Canopy Growth's Tara Rozalowsky on Wellness, Justice and Creativity in Cannabis
This edition of Higher Calling is presented by Canopy Growth, a sponsor of the 2022 Clio Cannabis Awards.
Tara Rozalowsky is VP of brand marketing at Canopy Growth, leading the strategy and positioning of the cannabis company's product portfolio and leveraging best-in-class insights to align Canopy's products and brands to consumers' needs.
A passionate advocate for the life-enhancing potential of cannabis, Tara helps create industry-leading brands that enhance overall wellbeing and bring the myriad benefits of cannabis to fruition across a range of CPG categories.
Tara has a wealth of experience revolutionizing both small and large-scale businesses by helping organizations clearly define the vision, strategy and tactics to generate results. Prior to Canopy, Tara spent 11 years with S.C. Johnson and seven years with ConAgra, where she was VP and general manager and was instrumental in closing $1 billion in annual sales across multiple legacy and entrepreneurial food brands.
We spoke with Tara for our Higher Calling series, where we chat with leaders in the cannabis space.
Tara, tell us...
Where you grew up, and where you live now.
I grew up in Toronto and saw it from many sides—East York, the Beaches, North York and Scarborough. I moved to Waterloo to pursue a business degree at Laurier, then back to Toronto where I attended Laurier again for my MBA a few years later. Toronto will always have my heart, and my family still lives there. I moved to the U.S. for work just over 12 years ago and now reside in Chicago with my partner, two kids and two very cuddly tabby cats.
A story about the positive impact cannabis has had on your life.
My relationship with cannabis has definitely changed over the years. I used to view it only through a recreational lens, but six years ago, I truly saw how the power of cannabis could impact my personal life. My son was diagnosed with epilepsy with tonic-clonic seizures, and this prompted me to dive deep into progressive health and wellness solutions. During my research, I discovered the positive clinical response that has been proven with cannabinoids for specific medical conditions, one being epilepsy. Now, my job today doesn't feel like work because I'm advancing a must-win industry to help not only my son, but others who could benefit from cannabis, whether it be medical or recreational.
A favorite flower, edible, product or brand.
During these hot summer days, I'm really enjoying the fruity and refreshing flavors of our Tweed Fizz cannabis beverages. They make me feel like I am drinking a seltzer, but with different, more calming effects—and for me, it's a nice replacement for a cold beer or glass of white wine on hot days.
The biggest challenge cannabis marketers face today.
In many ways, trying to market cannabis today is like trying to market alcohol during the Prohibition era. It's incredibly difficult to build a cannabis brand while adhering to various industry regulations and dispelling misconceptions. But as we move toward U.S. permissibility and start to see more acceptance in the cannabis space, we're focused on making the myriad benefits of cannabis accessible and approachable. This can be done by offering cannabis in diverse and familiar formats, such as beverages, gummies and edibles, as well as strategically tapping into the credibility and insight of partners, like we did with Martha Stewart CBD. With Martha Stewart, we created a line of gourmet CBD products that were less intimidating for new consumers and available in flavors that reflected the tastes of Martha's garden. Leveraging Martha's reputation as a curator of all things good and wonderful, as well as her authentic appreciation for CBD, we were able to demystify CBD for many consumers and Martha Stewart CBD has quickly become a category leader.
One thing you're excited about right now in cannabis branding, partnerships or marketing.
I'm really excited to see the industry further position itself around wellness. While recreation will always be core to the cannabis landscape, there's some really exciting research coming out about how cannabis can support the spectrum of wellness—whether it's helping people achieve better sleep, better manage stress, or even address menstrual pain or lose weight. As we better define what need-state cannabis can address, we will see more brands home in on the specific effects and benefits. This shift is really a new frontier, as it will help entrench cannabis into the realm of consumer package goods and wellness solutions.
A cannabis trade/social justice organization that you support.
It's humbling to see our industry flourish while so many still languish in prison for cannabis, which is why I'm incredibly proud of Canopy's investment in and support of social advocacy and particularly drawn to our partnership with the Last Prisoner Project. This nonprofit works at the forefront of social justice to achieve pardons and clemency for those serving cannabis-related sentences and who have been disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs. One of the things I love about the organization is their letter-writing program, which allows our employees to connect with incarcerated individuals. Their stories are heartbreaking, but they still hold so much hope. It's an honor to partner with this organization and support them in bringing healing and new opportunities to those fighting for their freedom.
A recent project you're proud of.
I work with a great team, so I always have a lot to be proud of, but one thing that pops into mind is our recent rebranding of Tweed in Canada. Tweed is a legacy brand that had suffered from issues with quality and consistency. Committed to addressing consumer feedback and improving the brand, we invested in new growing and cultivation practices, including hang drying, to make gains in quality. We wanted to reintroduce consumers to this new Tweed, which resulted in a full rebranding.
At the beginning of this year, we unveiled the next chapter of our Tweed line with the launch of new products (including three new strains), formats, and a refreshed look and feel. Launched two years into the pandemic, we thought, now more than ever, it was important to remind people that they didn't need an excuse to do "Whatever Feels Good," which was our rebranding tagline. The new Tweed products and rebrand have been incredibly well-received, and it's really rewarding to reimagine and refresh a legacy brand based on the need and feedback of today's consumers.
Someone else's project you admired recently.
A campaign I found particularly impactful was the "Kill the Stoner" campaign produced by MedMen and later recognized by AdAge. It depicted the many everyday uses of cannabis for betterment—e.g., to relieve anxiety, manage transitory pain, relax or focus—and the diverse range of people who use it. The work was not only timely but necessary in challenging biases about "who" a cannabis customer is. It set out to kill legacy thinking and stereotypes that have long been propagated across cultures to deny access to the products that consumers want.
Someone you admire in cannabis who's doing great things.
I have the great honor of working with so many fabulous leaders in the cannabis space. I hold a special place in my heart for the CBD edibles brand I get to build alongside a true pioneer in the space, Martha Stewart. Our team at Canopy and Martha co-developed a line of CBD gummies, softgels, oils and topicals for anyone seeking a flavorful and fulsome wellness routine. Martha is very passionate about wellness, and through that passion, she set out to create the most delicious CBD products on the market. Our shared dedication for bringing consumers innovative and quality CBD products has resulted in a line that Martha consistently uses herself and gummies that taste as great as they make you feel.
What you'd be doing if you weren't in the cannabis industry.
I love building brands. It's hard to envision doing anything more fun or challenging than the work I do in cannabis, but I want to believe that, if not in cannabis, I'd be building either a new or already beloved brand that inspires a more healthful world. A brand that shows us how our individual actions have significant impact on our mental and physical wellbeing and the health of our global communities.
Higher Calling is a weekly series, publishing on Thursdays, where we chat with folks in the cannabis industry about their personal history and taste in cannabis and the future of cannabis marketing. For more about Higher Calling, and our Clio Cannabis program, please get in touch.