"Vertical integration is the Key"- Says Marc
Marc Brannigan, CEO of Diesel Hemp, and HempMy Pet talks about his experience working in the cannabis space, and the latest trends in the cannabis market.
Marc has been a cannabis producer for over 25 years and is in charge of the Diesel Hemp line's breeding and cultivar selection. He grew up in south Florida and, at the age of 15, grew his first cannabis plant. He attended the University of Florida and earned a business degree while excelling in indoor cannabis growing. He relocated to North Carolina to build real estate and further enhance his cannabis growing experience and property acquisition after a few more years of cultivating in South Florida and getting his MBA at Florida Atlantic University. From founding Zoned Properties, a publicly-traded medicinal marijuana real estate investment trust to developing Los Suenos, a vast outdoor cannabis plantation, he learned about marijuana and large-scale outdoor production during that time. Following that, he founded CBDRx, the first cannabis company to receive USDA organic certification for its hemp. HempMy Pet, Colorado CBD Seed, and Diesel Hemp followed CBDRx, all of which he is the CEO and Co-Founder of with his business partner, Natalie Mondine. Marc's cultivation and commercial skills, paired with Natalie's herbal nutritional supplement and formulation knowledge, bring a fresh perspective to the Cannabis experience.
Hi Marc, Let me begin by saying you co-founded ColoradoCBDseed.com, you’re also the CEO of Diesel Hemp, Water and Coffee, and HempMy Pet. Can you tell us about yourself and your background? I am intrigued to know, how and when did you decide to enter the cannabis space?
You are correct, I co-founded those companies with my business partner Natalie Mondine. I have been growing cannabis for 30 years and have founded some unique cannabis companies. Zone Properties was the first publically traded medical marijuana real-estate investment trust. Another was Los Suenos Farms, which was the largest legal medical grower in America at the time and featured on 60 Minutes. CBDRx was the first company to receive a USDA Organic certification for a cannabis farm and now the Diesel™ lines.
Image Source: Diesel hemp
How did you come up with the idea to launch Diesel Hemp™, Diesel Water™, and Diesel Coffee™? Who are your primary customers?
The Diesel™ line, which started with Diesel Hemp, was created around our proprietary hemp cultivar (strain) Abacus Diesel,™ which is a cross OG Kush, Purple Urkle, and landrace hemp strain. It has a very strong diesel/fuel smell from the OG Kush lineage. We had the idea to create strain-specific cannabis (hemp) beverage and beverage product line which contains only the strain-specific terpenes from our in-house genetics, no CBD or THC. Thinking about “how do we offer people a true strain-specific cannabis beverage that can be bought and sold everywhere and where people do not have to worry about getting high?”
Terpenes are what make each cannabis (hemp) strain unique and they are just as medicinal as cannabinoids but are more difficult to grow and harvest.
Our primary customers are people who enjoy the smell and taste of cannabis and who want the benefits of cannabis without the high. People who want something that is not artificial or filled with sweeteners and since there are no cannabinoids, there are no regulations or age limits.
Can you tell us more about HempMy Pet? I think it’s great to have an organic hemp pet food company, what inspired you?
We started HempMy Pet because we have a love for animals and we saw the results of our CBD oil on humans and thought, why not give it to animals, they have an endocannabinoid system as well. HempMy Pet is one of the only pet product companies with a published study and uses strain-specific CBD oil, Cherry Abacus, which is also a “flavor” of our Diesel Water.
Image Source: HempMy Pet
Can you give us 2-3 business challenges you faced in growing and launching your companies and how challenging was it to enter the cannabis space?
First, the lack of knowledge from our customers. Customers need to educate themselves and not just believe everything they hear. There are so many benefits from cannabis that customers need to learn.
Second, the market is saturated, and it is difficult to create something new and unique that customers will understand and purchase. Right now the focus is on “getting high” and that market is only so big.
What can you tell us about how customer preferences have changed over time regarding taste and dosage?
People used to dislike the taste of cannabis in their products which are the terpenes, especially when the terpenes are degraded which causes them to have a foul smell and taste. Now companies are using blended terpenes from other sources, to create a taste like cannabis strains and customers are enjoying the taste. For example, most vape companies use artificial cannabis terpenes blended with specific cannabis strains. Large beer companies are adding terpenes to beer to taste like cannabis, for example, Sweetwater 420, Oscar Blues, and Wicked Weed.
Can you walk us through your in-house breeding and cultivation practices? What new strains are you working on right now?
We are constantly working on new strains. We usually start with a high THC cannabis strain that has a profile that we like, and we cross it with our Abacus Diesel™ hemp strain. Then we go through multiple, sometimes four, backcrosses to get the terpene profile we want, with the ratio of THC: CBD we need to classify it as hemp.
Right now, we have multiple Cherry, Lemon, and Strawberry flavors along with Mango, Wintergreen, Chocolate, Vanilla Berry, and Pinot G. We are also working on stabilizing the genetics in seed form so they can be grown as a large agricultural product.
How do you come up with new product ideas? Are there any new products on the horizon?
We are constantly thinking outside the box with the idea of “how do we get cannabis products to people who do not use cannabis, or who are cannabis curious ?” Because that is a much bigger market than the people who just want to get “high”. I think most people know that cannabis has health benefits, but how do you get those benefits without smoking or getting “high”?
Yes, we are about to launch our Diesel Terps™ concentrate which is the same terpenes we use in our beverages, but in a 30ml bottle so people can make their own drinks or use them how they see fit. We are already selling to restaurants that are using terpenes to make strain-specific cannabis drinks. We would like to sell them in the health and wellness market as well, almost like a daily supplement.
Image Source: Diesel hemp
Which is your best-selling product and what is so unique about it?
Right now, our best-selling products are Diesel Hemp products, mainly strain-specific flower. We expect that to change with our new distribution agreement for Diesel Beverages.
What advice would you give to someone attempting to break into the cannabis industry?
Focus on strain-specific products and market around the benefits of those strains. CBD and THC are a commodity, it is the strains-specific terpene profiles that make each strain unique.
Lastly, What trends are you seeing in the cannabis sector this year?
Cannabis “flavors” from terpenes in alcohol and other beverages. Also, marketing the products strain, they are derived from. Cannabis-derived terpenes are also getting some traction, but the limits of genetics, proper farming, and extraction make it difficult.
Interviewed By Aakriti Rawat, Beverage Trade Network
Header Image Source: Natalie Mondine, Co-Founder & Marc Brannigan, CEO & Founder at Diesel Hemp