AltaVie aims for the premium cannabis consumer

MedReleaf targets people with no connection to cannabis culture using a new brand focused on mindfulness and "living in the now."


Licensed producer MedReleaf is continuing to diversify its portfolio with the launch of AltaVie, a cannabis brand aimed at connecting with premium customers that might not have previously felt like “cannabis culture” had anything to offer them.

The brand officially launched at an event held at Only One Gallery in Toronto on Thursday, where poet Cleo Wade hosted a discussion and read an excerpt from her book Heart Talk prior the opening of an exhibition. It featured Toronto artists Briony Douglas, Alpo Snow, Tahsin – The Good and Enzee Creative, all of whom created pieces inspired by the concept of “living in the now.”

“AltaVie is a product that speaks more to the premium consumer who is a little more discerning about life in general,” says Darren Karasiuk, VP of strategy at MedReleaf. “There’s very much a nod to the wellness side of things and mindfulness and being in the present.”

Bensimon Byrne is the agency working on AltaVie’s brand communications, with Rodmell and Company creating the branding, Narrative on PR and Front Row Centre leading last night’s event.

In February, MedReleaf launched a campaign to familiarize Canadians with San Rafael ’71, a brand the licensed producer had created for the recreational cannabis market and differentiate from its established medical brand. While it was a far cry from black lit head shops and psychedelic posters, the campaign still leaned heavily into cannabis culture, with tongue-in-cheek references “420″ and a 30-second radio spot that was mostly the sound of someone laughing.

While the San Rafael brand is meant to create an association with what Karasiuk calls the “classic cannabis culture” of California in the ’70s, AltaVie taps into the idea of “mindfulness” that is an increasingly popular element of certain lifestyle brands. Besides potentially reaching a more affluent customer, AltaVie is meant to create more of an appeal among Canadians who don’t feel a connection to cannabis culture.

“Through our research, we know there’s going to be roughly 17% of the adult population in the country that have said they will try cannabis upon legalization,” Karasiuk says. “They won’t identify with the classic cannabis culture, and are probably new to the category. There’s a big difference there in terms of an emphasis on education, helping adult consumers make informed choices and more of a focus for them on understanding how cannabis can serve, yes, a recreational focus, but a nod to the wellness side of the spectrum.”

Karasiuk says it is premature to get into detail about what future marketing for AltaVie will look like, but did say Thursday’s event was a good indicator of what’s to come.

San Rafael ’71 also launched a beer in partnership with Amsterdam Brewery, giving it an actual product to advertise while the regulations for cannabis marketing are still being decided. MedReleaf has taken a similar approach in launching AltaVie Cannabis Crunch, a chocolate toffee that contains no TCH or CBD, but is infused with a slight cannabis flavour. Where San Rafael had a mass campaign in support of its beer, Karasiuk says support of Cannabis Crunch will rely upon shelf presence in over 200 high-end health and natural food stores across Canada.

“Going off of ‘Just Do Now,’ the product is a bit of a decadent treat, something that you can take, close the door, shut out the world and enjoy peacefully,” he says. “We’re trying to be a champion of being in the present a little bit more and being mindful. But for brand new customers and premium customers, this also introduces them to the more nuanced aromas and taste profile of what cannabis will offer them. They can appreciate what that world can be to them, beyond what might stereotypically be associated with it.”