Pioneering and market-leading cannabis specialist, Always Pure Organics (APO), has officially launched its new Asia foothold – Always Pure Organics Japan.
The move takes the Manchester-headquartered company’s already strong trading position in the fast-growing Japanese market to make it one of the first European brands to be established on the island.
APO is a top three wholesale and white label market leader in the UK, Japan and Europe, and registering its own company in Japan creates a strong base in a country where the CBD market is beginning to boom.
With more than 80 percent of APO’s business primarily focused on export and following the recent acquisition of Belgian company DLH*, giving it a strong European footprint, APO intends to repeat this ambitious strategy by creating a base in Japan to allow it to grow within the wider Asia region.
By establishing APO Japan, the company, as well as increasing its wholesale and white label business, it now creates the opportunity to distribute its own brands across this key market.
APO began trading in Japan in 2019, and since then has built a reputation for quality and reliability in the rapidly growing Japanese CBD market, where an in-depth of knowledge and experience of the country’s strict import regulations is essential. In the two years since the company began trading in Japan, it has achieved revenue of more than £2.5m and by establishing this base expects sales to rise to £4.5m in the first 12 months alone.
First mover advantage
APO is already recognised as one of the most trusted manufacturing partners in the Japanese market. Establishing APO Japan allows the company to manufacture on the island, to import raw material quicker, register products faster and thereby gives the company a competitive advantage by being locally based.
Given that it can take several months for Western brands to get their product into the market, by having its own domestic manufacturing and distribution warehouse facilities this will allow APO to capitalise on this key FMCG market as well using its new foothold to expand further into Asia.
CEO Gavin Ogilvie, commented: “When operating in the EU, APO is afforded the freedom to distribute its goods duty and tax free throughout the EU on a next day basis. However, in Japan, the customs clearance process slows this down dramatically and results in lengthy lead times. By establishing ourselves in Japan and building on our experience from the previous two years, our clients are able to benefit from our new, faster, local based service.”
Corporate social responsibility
Since June 2020 APO has been engaged with Green Zone Japan in joint preclinical studies called ‘Midori-no-wa (Green Circle)’ for children with intractable epilepsy in Japan. Green Zone Japan is a Japanese medical cannabis advocacy group focusing on bringing evidence-based, accurate and up-to-date information on medical cannabis to Japanese medical professionals and the public.
By now being based in Japan, APO is in a stronger position to further support Green Zone Japan and other organisations researching the benefits of CBD and other cannabinoids.
Regional director for Asia and the country representative of Japan, Chikako Yoshida said: “Evolution in the cannabis industry is fast moving particularly with inspiring stories embracing users and patients who are experiencing great benefits from the plant. After observing the evolution of the CBD industry in Japan – a country with an extremely positive outlook for the year ahead, we have therefore decided that now was the right time to launch APO Japan to respond quicker and more efficiently to the industry demands.”
Tenacious Labs acquires CBD pet company Rover’s Wellness
The acquisition is part of Tenacious Labs buy-and-build strategy.
Tenacious Labs has diversified into the pet care market with the acquisition of Rover’s Wellness, which specialises in THC-free CBD.
The acquisition sees the group diversify into the high-growth pet care market for the first time. CBD pet care, according to Prohibition Partners, is expected to see global sales of products reach $424.4m (~£350.83) by 2024, representing a CAGR of 18.6 per cent.
As part of the acquisition, RaChelle Baca-Lobre will join Tenacious Labs as global director of sales – pet division and CPG wholesale and private label. Tenacious has stated that Baca-Lobre’s personal passion for CBD-enriched pet care, as well as her experience in managing a fast-growing brand, will prove invaluable for the Group as it looks to scale up its pet care division over the coming months.
CEO and co-founder of Tenacious Labs, Nicholas Morland, commented: “We are delighted to welcome RaChelle and her team to Tenacious Labs.
“Since launching in 2018, Rover’s Wellness has grown rapidly, launching genuinely market-leading products which have been well received by customers across the US. This acquisition will enable us to kick-start our pet care division, while combining RaChelle’s expertise and Tenacious Labs’ high quality manufacturing capabilities to significantly scale up Rover’s Wellness.
“We look forward to working with her closely over the coming months and years.
Tennessee-based Rover’s Wellness creates high quality products containing all natural, non-GMO ingredients including 100 per cent certified organically grown hemp. The company was founded by Baca-Lobre in 2018 after her own pet was diagnosed with cancer. Rover’s Wellness offers a range of oils, topical salves and treats which use CBD to support joint flexibility and mobility, ease anxiety and promote positive long-term health for dogs, cats and equine.
A core part of the brand’s approach is its commitment to testing and transparency. Leveraging a “seed to sale” approach, Rover’s Wellness works directly with growers and uses state-of-the-art nano technology to extract CBD before purity testing.
Each batch is tested by a certified industrial hemp laboratory, both before and after production, with all lab-results published on its website. This process ensures that none of Rover’s Wellness products contain THC – the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis which is harmful to animals.
Baca-Lobre said: “I am excited to join Tenacious Labs, a group which reflects my desire to create safe, natural and quality products, underpinned by third-party laboratory testing.
“We have enjoyed great success to date, and I believe that by harnessing Tenacious Labs’ best-in-class manufacturing facilities, marketing expertise, and operational support, we can unlock more exciting growth opportunities for Rover’s Wellness and the group’s broader pet care division.”
Tenacious Labs has now completed three acquisitions since launching 12 months ago, including female-focused CBD brand Press Pause and high-quality white-label manufacturer SZM LLC — now operating as TL Manufacturing. The group has also continued to expand, now employing 35 people around the world as it looks to scale up.
SEED Innovations ramps up investment in South West Brands
The company has now invested a total of £500,000 in South West Brands.
SEED Innovations has invested a further £50,000 in CBD company South West Brands Limited.
Focusing on making investments in the medical cannabis, health and wellness spaces, Guernsey-based SEED Innovations made its last investment in South West Brands of £150,000 in 2021, bringing its toady investment in South West Brands to £450,000.
South West Brands, which recently saw its Botanic Lab drinks and supplements added to the UK Food Standard Agency list of CBD products permitted to stay on sale in England and Wales, has recently had two of its products listed in major UK retailers.
Its LoveMeMeMe brand is now stocked in Asos and its FEWE brand will be stocked in Superdrug from September.
CEO of SEED, Ed McDermott, commented: “We have seen some considerable progress made by the team at South West Brands over recent weeks with the launch of their two brands for sale in to Superdrug stores and online at ASOS.
“The products have received a fantastic reception by consumers in what is fast becoming a burgeoning FemTech sector where South West Brands are leading the charge.
“Generating early revenues, with the products now increasingly available, we anticipate seeing a fast uptick in wholesale sales which will further lead to additional product development and hopefully support for the products availability outside of the UK.
“We are pleased to continue to support Rebekah Hall and her team as they build a credible, sustainable and scalable wellness business developing and commercialising their brands.”
CEO of South West Brands, Rebekah Hall, said: “The progress SWB has made in the short time since launch is just the beginning of where we believe our brands can reach. In particular, we are at an exciting juncture in the provision of female wellness solutions with increased awareness infiltrating mainstream audiences and building commercial traction with mainstream retailers.
“With further funding in place, including the support from SEED, we look ahead to continued growth in the UK as well as commercial opportunities in other markets, including the US. “
The investment is by way of a three year, 8 per cent Convertible Loan Note (CLN), and SEED has agreed to convert £50,000 of the 12 month, 8 per cent CLN subscribed for in July 2021 into this three year, 8 per cent CLN.
B3 Labs discusses the future of the consumer cannabis industry
CEO of UK-based B3 Labs, Marc Burbidge, speaks to Cannabis Wealth about the UK’s Novel Foods process and shares his outlook for the future of the consumer cannabis industry.
B3 Labs recently had 525 of its products included on the Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) CBD Novel Foods list.
The country’s move to be one of the first in the world with a regulated CBD market has seen companies wishing to sell their CBD products having to submit Novel Foods applications to ensure all products that go on sale are safe for human consumption.
B3 Labs has described the publication of the list as a landmark moment for the UK cannabis market, providing greater transparency and assurance over CBD products for both consumers and retailers.
B3 was founded by ex-Asda store manager Marc Burbidge, who left over 15 years of experience in the traditional FMCG sector to move to the fast-growing cannabis market. Marc set up B3 after suffering from severe shoulder pain and realising the side effects that came from taking traditional pain medication.
Since founding B3, which is currently based in Manchester, Burbidge has turned the business into Europe’s leading CBD manufacturer and the first of its kind to become BRCGS certified, producing a range of white-labelled CBD oils and gummies and driving change in the market by providing consumers and brands with greater assurance and transparency over the safety, transparency and quality of its CBD products.
Novel Foods in the UK
Burbidge says that the UK’s Novel Foods process is a major positive step for the industry as a whole, giving more confidence to retailers to open up conversations with companies.
“As more and more data comes to pass moving over to the validation phase, this is only going to legitimise CBD as a product,” said Burbidge. “We’re seeing more and more adoption from consumers all around the world as it is now.”
Whilst consumers have been quick to take up CBD, said Burbidge, retailers have fallen behind and will now have to keep up with regulatory changes.
“I really sympathise with the regulators for what they’ve had to go through over the last year. Novel Foods as a process is very much ingredient-led, as opposed to finished product-led, and the UK has taken more of an approach of a finished product-led way of working, which has obviously created a number of challenges for brands.
“At the same time, those challenges – overcoming them, getting the list out there, seeing the number of products and brands that are now able to really push forward in terms of their plans – it’s a fantastic thing.”
This development has been positive for B3 Labs, Burbidge highlighted, which is the first CBD company in Europe to gain a BRCGS certification for finished products.
Burbidge commented: “We see novel foods as a regulatory hurdle that everybody needs to go through. It means an awful lot to get through that hurdle, especially the first stage, but there’s still a long way to go. Currently, it’s ultimately it’s a list – there’s no validation or authorization yet.
“For us, we focus on product safety and product quality. Hopefully, in the future, we’ll see more of a cannabis-related certification for everybody that won’t just encompass food but also the vape industry and the cosmetics industry, for example.
“Novel Foods really did change the mindset of people to legitimise CBD and that’s always been my mission – the legitimisation of CBD and cannabis as a widely consumed product. By having something like Novel Foods, by having a food certification and by businesses having to reach those quality standards, people believe in the product a lot more, whether it be the retailer or the consumer.
“Everybody talks about vertical integration in cannabis but vertical integration of regulatory steps and compliance in cannabis is equally as important.”
The future of the industry
The rise of the cannabis and CBD industry is harkening back to the days of herbal medicine, said Burbidge, who has been studying herbal medicine for many years.
However, Burbidge highlights that for the industry to progress, innovation is a key element, and Novel Foods may play a part in hampering this innovation.
“We’ve seen a tincture market has grown out of CBD, oil-based tinctures. It’s going back to making herbal medicine products and using dropper bottles in the early 1900s, which is great,” said Burbidge. “It’s really good to see that unique application from coming back and you’re seeing it more and more with other kinds of herbal wellness products that are coming out.
“We are seeing less innovation now because of Novel Foods because of what we are and aren’t allowed to do in terms of bringing new finished products onto the market. I think once we reach validation, and ultimately authorization of products, the product categories will begin to change more.”
The market will move more towards products that are familiar to people such as tablets, lozenges and slow-release formulas, said Burbidge, with a focus on aspects such as bioavailability.
“Drinks have been a major growth sector, tinctures are another major growth sector and the biggest growth sector has probably been gummies as it is easy for people to use these.
“We need to get to full authorization of products before we can really start innovating new exciting products. But I do see that’s where it’ll eventually go.”
Whilst the UK has been very slow to adopt both medical and recreational cannabis, Burbidge says that as more patients find the benefit of using medicinal cannabis there will be more discussion around the benefits of CBD.
“I think we’re seeing more and more people – whether they’re taking certain pain relief medications that might be more addictive or costly – getting cannabis privately prescribed,” said Burbidge. “I think you’ll see people looking to get more medical products and this is similar to Novel Foods regarding generating data.”
Pointing to more mature medical and recreational markets such as Canada and Israel, Burbidge notes that the benefits of cannabis are becoming more evident through the reduction in the use of medications such as morphine.
“People seem to be getting more quality of life based on just the verbal data,” said Burbidge. “And it’s really good to see as far as recreational is concerned. I don’t think that’s anything close to an agenda point as yet for a discussion, but once the safety of cannabis is more established, and it’s used more as a medicinal product, I think I think we might get there.”
The future of B3 Labs: an engine room of innovation
B3 Labs has been focusing on compliance through the Novel Foods process, but the lab will be an “engine room of innovation”, said Burbidge, and the company will be focusing on areas outside of CBD as interest in herbal medicine rises.
“The reason that B3 was created was all around innovation. We’re looking at building partnerships with equally as compliant manufacturers as ourselves to widen our brand’s portfolios, building a wide network of companies that we can work with to develop and create amazing products for the future and eventually build an engine room of innovation with wonderful ideas, ways of working, methodologies and applications of products.
“CBD and cannabis are, and have always been, a huge part of my life. But there are so many other compounds that are out there which provide benefits to people. We’ve seen a huge rise in awareness of medicinal mushrooms, and there are so many plant extracts whether you look at Vedic medicine, Chinese medicine, African health.
“People looking at the nutrition and people are changing their diets. There is a realisation from people that good health is a combination of how you eat, how you sleep, how you live your life, how much stress you have, and then, having the right herbs and vitamins around that give you the most benefit.
“That’s where I see B3 focusing more and more on that rounded wellness for people – being able to support them with that and tying that in with innovation.”
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