motif-labs-takes-aim-at-young,-fun-cannabis-consumers-with-rizzlers
Motif Labs takes aim at young, fun cannabis consumers with Rizzlers

Months before Oxford University Press declared “rizz” the 2023 Word of the Year in December, Mario Naric registered the domain name rizzlers.com for 800 Canadian dollars (roughly $584), setting the stage for his cannabis company’s latest brand.

London, Ontario-based Motif Labs launched Rizzlers, a closed-loop vape system, in January.

Now Naric, the company’s 31-year-old CEO, hopes the products will repeat some of the success Motif’s other brands have achieved so far, particularly with the younger demographic of legal cannabis consumers.

Motif’s Boxhot brand – named after a sketch by comedian and former “Saturday Night Live” cast member Kyle Mooney – has Canada’s best-selling vape, the 1.2-gram Peach OG cartridge, according to Headset.

Motif Labs controls approximately 19% of total vape market share in Canada, a representative for the company said, while its brand Boxhot responsible for 13% market share.

Motif also earned 52% of infused blunt market share in 2023, while the next-closest rival trailed with 8% market share.

Privately held Motif is profitable, Naric says, sharing that the company’s annual revenue is CA$85 million.

And unlike many Canadian cannabis operators, Motif is still growing its head count and footprint, now up to more than 270 full-time employees than when it was licensed in 2020.

And it’s adding another 75,000 square feet to its existing 40,000-square-foot processing facility in nearby Aylmer.

But Naric is always looking for the next trend, and he looks to operate in multiple arenas rather than focusing on one niche.

“I’d rather be No. 2 or 3 in six categories than No. 1 in one,” Naric said.

“No. 1 is very fickle; we cast a wider net. If we had rested on 1.2 grams, we would be dead right now.”

Can Rizzlers win?

That’s where Rizzlers comes in.

The closed-loop (or proprietary battery and pre-filled disposable pod) systems could be attractive to some consumers, but Naric doesn’t believe 510 thread carts are the industry’s future.

Even though there are fewer options when it comes to variety, the proprietary pods and rechargeable battery bypass issues of overheating and poor air flow, he said.

Competitor Decibel Cannabis Co. launched its Blinker closed-loop vape system last fall.

“There’s a lot you can control with the system,” Naric said. “But then also they just look sick.”

Cannabis packaging designs are tightly regulated by Health Canada, but hardware isn’t, so companies such as Motif have more creative license with color and shape.

The Rizzlers Rizzkit was designed to be fun and a little nostalgic, Naric said, coming in translucent lime green with rounded edges, reminiscent of a ’90s Nintendo Game Boy.

The cartridge color depends on the flavor – purple for berry drip, for example – and the Motif team requested that the cartridge click out of the device when in use.

But it’s the part-Nickelodeon slime, part-R. Crumb-like design elements on the typeface and mouthpiece that really set Rizzlers apart from competitors.

The reception so far online hasn’t been entirely positive, with some Redditors complaining that the name was trying too hard by adopting Gen Alpha slang and that the name and design could be appealing to children.

Beyond keeping a close eye on potential negative health impacts of some flavoring agents, Naric said Motif products are made for adults and there are multiple regulatory barriers protecting children, such as strict marketing and packaging rules.

“We let Health Canada have the authority on what’s safe and what isn’t,” he said.

Motif’s pivot to brand house

When Naric first surveyed what was available on Canada’s newly legal recreational cannabis market, he was less than impressed with the variety of brands.

“It was either legacy or wellness,” he said. “That was it.”

Motif initially was conceived as a B2B cannabis processor, where Naric could use his background in chemical engineering to help licensed producers bring manufactured products to market.

But by the time Motif was licensed in 2020, Canada’s cannabis producers already had so much supply on hand, there wasn’t much of a market for third-party processors.

Naric did, however, see space for a fun, youthful cannabis brand, which is how Boxhot began.

Glenn Henderson, a major investor in Motif and the company’s executive chair, said Naric’s previous work in oil and gas and as a chemical engineer makes him a unique CEO.

“Possessing a unique technical and process background and unerring product and consumer instincts … make Mario a strong leader,” Henderson told MJBizDaily via email.

“At the end of the day, it’s all about execution, and this is an area in which Mario excels.”

But Naric sometimes wonders if Motif is trying to execute too much at the same time; the company is beefing up its marketing team with new hires such as Keith Moore, formerly of Canopy Growth Corp.

Motif now has five brands:

  • Boxhot.
  • Rizzlers.
  • Boondocks.
  • Florsense.
  • Debunk, which was inspired in part by an issue Naric has with Health Canada’s vape-potency regulations.

Cannabis processors are allowed to use “static labelling,” meaning that they can use the same labels across multiple products with different potencies provided they stay within 15% of the actual potency.

“This is different from the potency inflation in flower,” Naric said.

“This is simply an outdated Health Canada regulation that many are starting to exploit at a level that is categorically changing a product,” he said.

For example, a vape cartridge can test as low as 77% THC, but a licensed producer can label it as 90%.

This year, Motif is going to investigate whether it has the resources and bandwidth to perfect live resin, which is tricky because cannabis has to be flash frozen and remain frozen while transported from producers to processing facilities.

“It is far more cumbersome,” Moore said. “There’s more steps involved than what we’re really good at doing.”

But they’re also confident that young people and fun-loving consumers will be attracted to their fruity flavors, colorful hardware and cannabinoid ratios – even if saying “Rizzlers” makes some people cringe.

“Budtenders are like, ‘I don’t want to have to say this,’” Naric said.

“Well, you’re going to have to say it because people are going to be kicking the door down asking for them.”

Kate Robertson can be reached at kate.robertson@mjbizdaily.com.