Over the past year, the food and beverage space has witnessed a “green rush” of CBD startups entering the market in a race to capitalize on the trend. With no shortage of competition, Seattle-based Docklight Brands is also hoping to get on board the cannabis wave with 13 brands of its own.
Founded last year by cannabis industry investment firm Privateer Holdings, Docklight is aiming to quickly build a national footprint through a multi-brand, omnichannel strategy that includes a variety of CBD and THC-infused consumer packaged goods products, including beverages, snacks, skincare and topicals.
Privateer Holdings’ portfolio also includes cannabis resources website Leafly, investment group Left Coast Ventures and Canadian medical cannabis producer Tilray. In anticipation of a merger with Tilray, Privateer divested its ownership of Docklight, Leafly, and Left Coast in February, leaving the three companies to operate as independent entities.
Speaking with BevNET last week at the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) Show in Atlanta, Docklight CEO Damian Marano said the goal for the company is to drive consumer trial for CBD products and cover a breadth of consumer need states by playing in multiple parts of the store. Prior to joining Docklight in October 2018, Marano spent 12 years at The Coca-Cola Company, most recently as VP of national sales where he worked with the bulk of the conglomerate’s beverage portfolio.
“I look at the brand strategy of Coke, which has multiple billion dollar brands,” Marano said in a follow up phone call with BevNET this week. “Because the industry is so new, it’s kind of day one for CBD and cannabinoids as a category in consumer products goods. So, it’s really important for us to have a variety of flavor profiles, ingredients, package sizes, and packaging options; They each have a unique brand voice and they’re each designed to address a different need state.”
Leading Docklight’s brand stable is Marley, the line of food and beverage products named for late reggae icon Bob Marley. Although it had been announced in January that Colorado-based New Age Beverages would produce a line of CBD-infused drinks under the Marley brand, the two companies came to an agreement when Privateer Holdings revealed it owned a long-term global license from the Marley family for any cannabis-related products under the name. According to Marano, Docklight agreed to produce a line of CBD-infused Marley products including Mellow Mood teas, shots, and chocolates, while New Age produces and distributes non-CBD infused tea, coffee, and yerba mate drinks.
In addition to Marley, Docklight has also created numerous CBD brands including women’s wellness platform Irisa, which currently produces a line of sparkling waters and will soon add confections and skincare products; ginger beer brand Hearsay; yerba mate drink Almost Cheating; cocktail mixer Rommie’s Bloody Mary Jane; and chocolate and candy line Barely Regal. The company is also targeting the market for THC cannabis brands including chocolate line Goodship, candy product Wallops, flower lines Grail and Dutchy, and vape brand Headlight.
Marano emphasized the significance of each brand serving different need states in the CBD space. In the case of Irisa, he noted that CBD sales currently “over-index as female,” making it necessary to create a line of products targeted at women. Elsewhere, Marley emphasizes relaxation and while Almost Cheating provides an energy option.
“Given my time with The Coca-Cola Company, one thing I learned to love and respect is Coke’s ability to sell products — both their flagship Coca-Cola products as well as the many other brands in the portfolio — across multiple channels at different price points,” Marano said. “So what you’ll see from us is a really concerted focus.”
Marano added that despite growing consumer awareness of CBD, trial remains low, in part due to a lack of accessibility in mainstream channels. However, repeat purchases are frequent — as high as 50% — presenting an opportunity for Docklight to create daily use occasions through a broad portfolio.
Docklight plans to tackle multiple retail channels, including convenience, drug, grocery, mass, and specialty, Marano added. The company’s sales team is currently focused on selling multiple brands to the same retailer, in order to spread Docklight’s presence throughout the store and increase the chances of consumer purchases.
New Age serves as a distributor for Docklight in the Rocky Mountain region while the company has partnered with Hudson News Distributors to handle DSD in the Northeast. According to Marano, the company is currently in talks with several chain retailers and expects to quickly grow its footprint to “several thousand” stores within the next year.
“Once you accept that [CBD and THC] are regular ingredients, then brands are going to drive the future of the cannabinoid consumer products space,” Marano said. “When you take folks who know how to build brands and understand how traditional retailers and distributors work … and you come in and talk to these potential clients and distributors about the product and brand portfolio it resonates because this is what they’ve been looking for.”