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THE RISE OF TASTE OF CANNABISNikki TemkinPioneers in the Cannabis industry, Taste of Cannabis has taken CBD edibles and other products to a whole new level and are leading the way in customer experience and local manufacturing.Taste of Cannabis (TOC), a leader in the CBD edibles and oils industry in South Africa was founded in 2019. Since then, the business has grown to encompass 8 booming kiosks in key malls around the country, an active online portal as well as wholesale operations. They’ve become one of the most trusted brands in the CBD local space.“I’ve always believed in the benefits of Cannabis. When my record label started declining due to a disrupted music industry, my wife recommended I investigate the Cannabis industry which was beginning to gain traction worldwide. The laws around the world were changing. We knew that South Africa would leapfrog and follow suit,” says CEO Alex Agulnik whose partners are Itsik Turis and Clifford Giesenow.
In 2018, TOC attended the biggest Cannabis conference in Europe, Cannafest. “From the beginning we wanted to communicate with people, break stigmas and to start the conversation about the many health and wellness benefits of CBD.” says Agulnik. TOC also went to many Cannabis conferences around the country. “We did our research, we saw the desire in our local market,” explains Agulnik adding, “wherever we went, people wanted to engage with us, and were looking for natural alternatives to scheduled medication for issues like pain, anxiety and sleep. Some of them were suffering from kidney or liver problems and other side effects from synthetic drugs."
Many reputable global studies have confirmed that both CBD, THC and many other cannabinoids found in the plant can alleviate and bring relief for a wide array of conditions such as inflammation, muscle spasms, anxiety, stress, depression, epilepsy and many more. Research is at the very tip of how Cannabis can contribute to wellness.
TOC sources the best local and international products of the highest quality. The range includes everything from oils, tinctures, gels, creams, balms and cosmetics to chocolate, cookies, gummies, chewing gum and lollipops. As founding members of the CTAA (Cannabis Trade Association of South Africa), TOC adheres to the adage that local is lekker.
The TOC range, manufactured locally, has been created with the close involvement of SAHPRA (South African Health Products Regulatory Authority).
In November 2019 TOC opened their first ever stall in Mojo Market in Sea Point, Cape Town. A month later their flagship stall in Sandton City Mall in Johannesburg began operating. As the first ever distributor in the country of edible Cannabis products, TOC gave customers products that evoked a fun, fresh taste experience and a safe way to relax or to utilise for specific health issues. TOC guarantees a completely enjoyable experience with cannabis, even if someone is using it for the first time. “What distinguishes us is that our staff are highly trained to advise on the best products and their correct usage. We engage our consumers from a medicinal as well as a recreational level, as the law allows,” says Agulnik.
Unfortunately, in March 2020, the Coronavirus pandemic hit. TOC was fortunately able to continue operating but foot traffic was low and for a new business it could have been devastating. But, instead of laying low, TOC expanded. “Being in the wellness arena and with immune strengthening and stress management becoming top of mind, we not only pulled through, but grew,” says Agulnik.
Considered an essential service, they put people in Spars around the country to keep their staff employed and to stay afloat. “As the virus ravaged the economy, we used the opportunity to negotiate better rentals from our landlords. It was a risk to be so aggressive and expansive, but it paid off,” says Agulnik, an entrepreneur who is well versed in the challenges of creating and sustaining businesses. Currently, TOC popular concept kiosks include Sandton City, Gateway, The Zone Rosebank and Canal Walk malls. Three more kiosks are opening in Pietermaritzburg, Tygervalley and Johannesburg.
Over the next three years, TOC plans to expand into small towns nationwide. “Our wholesale vision is to supply health shops, chemists, supermarkets etc. Our accessible, user-friendly online platform delivers products to our customers if they want that option.”
TOC will soon export locally manufactured goods all over the world. “In the medium term, our biggest passion lies in creating a brand that’s 100% made locally from seed to sale that can be sold worldwide,” concludes Agulnik.
The hope is that their carefully curated range provides relief to those who need it resulting in a positive change in the lives of their customers. It seems that there is no stopping the rise of Taste of Cannabis.