Wrigley previously helped his confectionery company expand its portfolio through acquisitions including Altoids and LifeSavers, reaching consumers in 180 countries during his leadership.
The Wrigley Company was sold to Mars in 2008, and their merged US and global headquarters are located in New Jersey and Chicago, respectively.
Since 2015, Wrigley has invested $100m to Surterra through his own private equity firm Wychwood Asset Management.
He said in a statement that he believes in “the ability of cannabis to improve quality of life for patients,” and Surterra has “the highest quality standards, best products, and most professional management team in the industry.”
Plans for Surterra
Surterra, which has operations in Florida and Texas, said it plans to use the funds across “a number of strategic initiatives” in both states, including “constructing substantial cultivation space in Florida, executing multiple partnerships with premier consumer brands, and accelerating its product development initiatives.”
Additionally, the company will conduct research trials related to cannabinoid treatment of anxiety, pain, and PTSD, as well as other health issues facing the country.
Jake Bergmann, CEO of Surterra, noted the future looks promising for the marijuana industry.
He said: “Having a seasoned industry veteran like [Wrigley] intimately involved in building our business is exciting for the future of Surterra, our patients and the entire medical cannabis industry,” adding the company will expand into new states in the future.
According to nonpartisan organization, ProCon, there are nine states including D.C. that have legalized recreational marijuana so far, while 30 including D.C. that have legalized medical marijuana.
Edible confections market
BDS Analytics, cannabis market and consumer insights firm, said gummies have overtaken chocolate last year as the number one subcategory of the US edibles market.
The pie charts below highlight edibles sales in Oregon, Colorado and California from January to June 2018. Gummies fall within the candy category in these charts.
During the January-to-June period in 2018, gummies captured 40% of all edibles sales, representing $20m, in Oregon. In Colorado, gummies accounted for 39% of all edibles sales, earning $46m in total, while in California, gummies generated $47m in sales, representing 26% of the edibles market.
Roy Bingham, CEO at BDS Analytics told ConfectioneryNews edibles represent about 15% of total legal cannabis sales in the US today, and they have grown their share by about 3% over the last five years in an industry that had grown at about 40% compound.
"New adopter consumers turn to edibles before smokables and are driving growth," he said.
"So far, most of the products have been developed by cannabis specialists rather than food or supplement experts, so there is great room for innovation and product improvements.
"I think we can expect edibles to account for over $2bn in cannabis consumer sales in the legal dispensary channel next years," said Bingham.
"But perhaps more significant is products including CBD where the CBD is derived from hemp. These products are already available and growing rapidly in many channels including health food stores, online and specialty stores and ultimately could dwarf dispensary channel sales," he added.
Why is marijuana so appealing to the food industry?
Bingham noted Wrigley's move marks another high-profile investment in the marijuana segment after John Boehner, former Speaker of the US House of Representatives, joined the advisory board of Acreage Holdings in April this year.
"Furthermore, [Wrigley] is taking an active role as chairman and recognizing his prior experience in confectionery is relevant as cannabis products innovate towards new delivery systems like tinctures, sprays, gums with capabilities like fast or slow release of products' flavors," he said.
Bingham added food companies have long looked for functional ingredients, and Wrigley's involvement with Surterra is a clear example.
"Consumers have great appetite and are excited about incorporating cannabis or specifically CBD into their lifestyles," he explained. "There is a great opportunity to create products with meaningful benefits that are also distinguishable."
The US cannabis industry is at $11bn in sales in 2018, and is growing at a projected 27% compound growth rate for the next five years, which is "more exciting than 0 to 3% growth in most industries," said Bingham.