In this exclusive interview, we have the privilege of speaking with Charlie Hoch, a dynamic entrepreneur and industry leader in the cannabis space. He recently moved from Eyce to Greenlane and now serves as Senior Vice President of Product and Brands at Greenlane where he oversees product development, brand management, and marketing. He shares his unique journey into the cannabis industry and provides valuable insights into the future of cannabis accessories and the industry at large.
Let's dive in and discover more about the visionary leader and his contributions to this ever-evolving space.
As a brief intro, how did your career path lead you to the cannabis industry?
My journey into the cannabis industry was nothing short of serendipitous, yet it was driven by a combination of personal passion and a desire to bring something new and interesting to the world. My first product-based business was a company I founded as a teenager called BigI Designs, where I created vinyl decal art and sold it on the internet and in local gift shops. I was juggling BigI Designs and a professional snowboard career through my early 20’s, until a bad knee injury shifted my snowboard career trajectory and had me looking harder at what I would do after snowboarding. My younger brother Bruce and I have always been close and when he approached me with the original idea for an ice mold that created a frozen bong, I thought it was just crazy enough to work. Being that I had already founded a CPG (consumer packaged goods) business and having regular exposure to product development through my snowboard sponsors, the idea of leaving snowboarding and creating a larger CPG business seemed right. I liquidated BigI Designs and poured all the funds into Eyce.
You recently moved from Eyce to GreenLane. What prompted this move?
Eyce was acquired by Greenlane in an 8-figure deal in March of 2021. The deal included a period of employment post transaction, originally only focused on the integration of Eyce into Greenlane but later grew into a broader role as SVP of Product and Brands where I oversee all the company's product development, brand management, and marketing.
As Eyce celebrates its 10 year anniversary, how does the launch of the Glacier fit into the company's evolution and commitment to staying true to its silicone heritage?
The Glacier was a really fun item to develop. Bruce and I had always wanted to create another frozen product and for years we had planned on launching something during the brand's 10- Year anniversary. It just so happened that the idea to create a magnetic split pipe was thrown to me by someone in our IT department and that later evolved into what the Glacier is today. Eyce as a brand has a clear niche which is the medium of silicone, it’s a cornerstone of the brand, and we continue to integrate silicone into almost every product we produce.
Could you tell us more about the inspiration behind the Glacier's freezable design and how it enhances the smoking experience for users during the hot summer months?
If you separate the Glacier you’ll see a unique, weaving airflow path. This elongated air path weaves through the frozen space allowing significant heat transfer to take place before the smoke reaches the user. It’s a simple yet very effective method for enhancing the user experience regardless of the month of year – haha.
The Glacier features a unique magnetic split two-part design, along with Eyce's signature snap-in glass bowl and stainless-steel poker. Can you elaborate on how these design elements contribute to the pipe's convenience, ease of use, and cleaning process?
The magnetic split design is straightforward in its benefits. You’re able to access all of the air paths directly making it extremely easy to clean. We utilize our patented snap-in glass bowl design whenever we can because it’s still the best design in the industry for silicone pipes because of its familiar shape to a classic hand-blown glass pipe and ease of changing for additional accessory options.
A majority of cannabis consumers prefer smoking cannabis flower over other consumption methods. What are some of the smoking trends that are likely to emerge, even as more Gen Zs join the consumer base?
This is a valid point that I think a lot of businesses forget. Consumption starts with the plant, the flower, and even with the rise of concentrates, flower usage continues to be the larger consumption method. I believe as there are generational changes in the consumer base, businesses should be keeping an eye on innovation related to new devices that enhance the sophistication and portability of the personalized smoking experience. As well as low-dose and micro-dosing methods, social smoking experience such as lounges and clubs, and anything that magnifies terpene and flavor appreciation. The demand for cannabis increased during the period of the pandemic. Was the trend similar for cannabis accessories?
This trend was consistent across nearly all industries. Anytime you inject trillions of dollars into an economy you’re going to see growth in consumer purchasing trends. The bigger question is now that inflation has taken its grip on the country and interest rates have increased causing consumers to hoard more cash, what products will stand out in a deflationary economy? My belief is that products that are either necessities or solve significant problems for the user will be the most in demand during these periods. Less novelty and high end “want to have” products and more “this is a must after a long day of work” products.
What are some of the benefits that silicone smoking pipes have over other kinds of smoking pipes?
Durability and modularity. These are the largest value props of silicone. Where in the past you had non-modular glass that could break or expensive tech that could fail, silicone is your low-cost trusty go-to that never fails.
For most cannabis businesses, 2022-2023 has not been what they hoped it would be, having more headwinds. Has this been the case for Greenlane and if so, how are you positioning yourselves for success when the industry gains momentum once again?
There is no question the cannabis industry saw more headwinds than anyone predicted. I think we all anticipated more movement in safe banking than we’ve seen. The reality is our commitment to our customers through our products and service doesn’t change regardless of the state of the micro challenges. We continue to focus on research and innovation to explore new delivery methods and market niches, and we never stop striving to have a diverse product portfolio that keeps up with retail revenue trends to ensure our customers are properly served. Additionally, building strategic partnerships that can amplify our reach, enhance our supply chain, and contribute to overall growth is a constant focus. And lastly – financial prudence. During challenging times, financial prudence is crucial. We are carefully managing our resources and optimizing operational efficiencies. This approach allows us to weather uncertainties and invest wisely when the industry rebounds.
What’s next for Charlie Hoch?
Right now, I’m committing 80% of my time to product innovation and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
It was a great pleasure to have this conversation with Charlie Hoch, VP of Products and Brands at Greenlane. Readers who wish to keep up with what the company is doing are invited to do so through the company's website.