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Founders of Olala and Their Story

 

Olala is a fast-growing THC-infused beverage product just launched in the California market. We took some time to interview the founders to understand their story and why they are seeing so much success to date. See more info on Olala at enjoyolala.com

What is your background?

Doug Berchtold: CEO Lehua Brands

I was a successful beverage executive in the craft beer industry. Over my career, as CEO, I took several small brewers from startup to success. As a result, I have strong experience in regulated beverages, beverage manufacturing, distribution, marketing, and sales. Bringing Olala to California has been our collective goal since 2019. Covid stretched out our timelines but did not deter us from our goal.

Randy Reed: Chief Science Officer Lehua Brands

I grew up in Hawaii where cannabis aka “Pakalolo” was a part of the culture. I moved to the mainland to study science in 1997. I started in the “traditional market” as a dealer in 2000 after years of experimentation. Then I co-founded one of Seattle’s first brick and mortar, medical cannabis collectives in 2011, with collective growth and manufacturing. When Washington state legalized Adult-use of cannabis in 2012 I took time to make the transition and co-founded Lehua Brands in 2015 (Olala parent company).

I started in cannabis science to serve my needs as a medical marijuana patient but I quickly realized that it wasn’t only about my needs. It was bigger than me, I feel a strong responsibility to serve others and help them enjoy the benefits of sound cannabis science. Since co-founding Lehua Brands, I’ve earned over 20 awards for cartridges, dabs, and beverages. I’ve invented a patented technology called PhenoTech that enables novel, full-spectrum cannabis manufacturing. I mention this not to brag but offer it as an example of what my commitment to cannabis science has yielded. Safer products, better efficacy, and better taste. It’s been a journey.

Where did the idea for a THC soda come from?

Doug: Products like Jones Soda in Washington were creating a category of premium, full flavor delicious sodas. With the emergence of cannabis legalization, it was natural to try to marry the two trends. Partnering with Randy Reed, one of the leading scientists in the industry, allows us to solve the myriad of challenges in making cannabis sodas. Finding the right flavor formulations, carbonation, and emulsification solutions were the key to the success of Olala.

Randy: To be honest, It wasn’t my idea, It was my co-founder’s idea. I thought it was crazy when I first heard about it, but I believed in the vision and was up for the challenge. I was responsible for R&D trials, proof of concept, piloting, and scaling up to commercial production. For such a simple idea making it a reality was highly technical. We were the first company to work with pharmaceutical equipment manufacturers to develop full-spectrum cannabis nanoemulsions back in 2015. We manufacture our syrups, own all of our formulations, and have a patent on the process that makes our products so tasty and efficacious called PhynoTech. I took the idea from a THC soda to a Craft Cannabis Soda.

Why did the company move its operations to California from Washington?

Doug: California is the largest cannabis market in the world. Achieving success in this market will reinforce the immense potential for cannabis beverages in all legal markets. We capitalized on an opportunity to acquire a license and build out our state-of-the-art beverage line in late 2019. Olala has the only automated cannabis beverage bottling line in CA.

Randy: Our California lab is a state of the art, built to suit, and five times the size of our WA lab. It was a tough decision to relocate my family but it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to prove that our technology could scale yet maintain the quality we are known for. Our California facility was the tool to demonstrate that. We also built out an R&D lab to my specifications. It’s like getting called up to the big leagues, I had to go.

Does Olala plan on returning to store shelves in Washington?

Doug: In order to sustain our business during the COVID outbreak, it was necessary to preserve our capital for the California launch. Olala will return to Washington and other markets in the coming quarters as we identify local partners and funding for multi-state expansion. We are engaged in discussions with numerous potential partners at this time.

Randy: Yes! But first, let me say, we have the utmost respect for the Cali market, its heritage, and where it’s going. It’s been an awesome place to continue to develop and push the technology and science behind our brands. Washington will always be in our hearts and we hope to return stronger than when we left.

When can I expect Olala’s in a store near me?

Doug: Olala is launching throughout California. At the present time, it can be found in over 50 stores. Check our website at enjoyolala.com to find us at a store near you.

Randy: Olala products are available in retail stores commencing June 1.

Check our website for stores near you that carry our products.

What’s next for Olala?

Doug: Olala 100mg drinks, more flavors, and a 4 pack are all on deck in the coming months. For those who prefer no sugar and no artificial sweeteners, we will be launching our flavored mineral water branded Voila, later this summer.

Randy: Well, we have the best 100mg drinks in the market on deck! 250mg is also something we are looking into. We are also seriously looking into Terpene Tonics, Coffee, Dabs, & Gummies! I can’t tell you everything I’m working on or else I’d have to drug you and erase your memory.

Why did you choose THC and not CBD for your drink?

Doug: We seek to provide consumers with an alternative to alcohol. CBD beverages by themselves do not provide the experience we seek to provide our consumers. Our full-spectrum oil in Olala provides the best outcome by providing low-dose THC, the full-body experience of the entourage effect, and an experience like drinking alcohol without the negative side effects. If we are able to become a widely appreciated alternative to beverage alcohol, Olala will grow into a very large business but more importantly, provide a consumer experience like no other.

Randy: We like to get high, it’s fun, the Olala full spectrum effect is a thing! That said, timing is everything and Olala was founded in 2014 well before the Farm bill of 2018 and the resulting CBD boom. We love CBD too and especially love it in full-spectrum formulations. Our products have CBD along w/ CBG, THCV, THCA, CBC, CBN, etc. but the primary driver to our famous giggly effects have and always will be THC. Olala is a tasty treat meant to satisfy the most discerning recreational cannabis consumers’ sweet tooth. Our customers love THC as much as we do and it’s my job to help get them to their happy place better than any other beverage on the market.