After Bruce Linton was ousted from Canopy Growth Corp. in July, the Canadian business executive has taken on a role as special adviser at Better Choice Co., a U.S.-based animal health and wellness company focused on CBD products and data with an eye to international expansion.
Better Choice CEO Damian Dalla-Longa says that the decision to bring Linton into the fold has as much to do with this his past as it does with the company’s future. “He is very focused specifically in the animal world with bringing R&D and data to the space.”
Dalla-Longa and his team started the business before the 2018 Farm Bill passage, and he says the company is propelled in part by “tremendous regulatory tailwinds” with that legislation. Now, he’s watching the FDA and other agencies to see how the puzzle piece of CBD fits into the broader consumer-packaged goods (CPG) marketplace. Better Choice is rooted in Wall Street investment backgrounds and CPG know-how among its executive team. Linton is a natural fit, he adds.
The company is fronting two major data initiatives. With a partner in Israel, Better Choice is working on a clinical trial process to develop specific chemical formulations for veterinary-based prescriptions of CBD products—specifically for canine anxiety and stress. And in the Netherlands, Better Choice is working on a dosing regime, perfecting and analyzing weight-based dosage ratios for dogs.
“The overall goal here at Better Choice is to be continuously innovating, continuously iterating on the products that we're creating, and ultimately being the leader in research-based formulation,” Dalla-Longa says. “Ultimately, that’s what’s going to create the highest-quality products for pet owners and, ultimately, pets.”
Data-backed product development increases the addressable market for products, which is important, Dalla-Longa says, because part of the challenge in the CBD space is “convincing consumers who may otherwise be skeptical of cannabinoid-based products.” Much of the marketplace now is pure marketing messaging—with little information about the efficacy of cannabinoid treatment, due mostly to the lack of federal regulations.
Bottom line, Dalla-Longa says: Linton’s business connections and knowledge of the cannabis space are an asset to any company working with cannabinoid research in a consumer-packaged goods capacity.
“He's just a knowledgeable adviser in the business who has navigated an industry that is transitioning into a legal marketplace, and we value that expertise,” he said. “We keep ourselves at Better Choice to a very high standard in the space and we run our business, trying to make sure that we maintain that gold standard the whole way through. We really value Bruce's opinion as we continue to grow.”
Better Choice Co. formed as a merger between TruPet and Bona Vida. The former was a premium dog food distributor “with a special focus on freeze dried and dehydrated raw products,” and the latter was a CBD holdings portfolio with assets in both the human and animal worlds. Better Choice is using the background of each of its company predecessors to build its way into the CBD space effectively.
“We have a fully functional non-CBD, premium, focused animal health business that we can just easily layer CBD on top of and get into the market quickly,” Dalla-Longa says.
He points to the evolution of the cannabis industry thus far, something in which Linton is very conversant. Research and development—product innovation and branding, in particular—is critical in these early days of the industry. Citing Linton’s work with Tweed and the rest of the sprawling Canopy Growth network, Dalla-Longa says the company’s vision is falling into place with broader exposure to distribution channels and a real grasp of data-oriented goals and supply chain integration.