“You can wash your lettuce but not your weed.”
Common contaminants in cannabis include microbes, heavy metals, and pesticides, according to a 2018 study that was published in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. Though their level of toxicity in humans is “unquantified,” these toxins have been linked to adverse effects such as infection, carcinogenic risk, and reproductive abnormalities.
You can't really wash off pesticides and other contaminants from your weed, right? That's what Autumn Brands, a California-based seed-to-sale cannabis company believes. Consequently, the female-owned company puts in every effort to ensure sustainable organic practices in their cannabis grow operation.
My Cannabis spoke with Autumn Shelton, co-founder, and chief finance officer of Autumn Brands about pivotal factors in the California cannabis industry as well as the critical importance of paying attention to how cannabis is cultivated. Here is an insight we gleaned from the interview on consumer spending habits.
In spite of the avalanche of fancy cannabis products on the market currently, flower remains king. This corroborated findings from recent research that was carried out by New Frontier Data that showed flower having the highest product sales in 2021, at 44%. Combined with pre-rolls, the two made up 50% of total cannabis sales. According to Autumn, there's been an increased demand for pre-rolls which are simpler and more convenient to use. Before we divulge too much, here's the full story.
Growing up, did you ever envision yourself becoming an entrepreneur in the cannabis/hemp space?
Honestly, I didn’t, but I’m so glad my previous experiences led me to this incredible industry. I was working for my – then boss now partner- as CFO for his cut flower business at the time. He had leased out some of his greenhouses to a medical marijuana collective and quickly saw the opportunity to switch over almost all the greenhouses. I have always been a supporter of Cannabis and had an entrepreneurial mind frame. I will never forget the fateful day, when my partner asked, “Why don’t we start something?” I immediately started drawing up business plans and ideas. His kids were going to be graduating from college a few years later and he wanted them to also be a part of this emerging industry. So the four of us joined forces and never looked back!
Can you briefly introduce Autumn Brands and the unique role that your company is playing in moving the cannabis industry in California forward?
We are a women-owned cannabis company (6ht generation farmers) that was started by Hanna Brand and Autumn Shelton. Sustainability has always been a top priority for both the Brand and Autumn families and definitely helped shape our farm and brand. We grow in the same hydroponic system the flowers were in and were able to reuse the infrastructure instead of buying new. It is a closed-loop watering system, meaning there's no runoff and everything is recycled and reused. We are 100% spray free so no harmful chemicals are getting into the environment. All of our green waste is brought to a facility to be turned to mulch.
What does your role as CFO of Autumn Brands entail and what does your typical day look like?
There is never a typical day. This industry keeps us on our toes! But every week for me consists of keeping an eye on our financials, KPI’s and sales, making sure everything we do is compliant. I make sure our company staff is happy and healthy, support my partners and managers in whatever they need, make decisions on marketing and strategize our next steps. Right now we are in the process of changing our packaging to have a whole new and exciting look and feel and kicking off our direct-to-consumer delivery service.
Your business model is family oriented. What are some of the perks that come with this?
The most rewarding part of a family-orientated business model is knowing how incredible this plant is and how many people it helps whether it's medically or recreationally. And that we get to help develop an amazing company with my husband and friends (partners).
The cannabis industry is poised for explosive growth in the next couple of years. At the same time, competition is at an all-time high. How are you intending to maintain your market dominance?
We are growers, that's what we are good at and so that's what we focus on. We know that when the highest level of care and attention is put into our flower then all of the other factors will follow.
As a family-owned operation, Autumn Brands ensures the highest care and selected attention is given to maintain better quality than many of the big conglomerates. This will be more important than ever in the coming years. We are going to continue researching and developing new genetics and offering more strains. We have been pushing the envelope with expectations of what a greenhouse can produce by having many strains testing consistently over 26% total THC.
The future for Autumn Brands is bright, and we have so much room to expand. We are currently in only about 20% of all the dispensaries in CA so there is huge room to continue to grow organically. We are always doing market research to make sure we understand our consumer’s needs and have invested in a new look and feel for our brand, along with updates to our website, updated packaging, new creative content, and ways to extend that experience into the dispensary.
The new packaging is not only sleek but will be more sustainable with a biodegradable lid and allows people to very clearly see the different benefits and effects for each category and strain. We are excited to have just launched our same-day delivery service in San Diego County, Orange County, Los Angeles County, Ventura County, San Bernadino County, Kern County, Riverside County, Santa Clara County, San Mateo County, San Francisco County, Alameda County, Contra Costa County, Marin County which is shoppable now at delivery.autumnbrands.com.
Autumn Brands is passionate about pesticide-free cannabis. What fuels this passion?
Running a large-scale cannabis operation presents a variety of challenges for any commercial grower. Every aspect of cultivation requires strategic precision, from selecting the hardiest strains to keeping up with the increasing demand for products. In a notoriously competitive market, many sellers rely on harsh chemicals and pesticides to speed the growth process and ensure a strong final product. Under the watchful eye of our Head Grower Johnny Brand, we far surpasses federal and state regulatory standards, offering powerfully potent strains of clean, pesticide-free cannabis from a name customers trust for quality and consistency.
“You can wash your lettuce but not your weed” – the saying is a regular reminder that drives our team toward an uncompromising approach to clean, safe practices. While other growers may claim a “pesticide-free” process relying on neem and similar oils, Autumn Brands’ “no spray” policy means just that… and customers can look for the ladybug PURE stamp of approval as the gold standard in integrative growing techniques ensuring clean, pesticide-free cannabis products they can count on for quality and safety. The brand’s PURE guarantee marks a product that is:
- Pesticide-free, grown, and nurtured by hand according to integrative, no-spray techniques that allow beneficial creatures like ladybugs to coexist peacefully
- User-first, always keeping the safety and experience of customers top-of-mind during every step of the process
- Responsibly grown, using hydroponic methods and natural well water on a closed-loop system
- Eco-friendly, incorporating into the grow process earth elements like sustainably sourced coco noir fertilizer that keep the brand’s carbon footprint small
Could you furnish us with some insights on recent consumer spending patterns in the cannabis industry in California? Which products are “flying off the shelves?”
Flower is still King. But we see a growing demand for pre-rolls because they are an easy way for people to enjoy cannabis without having to take a lot of time rolling their own. Pre-rolls can be thrown in a backpack or purse easily and enjoyed by one person or multiple people without the hassle.
What’s next for Autumn Brands?
Our short-term strategy is to continue to grow at a rate that we can remain profitable and cash flow positive and enjoy what we are doing. Our long-term strategy is to expand our cultivation footprint, diversify our genetics, and develop new and exciting products for our consumers.
It was a great pleasure to have this one-on-one with Autumn Shelton. Readers who wish to keep up with the company are more than welcome to visit their website.