Integrative Health Products
Popular cannabis consumption in America grew up out of underground night clubs, back alleys, and cannabis magazine centerfolds. Its praise flowed through the lips of poets and musicians, while its scorn was embodied in America’s War on Drugs.
It was taboo; it was cool; it was illegal, and it jailed hundreds of thousands of people. Although times are changing, these stigmas are still intricately connected to the way most Americans view cannabis culture.
While the majority of adults across the country consume alcohol every month, only thirty-eight percent of millennials and twenty-five percent of baby boomers in California consume cannabis products, according to a January 2019 report by the New York Times titled ‘Marijuana’s New Crop of Consumers, by the Numbers.’
“According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), fifty-eight percent of adults consume alcohol every single month,” says Ted Rebholz, Chief Executive Officer and founder of Integrative Health Products (IHP).
IHP designs salves, sprays, vapes, tinctures, and edibles that are available for medicinal use in New Hampshire and for medicinal or adult use in Massachusetts and Colorado, and are expected to arrive in California in the New Year.
Its expansive product line is aimed at longtime consumers who are looking for something different and at a mainstream society that still carries the past wounds and stigmas from an outdated drug war.
“When you recognize that alcohol is, along most subjective criteria, an inferior good to cannabis products, you know that the growth trajectory in this industry is going to be very long. And it’s going to get a lot bigger than what most people anticipate,” observes Rebholz.
If he is correct, percentages in places like California should be on their way to doubling. If there are new consumers out there, what is their demographic?
According to Rebholz, it is all of them. “The thing about cannabis consumers is that they’re pretty representative of the general population. Regardless of age, gender, racial, ethnic, or religious identities, these are popular products.”
He is not just blowing smoke with these statements. He is a long-time entrepreneur, investor, and startup whiz. He was the Chief Financial Officer of Beyond Meat, shortly before it exploded. Over the past decade, he has been managing startups in the legal cannabis industry in California, where he has helped to raise millions of dollars to help companies grow.
Rebholz has a good handle on vertical integration, and before IHP, he founded another company called Temescal Wellness, which cultivates, manufactures, and runs cannabis dispensaries in New Hampshire and Massachusetts.
He firmly believes that even though the products are legal, the barriers facing would-be consumers are not related to demographics, but a generalized societal anxiety. “Having been in this industry for so long and having spent time in dispensaries, you see that, a lot more than other products, people are scared to ask questions.”
Even with widespread legalization, would-be consumers are afraid of being looked down upon by their friends, of appearing amateur in front of cannabis connoisseurs, or of having a bad experience with an unknown product.
“Approachability is an adjective that’s a big part of our brand and design,” explains Rebholz. “We recognize that one way of developing trust is by putting our end users at ease and comfort because, at the end of the day, this is a product that should make them feel healthier and happier. We want them to start feeling better when they begin engaging with our product inside the dispensary.”
IHP believes that the untapped demographic is diverse, and each product line unlocks a new consumer segment.
Integrative Health Products’ vape pens are built in a tubular style with sleek and durable metal or offered in understated yet elegant flask-shaped holders. Tinctures and capsules could blend in at the natural health shop. Embodying a more serious tone, they are perfect for consumers who approach cannabis as a deliberate, focused medicine.
IHP’s edibles packaging is recognizable by its three-pointed leaf. The packaging enjoys vivid contrasts drawing the eye in and then focusing it with strong geometric lines. These are products designed for active, outdoor folk. There is coconut butter to enjoy before sunrise yoga. Perhaps one will toss some granola, honey sticks, and caramel bites into a day bag before a hike, or enjoy a chocolate bar with closest friends by the campfire.
IHP’s salves invite users to relieve muscle tension and calm the mind and are perfect for relaxing on the weekend or after a hard day’s work.
Finally, its Subdew product line is aimed at discreet users who do not want to show off but desire a fast-acting, easy-to-control product. One or two sprays under the tongue and the slender canister is easily placed back onto a shelf or into a purse. For those looking for something just as discreet, but with slower-acting effects, lozenges are recommended.
While each product line has a distinct branding, they are tied together by the easy-to-understand labeling that informs users about the product, expectations, and dosage. This is the approachability factor that IHP is using to engage with new consumers who are unsure and to invite long-time consumers who are curious.
“Our suite of brands is extensive but very thoughtfully curated,” explains Effie Nestrud, Director of Product Innovation and Marketing at IHP. Nestrud joined the team of creative, innovative people at IHP from a background in food science. She and two engineers lead the development process and coordinate with IHP’s licensed co-manufacturing partners to execute.
“We are constantly seeking, updating, and understanding all of the regulations across each of the markets that we operate in. We always make sure that we meet or exceed those regulatory standards. And we like to show them in a way that is very approachable to the consumer. We want to make sure they can easily find the information they’re looking for and also feel comfortable with that information,” says Nestrud.
Products are tested after cultivation, before production, and after manufacturing, by IHP’s licensed co-manufacturing partners. This triple-check system ensures stringent quality control and helps to build consumer trust and loyalty by guaranteeing an enjoyable experience every time. Once consumers become familiar with one line of products, IHP hopes the trust that has been built will cascade into others.
“We know that consumers will come into a dispensary and gravitate towards a certain group of products,” says Nestrud, “and we hope that the experiences, trust, and consistency we have built empower them to return to the dispensary to try different purchase experiences.”
IHP is not only pleasing those who walk into the dispensaries but those on the other side of the counter as well. Product and packaging is one thing, but if dispensary employees are not engaged, a product’s journey from behind the counter into a customer’s hands might as well be miles long.
“As much as we’re focused on delighting the end-user, we can’t have that moment of delight until we’ve also delighted our co-manufacturers and our dispensary partners,” Nestrud notes. “We first need to develop trust with our co-manufacturers and with our dispensary accounts. We want to make life easier for them.”
Making life easier includes on-time deliveries of consistent and reliable products that fly off the shelves. Ted Rebholz’s extensive experience in cultivation, manufacturing, and dispensaries means this company can anticipate potential bottlenecks and actually work to improve processes on either side of production. IHP may be one of the only companies with an intimate understanding of vertical cannabis integration.
After consultation with its manufacturers, IHP is re-launching its fruit chews. The new line will include all-natural flavors and colors and is many times easier to manufacture than its predecessor. “Our manufacturing partner, Temescal Wellness, actually came up to us and asked for an optimized process. So we worked with our engineers and really thoughtfully developed a new fruit chew product. It not only delivers a fantastic texture and a delightful flavor, but it is operationally immensely easier to make with our manufacturers,” Nestrud explains.
IHP’s chocolate bar line also went through a redesign and just may prove to be an industry changer. Unlike the fruit chews, this idea originated in-house. Rebholz’s leadership encourages innovation and brainstorming from all employees, regardless of background or expertise.
Cannabis edibles often have a distinct flavoring, leaving many sensory expectations unrealized when compared to non-cannabis edibles. Chocolate is no exception. An innovative idea from the IHP team was to coat bars with a flavor strip to simultaneously complement and contrast the natural cannabis flavoring.
“We really wanted to design a product that would delight and entice the consumer both visually and from a sensory perspective,” says Nestrud. “We are placing delightful, fun, and flavorful ingredients on the back of the bar. We are putting a bar on the market that we hope will define the chocolate category for years to come, rather than just simply fit into it,” she says. This unique design creates a sensory and textural sensation that is sure to satisfy most palates and is available in dark, white, and milk chocolates.
As the shadow of cannabis prohibition lifts across the United States, the constraints of what a cannabis product can and will be are evolving. Innovative companies like Integrative Health Products are redefining the boundaries of what a cannabis product looks like and, in turn, are redefining its consumers.
“Whatever the needs are of today’s consumer and whatever the needs are of tomorrow’s consumer, that they haven’t yet even realized,” says Rebholz. “IHP wants to be on the cutting edge, to be the go-to provider of safe and consistently reliable and, most importantly, consistently delightful products.”