How did Integra start?
How did you get into the cannabis industry?
Integra by Desiccare utilized its existing manufacturing power, efficiencies, technology, and resources to create this effective and affordable product. It was a smooth process to bring this product from concept to market. Integra was a small team with an aggressive strategy to bring these much-needed products to growers, sellers, and consumers of fine cannabis products.
When and where did Integra begin?
Integra started with an idea I had while working with a customer who produces kale chips. My colleague and I chuckled at the bags of kale thinking they looked like bags of cannabis running down the production line. I was inspired by the kale chips to do more research to see if Desiccares products would work for cannabis. We took a look at what was on the market already and figured we could come up with something a bit more appropriate. My ideas would have never worked, but our expert chemical engineering team was able to put together a solution in a matter of days.
Read also: The Newest Cannabinoids: THCP and CBDP
What were the start-up years like?
There was a lot of trial and error trying to contain liquid in a breathable film.
Product development was tough because we put several different film materials through vigorous tests all while immersing ourselves in cannabis science. However, our research team was able to work seamlessly with engineering to develop a top-notch product.
How many people did Integra employ initially?
Over the past 26 years, our team has grown from a mere 25 employees to well over 600 today. We were fortunate enough to have Desiccare’s immense production staff, engineers, customer service agents, and food safety experts on our team right away. Vaughn Fitzgerald and myself spearheaded research into the emerging cannabis market to develop go-to-market strategies. Vice-president of Operations and Director of Food Safety Marcus Dukes leveraged his manufacturing muscle and food safety experience to build efficiencies into the production of the products.
Technical Director of Food Safety Products Joe Glorioso was able to dedicate large amounts of his time and resources to developing a working high-quality product that would exceed the expectations of the most demanding cannabis producers and consumers.
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Our powerful procurement team headed by Marc Laporte allowed us to tap into our worldwide supply chain to ensure we were procuring quality materials at low costs allowing us to pass cost savings along to our customers.
Shortly after the launch, we brought on Shannon Omlor (featured on the cover), our brilliant and youthful marketing manager, to spearhead new campaigns and modernize our marketing efforts.
What did Integra first produce?
We first produced the Boost two-way humidity control pack. Then we also found uses for existing Desiccare Pharma and Food Safety products but for cannabis uses (Dry Bucket and Cargo Dry). We’ve always got some great new products on the way!
What were some of your struggles as you started the business? How did you overcome them?
Educating the market and getting our name out there after coming from a food safety and pharma background was a big challenge. Although we were a commodity manufacturer whose products may be found in a majority of people’s medicine cabinets, we had little to no involvement with the retail world and people still didn’t know who we were. Overcoming that meant we had to really focus on education and branding. Navigating both worlds can be like trying to steer two 18-wheelers at the same time. There have been many lessons learned along the way for everyone involved but I think it is safe to say we’ve enjoyed every second of it.
Read also: Extreme Cannabis Growing in the Mojave
What was the key to gaining market share and recognition?
We attended many events and tradeshows for cannabis. We gained acceptance into the industry when cannabis growers provided the validation. If they hadn’t been so quick to validate the products, I wouldn’t be here today answering these questions.
Our product’s reputation and reliability soon became known and remembered.
Also, our 26 years of manufacturing experience made it so we can have an affordable product with a fast lead time.
Sounds like Integra has expanded quite a bit then?
We have four locations including California, Mississippi, Mexico, and Neveda. The new Las Vegas office serves and the company’s headquarters. Desiccare manufactures products in Missippi and Tijuana, Mexico, with sales and distribution centers in Jackson, Mississippi, Las Vegas Nevada, and Pomona, California. We are opening new manufacturing facilities at the moment, but details must be kept short for now.
We have hired more people to expand our sales and marketing team as we continue to grow.
What is your current product line?
We currently offer our Boost two-way humidity control pack. These include plant-based, salt-free solutions. We offer larger desiccants that are the same technology used for pharmaceuticals. The Cargo Dry and Dry Bucket works great for any drying room. We are bringing oxygen control solutions over from our Food Safety department for use with cannabis concentrates and edibles that work great for maintaining potency and color for concentrates. We are also lunching many new products. This includes Integra Boost Terpene Essentials, which are terpene-infused
Boost packs that will add or maintain terpene isolates found in the plant. These will be released in September 2020.
Where do you distribute?
What are your company’s strengths?
We are proud to provide a new scientific solution to maintain freshness by provided a salt-free and plant-based product. With Desiccare being a leader in food safety and pharmaceuticals, our products are held to the highest level of cleanliness. We are ISO, GMP, BRC, and QLP certified as well as FDA compliant. Integra manufactures our products internally, so we are able to have competitive pricing, fast turnaround time, and customization available.
What are some of your proudest moments?
Seeing an idea come to life and exceed sales goals every year and meet milestones that were not anticipated so early on. Integra exceeded and continues to the expectations of our peers, shareholders, and directors of Desiccare.
Read also: CBD Enters the Pharmaceutical World
I knew we had done something right when I walked into a hydroponic store and for the first time in my life, I was referred to as the Integra guy. Coming from an industrial commodities background, that moment meant a lot to me.
What significant things have you learned so far about the industry?
How it is contently changing and becoming more elevated. Integra strives to bring the science, experience, and passion to the cannabis world.
What have you learned about starting and growing a company?
Here at Integra, we never want to stop coming up with new solutions and ideas for the cannabis industry. I have learned to never stop exploring the science behind cannabis as the company keeps growing. We have quite a few tricks up our sleeve, or at least we think we do. We have to see how they test out first.
What words of wisdom can you share about the business, the industry, or the future of the industry?
Surround yourself with a good team of people that work to accomplish the same goals. They are hard to find but once you do, hold on to them and give them room to grow. I have never worked with a team of such committed people before. It truly is a blessing.
What makes your employees so awesome?
Our employees are the glue that holds Integra together. We work hard and play hard! Between ping-pong tournaments in the warehouse to prank wars in the office, the laughs never stop. The CEO of Desiccare, Ken Blankenhorn, has a philosophy that people should enjoy coming to work because adding a little bit of fun can make all the difference at a job.
Does Integra participate in community service initiatives?
Integra has worked with NORML and Grow for Vets. We recently converted our Boost machinery to help produce one-time use hand sanitizers for healthcare workers in areas hit hard by COVID-19. Desiccare also donated thousands of desiccants to hospitals to keep N95 masks from growing mold and mildew so they were able to use them longer.