Launching in the United States on March 11 is Houseplant, a cannabis and lifestyle brand that was originally launched in Canada in 2019.
The brand, which is fronted by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, is making available for sale its line of home goods, which are legal for sale anywhere and can be bought online. Also launching is Houseplant’s proprietary cannabis line, which will initially be available in Los Angeles before rolling out to other California retailers. Eventually, the brand expects to launch its cannabis line in other legal markets and it will be rolling out other design items over time.
“I love weed, and I love art and design. Houseplant is the combination of these passions,” says Rogen.
In California, where the brand gets a fresh start of sorts thanks to how siloed individual cannabis markets are, Houseplant partnered with five unnamed indoor growers. These growers’ operations and buds were rigorously tested for quality, consistency, and safety, says Brett Fink, managing partner of cannabis strategic advisory firm Greater Holdings. Greater served as a supply chain advisor to Houseplant and Fink worked directly with Rogen and Goldberg to advise on selection of the individual growers.
Not just another celebrity brand
“There are not many good celebrity [cannabis] brands,” says Fink, who first met Rogen in 2019. “There are celebrities who just slap their name on a cannabis brand. Brands like that want to get rich on cannabis but don’t get involved with the actual people working in it—I talk to 10-15 manufacturers a week who are licensing or co-passing products for people and most of them have a bad experience with a celebrity,” he says, mentioning Lil Wayne’s GKUA brand as one that launched with much fanfare but little in the way of actual weed. After a little over a year, the brand is hard to find in the retail marketplace.
“Seth was one of the people who I actually identified super early on and thought, “He’s going to shake up and change the industry,’” Fink says, adding that he also holds Goldberg in the same esteem.
It’s a feeling echoed by Rogen and Goldberg’s direct teammates, who are in Toronto, New York, and Los Angeles. “Sometimes people assume it’s a more superficial relationship than it is,” says Chief Commercial Officer Haneen Davies of the relationship with Rogen and Goldberg and rest of the brand. Davies goes way back with Goldberg—they met when they were both students at McGill University years ago.
“More than being celebrities, they, out of everyone on our team, have the most intimate understanding of the cannabis consumer. They know the product better than anyone else—they live that lifestyle,” says Davies.
“People always ask them, ‘What do you pair your cannabis with?’ and the answer is that it’s not just a moment in time for them, or an occasion. It’s their life. Productivity, creativity, relaxation, sleep—cannabis is integrated into all of it,” Davies explains, adding that their inherent understanding of cannabis consumers is a “powerful contribution” to the Houseplant effort. This includes coming up with different products, picking cultivars that will eventually end up on dispensary shelves, and making color and copy decisions, among other things.
“We started working on this over eight years ago,” says co-founder and CEO Mikey Mohr. “We had a front row seat here in California to watch the industry develop through different iterations of legality.” He says that, between he Rogen, Goldberg and their other business partners, they knew they had a unique opportunity, considering Rogen and Goldberg’s outspokenness about their cannabis use over the years.
“If we wanted Seth’s face on a jar of weed, we could have done that long ago. They also turned down many other offers over the years. We have taken a much more disciplined approach to create a brand that would speak to a very demographically and geographically diverse audience about cannabis,” Mohr says. He adds that they quietly worked for years, “in a vacuum,” developing the brand.
“It wasn’t always a given that we would actually sell cannabis or make a line of home goods,” Mohr, who is Goldberg’s cousin, says. “We toyed around with other ideas many years ago, like subscription boxes that might one day include cannabis, for example.”
A tale of two markets
Launching first in Canada first has proven to be an interesting endeavor for the Houseplant brand.
“In Canada, cannabis is super regulated and very strict,” says Davies. “The idea of a celebrity endorsement is completely not allowed,” she explains, referring to Canada’s Cannabis Act’s marketing rules, which are in stark contrast with California’s more celebrity-centric cannabis culture.
“The one thing that has worked in our favor is that it actually isn’t a celebrity endorsement,” explaining again that the most famous members of the Houseplant team are owners and founders. She says that they’ve been able to leverage their celebrity in the right way—they are involved in motivating sales teams and communicating product knowledge but not in Canadian marketing efforts, which allows them to transcend tight regulations and is one of the “biggest differences” between the United States brand and the Canadian one.
Davies says that, overall, the Canadian cannabis consumer market is “less sophisticated” than in California, though both hinge on high THC percentages. She says that the “look and feel” of the the brands in one country or the other are totally separated, with intentional differences in design, content, and marketing on both social media and elsewhere on the internet.
Striking the balance between different cannabis cultures
“At the heart of our brand is a lot of nostalgia,” says Davies, who explains that the genesis of the brand is the fact that Rogen and Goldberg were childhood friends. The brand is meant to evoke a vague familiarity, like the special kind that comes with sparking up with an old friend.
“The Housegoods strategy was born out of two things,” says Mohr. The first is the understanding that most would-be customers won’t be able to access their actual cannabis for “quite some time.” The other comes from “Seth and Evan,” Mohr says, and centers around the fact that the duo believes that premium home decor that speaks to cannabis connoisseurs is a vastly underserved market.
“Each piece in our Housegoods line was crafted to be something you want to proudly display in your home and appeals to the weed community as well as anyone with an appreciation for thoughtful, high-quality design objects,” says Rogen.
The Housegoods line, which was designed in part by Seth, includes ceramics pieces made to his exact specifications—like an ashtray and vase—that will be sold online in limited quantities. There is also a block table lighter. A vinyl set with three records named “Indica Sessions,” “Sativa Sessions,” and “Hybrid Sessions” were curated with the intended effects in mind: the “Indica” album will be slower and headier, the “Sativa” more buzzy and upbeat.
Of special note is the actual cannabis, which greatly differs from its counterpart north of the border. In Canada, Houseplant partners with Canopy Growth Corp., which has gotten flack for its variable quality cannabis over the years. Other problems that have plagued Canopy Growth include a refiled $500 million stock pumping lawsuit and recent layoffs.
The situation in California is a much different story—the brand has been able to hand-select its cultivators and it will debut three strains to start.
“Houseplant weed is some of the best available and the strains we’re launching with are what we are constantly smoking,” says Rogen. “We tested more than 100 strains to land on our first three—Diablo Wind, Pancake Ice, and Pink Moon—and are excited to bring them to California,” he says.
Like the hit film “Pineapple Express,” Houseplant strains are named after weather phenomena.
Diablo Wind is considered to be Sativa-dominant with high Terpinolene and Caryophyllene terpenes. It clocks in at 26.29% THC and is a cross between Jack Herer and G13 Haze.
Pancake Ice is a gassy Sativa, which is a cross between Chem Dawg and Mandarin Cookies cultivars. Limonene, Humulene, and Caryophyllene terpenes dominate. THC percentage is 33.32%.
Pink Moon is a citrusy Indica that is a cross of Tangie and Kosher Kush with 26.45% THC and Limonene Caryophyllene, and Linalool terpenes.
Getting it right from the start
After experiencing Canada’s legal cannabis market firsthand while taking notes on how California’s adult-use legalization has evolved, the Houseplant team wanted to enter the United States with a solid social equity plan in place. “The way that we define our own success does not allow us to decouple commercial success from us doing work to repair the War on Drugs,” says Mohr.
“Social impact has been part of the DNA of the business since the start,” says Melissa Greenberg, Chief Consumer Officer. “The founders recognized that they’ve been celebrated over the past 20 years for their cannabis consumption while others, predominantly people of color, have been criminalized for it.” Because of that, she says the Houseplant brand recognizes the responsibility they have to help right those wrongs.
In particular, the brand has a social impact aspect that focuses around three pillars: education and advocacy; community empowerment and economic opportunity; and diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Specific ways of tackling those pillars include a supplier diversity survey, which they send to everyone in the brand’s supply chain to “make everyone aware of their own hiring practices,” Greenberg says.
In January 2021 the brand also kicked off a pilot mentorship program, which uses the brand’s extensive network, thanks to its founders and executives, to help cannabis brands with equity licenses scale up and access business opportunities. “This ranges from getting the right people in the room for investment or thinking through what your social or go-to-market strategy is—giving people the right tools to build their business,” Greenberg says.
Houseplant also works with criminal justice and drug policy reform nonprofits and social enterprises in both the U.S and Canada including Marijuana Policy Project, Cage Free Cannabis, Cannabis Amnesty and NORML.
Houseplant’s cannabis will be available on March 11 in Los Angeles, only, via Amuse. The brand’s Housegoods line will be available in limited quantities at houseplant.com.
Original posted at www.forbes.com