So when British Columbia retailer ARCannabis launched its bracket of 96 Canadian bud brands, it wasn’t long before industry reps were pumping up their producers on social media and thousands of people were casting their votes.
But there can only be one champ. This year BLKMKT — a brand by B.C.-based GTEC Holdings Ltd. (TSX-V: GTEC) (OTC: GGTTF) (FRA: 1BUP) — took home the trophy.
“The user experience for our BLKMKT demographic is an obsession,” says GTEC CEO Norton Singhavon. “And we believe this win shows that consumers see and appreciate that.”
One thing the ARCannabis Cup demonstrates is that craft is king, he tells Mugglehead in an email, noting the overwhelming support in B.C. for B.C.-based producers.
“Micros that have only been around for months were going toe-to-toe with some of the industry’s largest producers, and winning,” Singhavon continues.
In the final bracket, BLKMKT went head-to-head with Dunn Cannabis, a West Coast company that got it’s first offering to market at the end of September.
‘We wanted to show everyone that craft is back’
Inspiration for the tourney started with a Saturday night joint last October, explains ARCannabis regional manager Matt Chernoff, wondering how he could restore the community vibe the local cannabis community had pre-legalization.
Not wanting to break any of Canada’s promotional restrictions created a wall between operators that wasn’t there before, he says.
The idea bounced back and forth between him and cup co-creator Aaron Sinnathamby, COO at ARCannabis, until one day Chernoff came across a graphic on Reddit that collected most of Canada’s legal weed brands.
“I went, ‘Great, let me just put this on a bracket and see what it looks like,’ and we did that,” he says. “We ended up with 96 LPs and I went, ‘I think we have something here.’ And [Sinnathamby] was like, ‘I think we have to launch this.'”
So the pair launched the bracket March 1 with a blast of emails out to producers, followed by ongoing re-caps of the voting results posted to ARCannabis’s Instagram.
Chernoff, a lifelong pro-wrestling fan, brought an announcer’s flare to the tourney. Graphics of the matchups put brands head-to-head inside a ring. The bracket even came complete with a heel: Ignite beat out Good Buds, Ness and Flowr to make it all the way to the quarter finals.
When it came to announcing the winner, they chose 4/20 not because of the stoner holiday, but because it’s their company’s one-year anniversary — and Wrestlemania is in April, of course.
So, what do the results say about the industry?
“Of the top things I can tell from this competition that we saw in the process, number one was: if you look at the last 10 teams, you’ll notice that they’re all legacy buds,” Sinnathamby says, noting Ignite was the odd one out. “That’s what we ultimately wanted to show — we want to show everyone that craft is back.”
Not only did the tournament give shine to a lot of strong legal producers that have come up over the past year, it also drove a lot of new awareness to retailer itself.
According to Chernoff, the competition drew 768,386 impressions to ARCannabis’s Instagram and gained it 1,716 new followers. Over the course of the tourney, 28,941 votes were cast.
Given the obvious excitement for licensed producers that bring craft-quality weed to consumers, what makes one brand the best of the best? The company behind undisputed champ BLKMKT gets the final word.
“We believe what differentiated us from the other top-shelf flower brands is that we’ve been innovating since day one, by setting trends which help raise the bar to drive the industry forward,” says GTEC boss Singhavon. “We’ve been all-glass since legalization; were the first rec brand to list terpenes on our bottles, and we just launched the first legal blunt in Canada.”
“We’re extremely consumer-focused, we’re always listening — to consumers, retailers, budtenders and liquor boards — and adapt where needed, such as adding in Integra humidity packs when we quickly realized that harvest-to-shelf can take months even if you’re going at full speed, leading to dry product no matter how good your packaging is.”