updates from the data vault.

Announcer: Thanks for tuning in to the Cannacurio Podcast by Cannabiz Media, your source for cannabis and hemp license updates directly from the data vault. Don’t forget to subscribe to the Cannabiz Media newsletter and follow us on LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook to stay informed about future episodes and data releases.

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