No matter how much research brands use to buttress product development, it always remains a gamble. Data says gummies are hot. Feedback from dispensary guests argues persuasively that a new gummy could triumph in the marketplace — especially if they come in a rainbow of tropical flavors. So the brand spends months with licensing, product development and testing before the big launch. And then? Fingers crossed. Some products flop. Others do OK. And then there are the products that go viral — everybody wants it, sales go nuts, and the manufacturing team has the welcome responsibility of quickly ramping up production.
The simple description for Caliva’s Reef Leaf — a re-sealable pouch of pre-ground buds — does not exactly shout “sales bonanza.” But that’s exactly what happened. Here’s how.
“It took us by surprise,” said Marc LeJay, Caliva’s flower product manager. “It was so cool to see that this, which isn’t a new thing — it’s flower — went wild. We just changed the form factor.”
One of the keys was the “pre-ground buds” in the pouch. Not shake or trim, but ground up, full-flower budlets. Caliva rejects placing small buds in eighths, and decided to use the small buds for Reef Leaf. The repurposing of the budlets was the first of several key decisions on the part of Caliva’s broad product development and marketing teams.
And then there was the branding.
“All of our branding is internal, and we really wanted to do something fun and playful. Cheeky. We wanted to dive deeper into the surfer theme, to get back into the California culture that revolved around cannabis without it being about stoners. It’s just people just wanting to enjoy the California lifestyle,” said Marc. “And then there is the familiar packaging style, the tobacco pouch. It sealed the deal. The combination — the pre-ground buds, the branding and the packaging — was a perfect trifecta for this product.”
And as it is for all Caliva products, Reef Leaf emerged from intense cross-team collaboration. If it were just pre-ground flower in a bag, it probably wouldn’t have taken off. An eighth of shake in a cool pouch? Meh. Killer branding and pre-ground full flower too, but sold in a plastic vial? It might have been a complete flop. But each leg of the trifecta — the idea for budlets, the branding and the pouch packaging — was built through collaboration. And the intense brainstorming led to one of Caliva’s most successful product launches.
“We sold out completely the first day, of all three types — indica, sativa and hybrid. And we sold it all by about 1 o’clock,” said Marc. “I was out on a camping trip, out of cell reception and coming back to Caliva around lunch time. And once I gained reception again I had four texts from my boss saying we sold out nearly immediately.”
The marketing strategy? It was mostly Instagram and social media in general. And interest in the product created out-the-door lines.
“It probably took two months to catch up,” said Marc. “We also launched it wholesale and we had to backfill two months of orders. But now we are keeping up with wholesale and retail.”
Now, Caliva is selling about 90 pounds a month of Reef Leaf — 5-gram grab-and-go pouches of Caliva-grown pre-ground flower that sell for $25 MSRP.
Reef Leaf’s immense success led to the December introduction of Reef Leaf Stash Pack, an all-in-one branded Caliva box containing the Reef Leaf pouch, Caliva matches, Caliva rolling papers and a Caliva glass crutch.
“The idea — it’s an all-in-one bundle. You’ve got all that you need to go out and roll your own joint,” said Marc. And once again, the product’s reception was robust. Marc said some wholesale clients wanted it before it even was ready for wholesale. They wanted to buy the entire stock.
“Terrifying,” said Marc. “But fantastic.”