The cannabis industry continues to grow at a high rate. Each day the conversation around federal legalization continues to evolve. As legalization grows, so does the opportunity for new and innovative businesses within the cannabis industry. There is much more to cannabis than the old “reefer madness” stigmas of the 1950s.
One person leading the change of that stigma is the CEO and Founder of Pantry, Scott Jennings. Pantry is a cannabis-infused food brand created and owned by award-winning chefs using only premium ingredients. Pantry was developed to bridge the world of culinary arts with cannabis and provide alternative methods to consume cannabis in a healthier way.
The Juanaknow team had the opportunity to have a conversation with Scott about Pantry, the cannabis industry, and what is on the horizon for the California-based company as legalization continues to evolve. Scott talked about Pantry origins, what it's like to work in a growing industry, and the value of great relationships. Keep reading to learn about Pantry and when it could potentially come to a state near you! (JW stands for JuanaKnow)
All right, thanks, Scott.
So the first question I'm going to ask you is what inspired your idea or concept for your business Pantry?
Yeah, I think that it was my whole life. I've just grown up to more and more understand and appreciate the value of wellness. And, I started learning about the cannabis plant and the tremendous amount of benefits from it. And I was learning about the tremendous amount of benefits from eating healthy whole foods. And so, when cannabis legalization came around, and I looked to ditch my consuming cannabis through combustible, what I saw was that the other options in the food category were candy. And I didn't want to trade, hurting my lungs for having candy. And so I aspired for a healthier alternative. And so that was my inspiration; saying, hey, I don't see something on the shelf for me and for other, health-conscious consumers. And I bet I'm not alone. Right? So let me create something to fill that void.
Awesome. Awesome. Just kind of getting into that. Can you tell me a little bit about what your company does?
Yeah, sure, we are, you know, by technical terms, we're a consumer, CPG company. Which is a consumer packaged goods company. Which is, just like anything that you would see, primarily at Whole Foods. And, basically, we create products that we think consumers want, and that will help consumers, right. So that's really our desire to make products that help fuel the healthy body. Because we know if somebody is healthy internally, they're going to be better for their family, or their society. And so cannabinoids and whole foods, you know, have this tremendous ability to give your body what it needs, both on the nutritional level. And what a lot of people don't understand on a(n) endocannabinoid system level. Because as some research is suggesting your endocannabinoid system is more important than your brain or your nervous system. And a lot of people are walking around with an endocannabinoid deficiency. And so really, what we're doing is helping fuel bodies to live better lives.
That's awesome. You kind of answered it, but I’ll just, I'll kind of go back and pull from what you just said. But basically, my next question is: what is unique about your business? And it sounds like from what you were saying, you kind of took a combination of combining cannabis with whole foods and healthy foods, correct?
100%. And I would just add to that, you know, what I think is most unique in life is people and the people that makeup Pantry are some of the best people. And it's the power that they put behind this mission and this vision that makes it even exist, right? So just two levels there on differentiation.
Awesome, That kind of moves into my next question there. So my next thing was, how many employees do you guys currently have? But it kinda sounds like [you're working], it's more of a team versus employees? Like, how does that work?
Yeah, we really call it the Pantry family. And, as one mentor of mine wisely educated me. One day, he said, “You're born by blood, to what you think is family, but you can redefine who is your family, by who gives you that sense of feeling like you're in a family”. And so, Pantry family is rather small, there's probably five to eight of us on the core team. But, all of our counterparties, we talk to them, like their family. We show a strong amount of interest. Because, as a lot of people will tell you, and I don't mean to jump into another question or know if this is one, but, supply chain is very challenging in high growth, fragmented markets. And so you have to work very well with your partners, both upstream and downstream. And so I think of them as family and because of that, the family could go up to, you know, dozens, if not 100 people. And, I'm not kidding, because those are the amount of people that we're building deep relationships with. And some we may even call some of the consumers family as well because they're part of what we believe as a family and drive as a mission and vision.
Gotcha, gotcha. I mean, you're kind of rolling right along with it. So I'm glad, I think the flow is going pretty well because you know, you're talking about how you enjoy working with this team and the family aspect of it. But what would you say, what part of this job do you personally find the most satisfying?
Making the consumer's life better. I mean, when they give you feedback, they slept better, or you help them with their pain or their anxiety. I mean, I always joke around and I don't know if this should be written or not, but it's like, you know, they talk to you like you're the pope or a doctor, you know? They're so grateful that you were able to help them and you're not the pope or a doctor, you know what I mean? You're just a person that cares. But that feedback is, it really charges the batteries and keeps me going.
No, that's great. That's great. I, you know, working in the medical cannabis before all this, people do kind of miss the fact of how this does help people on the medical side. And it really does, everyone thinks it is just like a stoner thing, but it's not.
Yeah, I mean, that's what we're trying to reimagine right. And a lot of people think in a binary fashion between, you know, medical and recreational and the truth is, there's a whole group of people in the middle, right, that's wellness, and they're consuming that would look like medical, but there, it's just what, I would call it a lifestyle, instead of calling it medical. You're just being more intentional with what you're putting in your body. And because you track it, and because you moderate it, some people think it's, oh, you're doing it for medical reasons. But no, its body up-keep. It's a lifestyle.
I really, like I'm definitely gonna have to make sure I pull that quote. I really like how you broke that down between like, medical and recreational then there's you in the middle. Which is wellness, that was just poetry right there I like that Scott. And on the flip side of that, what would you say is kind of like the most challenging part right now?
Yeah, so the best part is, some people would say, the best part is, the worst part, and the worst part is, coming across, what some people are called Cowboys, right. Because you're in a high-growth industry, there's a lot of opportunity. And it attracts Cowboys, and Cowboys, you know, aren't always there to treat everybody respectfully and do good, you know, to good and faithful business. They're there to potentially mislead, lie, hurt, steal. And those people, man, do they really... you come across one of those, they will suck the life out of you. And, I say it almost on every call. I say, what am I looking for; I'm looking for great people, honest people, people that will know how to solve a problem and can communicate. Because, you know, we don't need any name-calling, we don't need any guns drawn. We don't need any lawsuits, you know, this is a great opportunity and great plant. And, I like to avoid those bad people and I relate to my finance industry because the truth is, you're gonna have 9 out of 10 good investments in your portfolio. But that 10th one could be a cancer or a dog. And it could sink the portfolio's performance, you know, pretty significantly. So, you know, avoiding bad people is priority number one, or probably what I don't enjoy the most is when I run into those people.
You nailed it from my experience, too, in the cannabis industry. It's all the same, and that's the trouble. The people, and trying to mix that professionalism in. You're trying to balance the community and the culture and everything that it represents. And you don't want it to become corporate, but you do want to have good business and good relationships. And that is a fine balance to have.
But it's important. It's a fine balance to have but people don't realize it's a priority, because even if you break it down to social classes, people say, hey, do you like New York or LA better. I'll tell you this: It depends who the hell you're meeting with or who you're hanging out with because there are assholes from both cities.
Yea so true. So true. And that's kind of bleeding into the next question. It sounds like just, you kind of hit on this. But if you could change one thing about the industry and what you're doing right now, what would it be?
That's a good question. If could change one thing. Probably the answer. I would free everybody that's been wrongfully incarcerated. You know, yeah, I mean, it's really fucked up. We're out here making money and these people that did the same thing are in jail.
For sure. For sure. That's a big one. And we're seeing it every day, right?
That's crazy. I mean the government is just not doing their part. The people have spoken, they want it. And the government's trying to let these people out and trying to expunge records, but they're not doing it nearly as fast enough, or in large enough scale that I think it should be done. And another thing is that they are taxing the bloody hell out of it out here in California. It's crazy. Tax only hinders, the tax process only hinders the progress and momentum of eliminating the traditional, or black market and providing legal pain tested products for consumers.
Absolutely, I agree with you, 100%. On kind of on that note. What sort of changes are occurring in your business right now?
What kind of changes I mean, we are, we live in a state of flow, which means that we are always changing. So I can take you through, at the ground floor when you think of innovation, right? So we're innovating, right? Consumers are learning more about adaptogens and herbs and different ratios and kinds of combinations of cannabinoids that can help, you know, different people in different ways, right? So we're changing, always evolving on the innovation and product side to meet the consumer where their desires are. Including a plant-based hemp seed CBD recovery, meal replacement bar. Because, a crazy stat that I don't know if you know, but I didn't know, but 90% of people plus or minus, don't get enough protein in their diet every day. And were eating more empty calories than ever and that was John Mackey from Whole Foods' whole thing. So, we're eating more than we ever have, and we're getting less nutrients than we have ever had, that's not a good ratio.
I didn't know that.
We're changing on the distribution side, you know, we're always getting new accounts, meeting new people, making new relationships. We're growing as a team, we recently brought on a great creative director, and he helps tell the story and visualize it. Which is really important, you could be a great brand, but you gotta be able to tell your story, and visually telling it was part of it. We're growing with new investors, we're growing into new states, we're getting more mature as a business, putting more processes and procedures in. So we're growing across the whole business. And it's, I would say, it's uncomfortable growth, but the growth of cannabis is fast-paced. And people normally, as they get older, they grow slower, you know, they get more comfortable. And so, really creating a culture, a Pantry to be, embrace the ever-evolving and growing nature of cannabis. But, we've seen a lot of people get spun out because it's, it is too busy. It can burn you out quick.
Yeah, yeah. No, and, you know, you kind of touched on that just with, like, staying fluid, but, and just like in putting that in the culture. But specifically, how are you, what other intentional things are you doing to deal with the changes with just the planning and...
Intentionally, you know, we're trying to, in a fast-growth industry, you're, you know, sometimes playing on your back heel. You got to get on your toes and be forward-thinking, right? So, we're starting to plan six, nine months out. We're staying fluid, but we're trying to go very proactive in planning because, with better planning, there will be better execution and better cost management. We're actively trying to do that. I mean, we're actively trying to bring out new products. We're upset with industry, how they brought out so much candy, and, we're actively trying to talk to the better for you, traditional CPG category, like Mondelez, and Kellogg, and Unilever, and they know that people don't want candy anymore, and they've already started adding, better for you products to their portfolio. And I really don't think you can think of health and wellness or better for you and not think of cannabinoids and so building those bridges, right? So I hope that answers your question.
Yeah, no, no, no, it does. It does. And, you know, this kind of goes into my last question, just kind of to wrap it up, perfect. So, on that note, What are you hoping to accomplish within the next year and Pantry? Like what's on, what's on the horizon?
I don't know if it's the next year, brother. It's probably the next one to two years, but New York just legalized and I'm from New York. So Pantry is going home. I'm definitely looking forward to that.
That's great. That's great. Are you thinking about moving back east yourself?
Well, like you may have heard me reference earlier on, I find that a lot of people think binarily right? And you have to live in one or both. I've always said I'll be BI coastal and enjoy both because there's great offers for both and, and HQ is California for Pantry. And New York is going to be, you know, home HQ, or HQ2, or the East Coast. So I find myself spending time in both places, but I'd be lying if I said we're not looking at Texas and Florida. Pantry is going to go to all the big cities including Illinois.