by Krista Raymer and Leandra Reid, Vetrina Group
A third conference, in as many months, has come and gone. We’re left with a few take-aways that put Lift Expo 2021 in the context of the cannabis industry, and the conference circuit in North America.
We hit the ground at Toronto’s Lift & Co Conference a few weeks back with our “A team” of all-stars in full force: Our trustworthy jet-setter Krista Raymer, co-Founder Leah Reid, Anna Silva, Annie Do, Elyse Ranger, Jesse Cole and Kathryn Long.
Touted as the “largest Canadian Cannabis conference and expo”, this four-day event at the Toronto Metro Convention Centre promised a noteworthy lineup stacked with Cannabis entrepreneurs, industry experts and enthusiasts – despite best intentions, the conference lacked the depth and presence of past Lift events and conferences south of the border.
Alongside a vast but disorganized cornucopia of cannabis content, this year’s organizers took a trip to the future featuring a Psychedelics Business Summit (although they were relegated to the basement). This opened minds, and the Expo, to future applications of psychedelics. This content drew a crowd and offered some new perspectives and flavours to this year’s events.
The highlight for the Vetrina Group was the coming together of our wonderful team after weeks and months of remote work.
Takeaway #1: A little underwhelmed, but…
According to the conference’s website, this year’s Lift Expo was to be “all about learning, networking and recharging the Canadian community’s collective batteries after such a long hiatus”.
WIN: Whether it was the long hours walking the expo floor or after parties, (shout out Dutchie) the conference delivered plenty of networking opportunities. Despite an ongoing pandemic, the Canadian cannabis industry was in full force – alongside both new and familiar faces drawn by psychedelic programming.
By opting out of a booth this year, many industry players were left to mix and mingle on the floor.
LOSS: One major disappointment this year was the fact that most of the secondary or “non-headliner” speaker-series we attended were covering a lot of the same material and solutions we heard in 2018 and 2019. While the industry has evolved significantly over the past two years, it feels like Lift might have missed the message.
Side note, we could have done without some of the shameless plugging in some speaker-series, but that’s no fault of the organizers.
We love this industry and know maintaining Toronto as a destination conference space is critical. We would love to see more efforts into strategic alignment with current affairs and some sort of in-kind offering so smaller businesses can be a part of the conference. Lift is one of the few ‘Canada-first’ conferences that draws a global audience, with the potential to be a launching pad for collaboration and networking.
Takeaway #2: Collaborative building
The CanndoraConnect Event on day 2, hosted by Marigold Marketing, did a great job of pulling together a panel of powerhouse cannabis leaders: Sherry Feng from Canopy Growth Corporation, Carole Chan from VIVO Cannabis, Theresa Robert from Mariwell, Christina Cassen, Chief of Staff at Microdose and Jen Meyers, CEO at ZELCA LTD.
The panel focused on concerns facing our industry today. The cannabis industry has had its day of reckoning: many LPs focused too much of their efforts on building a brand versus producing best-in-class products. The prediction that more consumers will be looking for mid-range and low-dose cannabis offerings was nearly unanimous among attendees.
Opportunities and challenges remain familiar. From Sherry Feng’s point of view, they continue to be US legalization (forever stalled by regulation/legalization), converting legacy consumers (with its price point advantage and lack of regulation) and bringing in new consumers (with our heavily restricted marketing and advertising regulations). We couldn’t agree more!
Takeway #3: Young cannabis industry, looking for data
Data is not a new topic for this industry, but it seemed to be on the minds of many on the expo floor. Both retailers and brands feel like they are operating without a complete picture of the industry. Current offerings are either impossible to afford or don’t present the data in a digestible manner. That’s a problem.
How are businesses supposed to confidently make decisions for the future? Even though the industry is the ripe old age of 3 years old, we continue to see a lack of collaboration between retailers and brands who are vying to stay afloat.
Competing for top position in the list of industry woes, let’s talk excise tax on LPs. While we could write our own article, do the industry a favour by visiting www.standforcraft.com.
Other woes: Provincial distribution and retail monopolies, packaging and branding restrictions confusing consumers, THC limits, and the list goes on.
In the end, retailers and LPs are struggling to make timely decisions because they don’t have access to a complete picture. Data and collaboration will be a primary driver in the years ahead.
We can’t deny the efforts of the team at Lift & Co, we can’t imagine the level of detail and production that goes into pulling off Canada’s largest Cannabis conference. But
We do want to make sure we see progress and innovation in this industry – progress that’s well-deserved. Call us, maybe?
Next on the docket, we are looking forward to Kind Magazine’s Winter Fair taking place in the distillery district on December 15th, 2021. It may not have the same international pull, but we know the organizers are pulling together a killer event.
Thanks for sticking it out through another Conference Round-Up with the Vetrina Group.
Have any questions or concerns about this article or think we could maybe help your retail or LP business? Drop us a line.