Illicit named Company of the Year
Best of the Industry 2023 – Company of the Year
The Missouri cannabis industry has grown at a breakneck pace since the first legal marijuana sale in October of 2020. In the two years since, more than 400 companies, over 10,000 employees, and more than 200,000 patients had participated in Missouri’s marijuana market before the end of 2022.
Illicit has become one of Missouri’s most successful homegrown brands. In 2021, the company was Missouri’s top-selling brand and was chosen as Brand of the Year by Greenway readers for 2022. Illicit also brought home awards for Best Brand Design and Best Packaging Design as well as Best Cultivator.
Illicit would also win recognition for Best Pre-roll for its Illicit Smokos Gorilla Pie, Best New Product for Illicit Live Resins, and Best Vape Cartridge for the Illicit Live Resin KC Kush.
This year, Greenway readers named Illicit Company of the Year, and again awarded Illicit best Packaging Design. Illicit’s Live Resin purple Chem was chosen as Best Live Vape and Illicit’s Live Rosin was selected Product of the year.
“Our live rosin is extracted through a completely solventless process in which we use ice water and agitation to separate the trichomes into hash. Then after a freeze-drying process we apply low heat and gentle pressure to make the live rosin, creating a full-spectrum, flavorful product. By preserving the array of cannabinoids, flavonoids and terpenes of the plant and translating it into live rosin, we retain the full symphony of notes that are in the flower at the moment it is harvested. Illicit’s live rosin in TPK vape carts and concentrates are made with 100% pure fresh frozen cannabis flower and contain no additives or fillers. We recommend treating Illicit Live Rosin just as you would a fine wine or aged bourbon… slowly “sipped,” explained Illicit COO, Adam Diltz.
Greenway recently spoke to Diltz about the company’s growth in 2022 and what lies ahead with the legalization of adult use in Missouri.
“2022 saw a lot of movement in the Missouri markets with the launch of dozens of new cultivators, manufacturers, and dispensaries. As market competition significantly increased, Illicit worked around the clock to keep the brand offering consistent, fresh, and new. That meant identifying market niches where we knew we could best showcase our abilities,” Diltz continued, “This led to the release of several new products: the Smokos Mixtape prerolls (the 1st multi-strain product in the state), Ready2Roll preground premium flower, more varieties of gummies, live rosin, the Intros Collection, large format flower options with half and full oz. flower jars, dozens of new strains, and more.”
“We also constantly took note of where we could improve. That led to, among other things, a complete revamp of our hardware sourcing processes for cartridges and culminated in new dental-grade ceramic hardware with organic Japanese cotton cores. We also worked to connect with more of Missouri’s patients with a major increase in pop-ups and events around the state, with over 600+ Illicit booths with our partner dispensaries and event venues.”
While Illicit has always focused on the cannabis community, that ramp-up in engagement and brand presence transformed one of the state’s best-selling brands into a brand that was hyper-engaged statewide throughout 2022. That cross-section of engagement and education has allowed Illicit to find many ways to give back while seeking to always push for reform and progress.
“Since 2020, Illicit has donated well over $100,000 to local and national advocacy groups focused on criminal justice reform. Those funds have gone towards reintegration funds to help cannabis POWs get back on their feet, legal fees to get them the counsel they need, as well as general donations to those indicted for cannabis-related offenses. We’ve also worked with the state to contract non-violent ex-felons as ’employees’ at our facilities.
“In 2022 we released the Illicit Freedoms Campaign, where we featured 8 cannabis POWs in partnership with Strange Music. That campaign gave an opportunity for those individuals to share their stories about how the war on drugs has negatively impacted their lives, and we hope it gives people some perspective on just how far cannabis criminal justice reform still has to go in this country. With the Rec transition in 2023, we plan on stepping up those efforts even further, with more initiatives, donations, and future campaigns,” Diltz said.
What about Illicit differentiates the company from others in Missouri?
In a word? Consistency. We’re constantly examining our processes, taking them apart, and identifying where we can get better and provide a more consistent product. It’s a painstaking approach, but making incremental steps forward can lead to significant advances over time. Using this approach we redeveloped our irrigation systems to improve our ability to consistently deliver nutrients at the right times, and we experimented with multiple substrate varieties to figure out what would perform best in our facility. We poured over-market data to identify where we stand out in the industry so we can strategically coordinate our resources.
Who are some of the employees or leaders that help push Illicit’s success?
This is hard to paraphrase since we have an incredible team, with top-notch talent heading every department at the executive level, down to committed managers, talented leads, and passionate crews who believe in the product and what we’re doing.
Gareth Nelson, VP of Wholesale, has led the way with product development, especially with our MIP products, and has made supporting our partners the highest priority. Greg Gluckman, VP of Cultivation, knows more about what these plants need than possibly anyone else in the country, and that pursuit of perfection shows in the consistency of our flower quality. Leo Mancuso, VP of Sales, has probably single-handedly sold more product in 2+ years than anyone else in the industry, and that is only possible by drawing from decades of business experience and relationship building. Michele Bowman, VP of Compliance, has kept every aspect of our operation within DHSS standards and built exceptional working relationships with our regulators. Cristina Osorio, Creative Director, developed our branding concepts, campaigns, and packaging, resulting in a multitude of Missouri’s top-selling products. David Craig, VP of Marketing is an absolute wizard when it comes to digital marketing and messaging. I don’t think there is another person in the country we would rather have leading that department. There are dozens more people I could mention, and they all play a vital role. None of this would have been possible without Nate Ruby, my partner and our founder, laying the foundation for everything we have become.
What endears your company to patients and others in the industry?
I’d say the company’s message about cannabis freedoms and criminal justice reform, an industry-leading consistency in quality as well as the general vibe of the brand. Our team predominantly comes from the “legacy market” and loves cannabis culture. We also love music. Music and elements of the music industry are layered throughout our branding. For example, each unique strain art was created to be an ‘album cover’ to the feeling they release. Our packaging and product names were designed to give an analogous tangibility to non-digital music media like cassette tapes and records, and our lifestyle imagery was designed to capture the nostalgia of the 80s and 90s with subtle retrowave tones.
With the launch of adult use, how do you intend to stay competitive as the Missouri market continues to grow?
We offer products in nearly every category and will continue to expand into areas we are currently lacking. However, we intend to lean heavily into what the data shows are our strongest offerings. 2023 will see improvements and expansion of our Smokos preroll tins, with limited edition releases, collaborations, and lineage-specific drops. We’ll also be dropping our first in-house strains, bred by our Master Cultivators. These are already showing signs of being heavy hitters and we’re hoping to get these onto shelves during Q2. Our product offering will continue to be dialed in and refined so customers can get the dependability of Illicit in any format they’re looking for.
Shortly we’ll be announcing multiple new sponsorships, among those will be a first in the cannabis industry nationally and one we hope will help normalize further cannabis in the mainstream. More on that to come.
What does the legalization of marijuana for adult use mean for your company?
Mainly it means we get to have more fun and spread good vibes to the rest of Missouri. A lot of people have been waiting for this day, some for most of their adult lives, and we’re extremely grateful to be in the state with so many great companies and people. We’re looking forward to more cannabis events and competition cups, more consumption lounges, and just an overall destigmatizing of what we do with the general public.
What plans are on the horizon for the company?
In 2023 we’ll be rolling out our Illicit Homegrown campaign, which will feature some of our favorite local artists and their relationship with cannabis. Keep an eye out for the campaign to drop later this year. We additionally intend on launching our in-house strains, refining our existing product lines, and really honing in on that most elusive of goals: the perfect jar of cannabis.