I first wrote about TOAST in 2018 as I followed the cannabis company’s foray into legal marijuana markets with a unique collection of high CBD, low-THC prerolls. A year later, the company doubled downed on its CBD-forward strategy by entering the hemp-based CBD industry, a nationally legalized space. The latest release of Toast Emerald brings the company full circle by introducing a hemp-based CBD loaded preroll to its core Toast line of until now, cannabis-based products.
Unlike THC, the property in marijuana that gets you high, CBD is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in hemp and cannabis plants known for wellness benefits and relaxing effects. Mostly nationally available hemp-based CBD is being infused into everything from clothing to cocktails to personal lubricants. Since the products are legal almost anywhere, it makes sense that cannabis companies are jumping on board.
Altria backed Cronos recently acquired CBD skincare company Lord Jones in a deal worth $300 million. Large alcohol companies like Constellation Brands and Anheuser-Busch InBev have also made significant investments in the space. And it’s easy to see why. Experts project sales will top out at $2.9 billion in 2019 for Hemp CBD and are projected to balloon anywhere from $6 billion to $18 billion, as estimated by BDS Analytics, by 2024. With a diverse portfolio of national CBD products and cannabis products in three legal states, Toast appears well-groomed to catch the attention of major consumer companies.
Toast first entered the hemp-based CBD market earlier this year with Toast Full Spectrum Hemp Extract. The majority of CBD companies positioned their products as strict wellness or medicinal substitutes, often shying away from the grey status of recreational cannabis. Toast views its Cannabis heritage as a consumer benefit, citing that their understanding of the Cannabis and Hemp plant can be felt by consumers in the quality of their products. Unlike many CBD companies, Toast focuses on lifestyle by partnering with bars, restaurants, hospitality, and chefs to add Toast into everything from your morning coffee to evening cocktails.
In a highly competitive environment, Co-Founder and CEO Punit Seth formerly of hedge fund Bridgewater Associates and Co-Founder and Executive Chairman Chris Burggraeve, former CMO of AB InBev and Marketing Executive of Coca Cola, found success by partnering with high profile hospitality and lifestyle outfits such as Zadig & Voltaire, Faherty, BLT Steak, and Gretta Cole Spa. But it was their collaboration with By Chloe that put the company’s product on the map. Toast and the NYC based vegan chain created a cupcake café called Sweets by Chloe, whose CBD laden treats caused lines to form down the block. In parallel, the company also developed a range of dog and cat oils, called Toast Woef and Toast Miau; the CBD pet category represents three percent of the market.
Perhaps the biggest hurdle CBD purveyors face is educating consumers about the space. Research indicates that while more people are using CBD, most consumers don’t fully grasp the category. Toast Emerald gives Seth and Burggrave a refreshed pulpit to reinforce their vision of providing an experience that promotes social encounters, luxury, and lifestyle, not zonking out on the couch. Seth describes a CBD experience as akin to smoking pot with the same taste and relaxing feeling associated with CBD but without the psychoactive effects of THC. Team Toast is banking on consumers accepting Toast Emerald as a smart option for a meaningful smoke break that brings more relief than just catching a breather.
What Seth is suggesting is that waiters, nurses, and bartenders can enjoy the effects of CBD while remaining functional without the head high caused by THC. With a country hooked on sugar, opioids, and alcohol, Toast hopes that its CBD product line, including Toast Emerald, can help people relax, ease pain, and experience a multitude of benefits.And while CBD may contain healthful properties, the company recognizes that smoking anything is born of vice. While many companies like Juul position their products as a tobacco alternative and are under heavy scrutiny for their questionable marketing practices, Toast is not interested in providing a new addiction. In contrast, the company encourages daily consumers to explore their collection of oils. Toast Emerald is all about having a good time.
While millions of CBD devotees swear by CBD products, a lack of federal oversight leads to questions regarding product safety. The Grocery Manufacturers Association is actively campaigning for CBD regulation. Seth and Burggraeve agree that a lack of control can lead to unscrupulous producers, as we see with tainted, illegal cannabis vaping. According to Seth, Toast self-regulates heavily and works with lawmakers and its legal team to anticipate pending regulation. Despite hemp and CBD being legal with the passing of the Farm Bill in 2018, regulation is still fluid. Multiple government agencies, including the FDA and USDA, are beginning to weigh in.
To develop the product, the Toast team spent over one-year touring hemp farms across the country, selecting farmers who employ sustainable practices, and demonstrate the ability to grow consistently. A Toast Emerald “Slice” is made with 100% “full-spectrum” hemp, which contains approximately 100mg of CBD. The company equates Emerald with more of a mocktail than a cocktail, an analogy the company employs to compare the strength of its cannabis products.
Whether CBD pre-rolls like Toast Emerald becomes the new modern smoke break remains to be seen. Emerald will be carried by several national distributors this year.
Author: John McCarthy | The past decade I have scoured the earth in search of intelligence about spirits, wine, and cocktails. Here at Forbes I profile the players who make the business go, and find great inspiration in their stories. I hope you do, too.