Movie fans who were around in 1969 will surely remember the opening sequence of The Italian Job, with those heart-pounding hairpin turns through the Italian Alps — and the car that deftly mastered them: a Lamborghini, stunning in its design, and fiery in its (and its hard-bitten driver’s) demise.
Ferrucio Lamborghini founded his high-end automobile company in 1963. And in the years since, the brand has spawned many millionaire bad-boy images of its sportscars in action (remember Christian Bale at the wheel in Batman Begins?) That’s just the image that cannabis CEO Luis Merchan plans to nurture for the new cannabis coffee brand he’s launching in U.S. retail outlets early next year in partnership with the car company’s luxury goods brand, Tonino Lamborghini, which is no longer connected to the car company.
“I really don’t want you to get that image out of your head,” says Merchan, who leads Floral Growth, a Canadian-based international cannabis cultivation and consumer goods company. “What I want to see is a canned beverage in [the driver’s] right hand while his left hand is on the wheel. That’s part of our strategy…we don’t want to separate the luxury brand from the product we’re developing.”
Indeed, “luxury” is the hallmark of Tonino Lamborghini, the high-end Italian consumer goods brand led by the family’s third generation. That Lamborghini driver? Today, he might wear a Tonino Lamborghini watch ($2,385) and sunglasses ($299), tote a briefcase ($540) and light up his smokes with a Lamborghini lighter ($164). He might also be sipping a pricey Tonino Lamborghini coffee, largely available only in the EU.
But that’s okay, because cannabis (defined here as non-psychoactive CBD and CBG)-infused cold brew will be marketed in the U.S. and the Americas by the end of Q1, Merchan said in a recent interview. “From a Flora perspective, we’re making coffees with exceptional ingredients, making people feel great,” Merchan said in a recent interview. “The second [point] is, it’s frankly not our brand; it’s Lamborghini’s and Lamborghini is a world-renowned brand.”
The luxury house’s familiar red shield with a prancing bull set off by its black container (for the coffees, 12- to 16-ounce cans), will, on its own, Merchan predicted, draw people to the three new Lamborghini CBD-infused coffee choices.
One of them is infused with vanilla, one not. The third selection contains CBG, to help drinkers relax and focus. As for the CBD coffees, those brews’ effect is “no different than the kick from caffeine,” the executive said. “It’s only anecdotal at this point in terms of what CBD does to you, but consumers are telling us it helps with focus and relaxation; they don’t experience a ‘crash.’”
Of course any claims about CBDs (and other cannabinoids’) physical effects are still illegal, as reflected in the marketing of existing cannabis coffee brands like Green Roads and Strava; all may be sold only in “legal” states.
Floral, the partner that Lamborghini chose for its own foray into cannabis, was founded in 2019 and today is a company that’s public and is global in scope, with headquarters in Toronto (soon to relocate to Miami) with small teams scattered across the U.S. and Europe.
The bulk of its 200 employees are located in Bogota, Colombia and at extraction and research facilities in rural areas. Flora emphasizes its outdoor, organic cultivation methods and its use of DNA molecular tracking to ensure quality. The company is in the process of obtaining the European Union’s good manufacturing practices (GMP) certification, to sell in Europe.
Flora’s 24 food and beverage products containing THC or CBD include expected categories, like infused juices, teas and topicals, but also unexpected ones, like ghee butter and tuna fish (produced with hempseed oil); there’s also hemp-based clothing and industrial products. Revenues expected for this full year of operations are predicted to be $11 million.
Merchan himself, 40 and Columbian-born but a long-time U.S. resident with previous executive experience at Macy’s department stores, says the partnership with Tonino Lamborghini originated with a pitch from Flora’s chief revenue officer. Many Zoom conversations followed, the CEO said.
Both companies, he said, recognized the global marketplace that cannabis is becoming, and what he called “the willingness of legacy luxury brands to take notice that this is going to be a significant change in the way consumers perceive cannabis.
“They’re incredibly sophisticated luxury-house owners,” Merchan continued of his Italian partners. “They always wanted to get into the cannabis space but wanted to make sure they do it with the company that has know-how and the traceability that could ensure the quality of the [Lamborghini] products that have come to be renowned.”