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How Gelato Is Helping Push Cannabis into the Mainstream

Janet Matula on why the company went with its colorful and bold image.

Gelato's Last Bites is a mini ice cream cone filled with THC chocolates.
Gelato's Last Bites is a mini ice cream cone filled with THC chocolates.

The public's perception and understanding of cannabis has gained a lot of positive momentum in just the past few years. Remaining regulatory issues notwithstanding, it’sHead ShotJanet Matula still come a long way — and brands like Gelato Canna have helped push cannabis further into the mainstream.

Janet Matula, who leads business development and compliance at Gelato Canna, plays a big role in presenting her company’s products in a big, colorful and cheerful way. Matula previously worked in the health food industry, handling manufacturing and distribution for various partners. But then, the recession hit, and people stopped wanting to pay premium prices for whole foods — so she left that market and began making cannabis edibles at home.

From there, she ended up partnering with Harborside — which Matula said was called Mother Earth at the time — to create one of the first legal cannabis retail operations in Southern California. However, Matula said, despite being licensed by the county, it was shut down after 18 months because of its landlord.

After the closure, Matula transitioned to consulting before going to work for George Sadler, who co-founded and ran Platinum Vape. When that company was sold, they started Gelato Canna, a cannabis retail and manufacturing business based in California, in 2022 with many of the same team members.

Cannabis Equipment News recently sat down with Matula to talk about Gelato’s mission and the brand’s plans for the future.

The following transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

Cannabis Equipment News: What was the driving idea behind Gelato?

Matula: The idea was that they wanted to do something that was so lifestyle, so mainstream. So they came up with the idea of Gelato being more of that "Willy Wonka" theme. If you go into our offices, it is definitely that. Our branding is all bright and colorful, and we are known in the industry for being really out of the box in everything we do.

CEN: In terms of packaging?

Matula: Yes. For example, we launched a product called Last Bites, which is a mini ice cream cone that’s filled with chocolate. They come 10 in a pack and each one is 10 milligrams. Nobody has anything like it, and when we do demos in our retail stores, we bring in ice cream.

CEN: Is it designed to be a little more inviting?

Matula: I think it’s very inviting, and not everyone likes the taste of cannabis. Not everybody smokes cannabis. So this was designed to be truly mainstream with flavors like peach, strawberry and watermelon. We have edibles, chocolates, hard candy, vapes, concentrates, flower and infused pre-rolls.

That’s basically us. We have our own graphics department and we have our own video department. We are extremely knowledgeable about retail, since we have one retail store, and, therefore, we want to be a partner to retailers when it comes to displays, offerings and supporting them however we can.

We’re very saturated in California. Right now, we have our vapes in Michigan, but we’ll be launching our full line there. We have been in Michigan before as a legacy brand with Platinum, so now we know that market very well.

CEN: Right, since you have all those existing relationships. I’m assuming you’ll expand beyond those two markets as well.

Matula: Absolutely. We’re going to keep going. Our owners, George and Cody Sadler, are building a lifestyle brand. We have Gelato water, we’re coming out with Gelato tequila, and we have a whole clothing line. There are multiple facets to this brand. It’s not just cannabis. It’s got its roots – no pun intended – in cannabis, but it is much, much more.

CEN: It’s been about a year since you launched. What’s the progress been like?

Matula: We are doing better now than when it was Platinum. We are doing extremely well in California and the reception in Michigan has been tremendous.

CEN: What makes you optimistic for cannabis in 2024?

Matula: Cannabis is going through a really rough patch in San Diego. I just had breakfast with Noah Gilbert from El Blunto and we were talking about the state of the industry. He has the same sort of vision that the bureaucracy continues to gum it up. In California right now, you’re seeing an exodus of brands and you’re seeing retailers totally strapped by taxation and regulation. So there are a lot of people that are literally going out of business. Accounts receivable has been a huge problem for most manufacturers. In some markets, if you are over 30 days, you lose your license.

So there is a struggle, but I think that there will be survivors and that survivors will be those people who know business, who are not just going into cannabis and throwing money into it. They will be the ones who understand seed to sale, and when I say that, I don’t just mean Metrc. I mean, they understand the relationship with the farmer, the consumer and brands. And that is what will save the market.

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