Hall of Flowers, one of California’s favorite brand-centric B2B cannabis events, returned to the Sonoma County Fairgrounds last week.
Throughout the various expo halls, new brands and old favorites alike courted retail buyers while press and other industry professionals scoped out the latest offerings from across the vertical.
The revamped Core Conversations provided key insights from thought leaders covering a range of topics including California consolidation, the advancement of cannabis for veterans, interstate expansion, and how the rise of Web3 is impacting the industry.
Outside, clouds of smoke wafted through the courtyard as people relaxed on white and orange oversized pillows—a favorite pastime of Hall of Flowers regulars. A DJ kept the chill vibes flowing throughout the grounds while gold-clad cirque performers waved curious passersby into the AVD/Gold Drop lounge for a delicious terpene-infused slushie and a dab.
Operators, feeling the pressure from an increasingly volatile market, started the two-day event on a fairly subdued note. However, the energy was elevated exponentially on day two when it was announced the Biden administration would be progressing with cannabis reform in the coming months. Reactions ranged from skepticism to sheer joy, but at a sink-or-swim time for California cannabis, the news was welcomed all around.
Wondering what else went down at this season’s Hall of Flowers? Check out our key takeaways.
Market evolution sees something for everyone
With more people than ever trying cannabis for the first time, many brands are focused on appealing to mainstream consumers who may or may not be newcomers to the plant. Instead of being hyper-focused on high THC, several producers had flower, vapes, and edibles with a blend of THC and CBD, products that are surprisingly in demand.
Minor cannabinoids were also prevalent at this year’s Hall of Flowers, with brands like Space Gem, Sauce, and Chemistry offering CBN or THC-V products. This trend is likely to continue as people discover the potential benefits of the cannabis plant and mature consumers expand their regimens with something well-studied for every time of the day or occasion.
“I am excited by the continued innovation in the solventless space, and the products and form factors that appeal to more canna-curious consumers. As a community, we all need to do our part to continue to educate more consumers about how, when, and why they can use cannabis,” said Gabby Pavelko, director of business development for Acannability.
Infused food and drink space matures
The edibles category is also continuing to evolve, something evident in the busy brand halls. While the mighty gummy may still reign supreme, it’s no longer the only game in town.
“I loved seeing more innovation in the culinary cannabis space, from infused nuts, peanut butter, hazelnut spread, drink mixes, salt and pepper, sauces, soup, sugar-free options, confections, and edibles that go way beyond gummies,” said edibles expert Christina Wong, the founder and CEO of Fruit + Flower Co.
Savory snack darlings TSUMo debuted their Snoop Dogg-approved crispy onion ring line Snazzle Os to much fanfare, easily becoming one of the most sought-after celebrity cannabis collaborations in history. The booth was consistently busy, with many HOF attendees excited to be among the first in the country to try the product. A purple throne signed by Snoop himself—currently being auctioned to benefit the Snoop Youth Football League—made for a social media-worthy photo opportunity.
“I think the difference for TSUMo at this Hall of Flowers, especially with launching this new product, is all these people outside the cannabis industry also have their eyes on us now because Snoop is a multimedia global superstar—that just gives you this enormous platform,” said Caroline Yeh, TSUMo CEO and co-founder.
First-time exhibitors It’s All About Choices also generated a ton of buzz at HOF, displaying a soon-to-be-launched water-soluble snack and powder packets line. The effects-based combination boxes contain infused crackers, drink mixes, treats, and mix-in powders to create delicious-sounding onion soup, ranch dip, hot cocoa, and a wide variety of other foods. The garlic mashed potatoes caught our eyes immediately.
Clean packaging and an innovative manufacturing process that provides better bioavailability and flavor through nanoemulsion of cannabis oil helped make It’s All About Choices one of the most talked about brands at the event.
“We appreciated and felt the crowd’s genuine excitement and enthusiasm for what we are offering the cannabis world with so many edibles product choices and flavor possibilities,” said Hadas Cohen, COO of Powder Nation, the parent company of It’s All About Choices. “Our team joked that we wished we had a GoPro or camera so that we could record everyone’s reaction in real time! Would you believe the most popular and talked about was our infused mashed potatoes?!”
Budget brands balance out the hype
The state of the economy, both within the industry and beyond, was felt at this year’s Hall of Flowers. It’s no secret that concerns about a recession have driven cannabis sales down, and brands have been quick to respond.
Several price-conscious lines were on display, appealing to a variety of demographics. While bright colors, candy themes, and nostalgic vibes seemed to take center stage with regard to branding, there was some more subdued packaging as well. The quality of the budget flower and vapes has clearly improved, signaling brands are stepping up their game in the so-called “mids” market.
“We just finally got our brand new chillums out, which are doing great. They have about a half-gram of diamonds infused, and they’re a low price—no one’s really seen those before,” said Bryan Buckley, president and CEO of Helmand Valley Growers Company.
Small farms starting to see the love
Hall of Flowers is often dominated by big brands like Cookies, Puffco, and Alien Labs/Connected but this year’s event saw several craft cultivators shine. The word on the brand hall floor was that some of the best buds at the event could be found at Sol Spirit Farm and Redwood Roots, whose space within the MendocinoCannabis.shop booth was consistently busy.
Down the hall, attendees could take a VR tour of Moon Made Farms. The fully immersive experience even featured a terpene aroma journey, literally bringing the Emerald Triangle down to Santa Rosa.
Dr. Natasha Khallouf, founder and CEO of Agricola Flower and Nursery and La Fresa, was pleasantly surprised by the support she and her fellow craft cultivators received.
“To be honest, in the beginning [of the event], I was a little intimidated being around some of these larger brands, but I’ve found that the receptivity to a smaller independent brand has been overwhelmingly positive—it’s really beautiful and encouraging.”
Presidential pardons, potential decriminalization generate buzz
As the day two festivities were getting underway, a voice came over the event PA, declaring to the grounds that President Biden had begun the process of decriminalizing cannabis. Reactions from the crowd include elated cries, confused glances, and fervent mobile Google searches.
Word soon spread that federal rescheduling of marijuana could be on the horizon and the White House would be pardoning federal cases involving simple possession, encouraging states to do the same. The mood was cautiously celebratory, with the announcement being considered a step in the right direction.
“A wave of excitement, relief, and joy that there is finally forward movement,” Wong said. “As I read the details, I realized that there’s still a long way to go and that the change from this announcement isn’t going to happen swiftly or overnight. There’s still so much more work to be done.”
Over at the TSUMo booth, Yeh shared a similar sentiment.
“This is a major milestone for our industry. However, on a day-to-day level, this doesn’t change much in regards to how we function as a business, so we’re going to keep working away and look forward to the de-scheduling of cannabis, which never should have been a Schedule 1 drug, and perhaps federal legalization is now closer than we thought,” she said.
With the California cannabis market at a tipping point, any movement on federal legalization, safe banking, and interstate commerce is welcome news. The serendipitous timing during Hall of Flowers was not lost on anyone, with most expressing hope for real change coming soon.
“Being here and hearing that is just a confirmation that this is still the greatest revolution of our lifetimes,” said Khallouf.