Yooma Wellness is building a multi-branded, vertically integrated wellness platform in the CBD and wellness space, CEO Jordan Greenberg explains.
With a £7.5m financing deal with Chrystal Capital and £220,000 investment from SEED Innovations, Yooma Wellness is sweeping up a number of companies across the CBD and wellness space. Its buy-and-build strategy pushing Yooma’s reach across the global CBD market.
Greenberg explains that, with the industry being largely characterised by companies that are undercapitalised, onboarding on the Yooma platform gives the ability to provide working capital to continue the growth trajectory of promising CBD and wellness companies.
“I think each of the acquisitions has a different place with the wide breadth that we have approached this market with. We wanted to diversify away from pure CBD so we have got some other wellness and actives, and even some non-CBD skincare products. But, also, we have global distribution, and it is the vertical integration that is really exciting to me,” says Greenberg.
“Being able to provide the input materials and active ingredients really gives a cost advantage, and I think one of the things that gets overlooked is the ability to cross-sell through various channels and geographies. So, we are looking at taking some of our CBD products and getting import approval and selling them through Japanese channels that otherwise would not be available to these companies.”
Yooma’s recent acquisitions include Socati, a US CBD, cannabinoid and functional ingredients manufacturer operating from a 22,000 square foot facility in Montana, premium UK CBD brand Vitality CBD, CBD manufacturer N8 Essentials, and Japanese wellness brand Vertex. Additional acquisitions include US sparkling water seller Big Swig, and EMMAC Life Sciences Group brands Blossom, What The Hemp, Hello Joya and MYO Plant Nutrition.
“Socati produces the highest quality bespoke CBD, cannabinoid, and other functional ingredient blended oils. This is a downstream manufacturing facility so we can now white label and sell finished consumer products to our customers, instead of selling just the bulk ingredients, such as tinctures, bottling, labeling, packaging, as well as wax-based products, for example. One of the things I like about that facility is that we have got room for expansion. So, we are looking at putting some additional manufacturing capabilities into that facility.
“The Vertex acquisition is really interesting – it is based in Tokyo, Japan, and they sell wellness products primarily through two channels. One is through home shopping networks, so they have relationships with all of the major home shopping networks in Japan, and also have various online e-commerce platforms. This represents a really exciting opportunity – the demographics in Japan are 130 million population, 100 million of that are over the age of 30.
“We think Japan is a really interesting market for CBD – all CBD products are legal in Japan, with the caveat that they have to be made from Japan compliant CBD. So, we have got compliant products that are either synthetic or made from the stems of the hemp plant.
“We are seeing the proliferation of CBD cafes, TV products, online listings – so, in addition to starting the process of import approval for some of our products for their existing sales channels, with our infrastructure on the ground in Japan, we are very excited about that market.”
Buy-and-build is not a new strategy for Yooma’s management team. Yooma’s executive chairman, Lorne Abony, has been the CEO of multinational dual-listed companies for the last 20 years and served as the Chairman of EMMAC Life Sciences Group, Europe’s largest independent cannabis company which employed a similar strategy, and sold to Curaleaf International in Q1 of 2021 at USD$407m.
Yooma director, Anthony Lacavera, has extensive experience in technology and telecoms and is chairman and founder of Globalive Capital, which has made over 100 venture and private equity investments over the past 15 years, and director Antonio Costanzo was co-founder and CEO of EMMAC Life Sciences Group, continuing to serve as CEO of Curaleaf International. Costanzo was key to the development of a publicly listed Canadian company, Nuuvera, which was acquired by Aphria in 2018 for USD~$826m.
“We are in this business for the long term,” said Greenberg. “We believe in regulatory clarity and I think the FSA in the UK has done a great job – it has been very deliberate about the novel foods applications and setting out those rules and regulations. Of course, CBD is legal in the US under the terms of the 2018 Federal Farm bill, but what is not clear is the regulatory pathway from the FDA and the DEA that governs label claims, dosages and manufacturing standards. So, we are operating in this legal environment, but with some uncertainties
“I think once we have that regulatory clarity further in the UK, and certainly in the US, that will be the inflection point for the industry. There has been a lot of CBD brands or nutraceutical brands who have been on the sidelines waiting for that regulatory clarity before entering the space.
“We strongly believe it is a question of when and not if – as there is certainly a global trend towards the legalisation of cannabis and CBD. It is a slower process than we hoped, but we see a strong future for CBD and significant growth in the near term. We believe that there are real medicinal qualities to CBD and other cannabinoids, used in combination. We are starting to see not just empirical evidence, but clinical studies and trials that support that view.”
Yooma completed a reverse take over to list on the Canadian Securities Exchange (CSE) in February 2021 and listed on the Aquis Stock Exchange Growth Market (AQSE) in August – marking the fourth-largest raise on the AQSE in 2021 and the largest ever capital raise for a cannabis company on the exchange.
“We are looking at the process of uplisting in Canada from the CSE to the Toronto Stock Exchange, or what is more compelling to us, is uplisting from the AQSE to the standard list on the LSE. So, it is absolutely our intention in 2022 to do that.”
Cannaray to drive brand awareness following successful fundraise
Blue Array will be assisting the company in its digital campaigns.
UK CBD brand, Cannaray has appointed Blue Array to lead its PR strategy and activity for 2022.
The appointment follows the successful completion last month’s groundbreaking £10m funding round.
The round included major participants including the UK’s largest media-for-equity fund, Channel 4 Ventures – a first-of-its-kind backing in the European cannabis sector – as well as Three Bridges Private Capital and Alpha Blue Ocean.
Head of digital and communications at Cannaray, Jessica Mills, commented: “We are having a fantastic year of growth, bringing Cannaray’s CBD revolution to new consumers across the UK.
“Since appointing Blue Array to drive our SEO, they have proved to be a valuable agency partner and we are delighted to be deepening our partnership through Digital PR.
“The Blue Array team brings a huge amount of energy and passion to their approach, and we look forward to working with them moving forwards.”
Head of Digital PR at Blue Array, Jodie Harris, commented: “Cannaray CBD is an inspiring brand and has an ever-growing following.
“We are thrilled to be in partnership with Cannaray and to focus on delivering the brand’s core messaging whilst ensuring they dominate through organic search for the year ahead.
“We know this year is big for Cannaray and we are excited to be a part of the journey.”
Cannaray was the first CBD brand to invest in major brand advertising in the UK. In 2021 they began a national television and out of home campaign featuring brand ambassador and UK TV Presenter Claudia Winkleman.
Blue Array’s Digital PR arm which launched in August last year is tasked to drive awareness campaigns and educate the public about adopting CBD into their lifestyle as well as raise the brand’s visibility through media relations and product promotion.
New chief technology officer appointed at High Tide
Greg Fleury has joined the CBD company.
Greg Fleury has been appointed as chief technology officer (CFO) at High Tide.
Fleury will bring over 20 years experience to the role. Fleury will apply his knowledge of developing and managing digital operations teams, web platform design, analytics, search engine optimisation, and e-commerce in the retail, oil and gas, and utilities sectors.
President and CEOof High Tide, Raj Grover, commented: “It gives me great pleasure to announce the addition of Greg Fleury to High Tide’s executive team. Greg is an avid technological innovator with many years of experience and a track record of success.
“I plan on working closely with him over the coming months to take the digital and e-commerce components of High Tide’s integrated cannabis ecosystem to new heights.
“I would also like to thank Sean Geng for all of his efforts as High Tide’s Chief Technology Officer over the last year. Sean will remain on board with our company as a technology consultant, and I look forward to his continued contributions,” added Mr. Grover.
In Fleury’s prior role as vice president of digital and technology for Edo Japan, a Canadian fast food restaurant chain specialising in Japanese Teppan-style cooking, he led the development of that company’s ordering app, website, data warehouse, and analytics systems.
As CFO, Fleury will be responsible for leading High Tide’s global technology and digital operations, overseeing the development of digital platforms, digital commerce, security, and analytics, as well as managing High Tide’s IT infrastructure.
Fleury commented: ”I am excited to be joining a company that is as dynamic and fast-growing as High Tide is. Over the past year, High Tide has established itself as an e-commerce leader within the global cannabis space, and I was particularly drawn to the company because of this.
“I am eager to begin working to optimise High Tide’s digital platforms, building on our already-solid footing to keep us at the forefront of the cannabis sector’s technological evolution.”
The Canadian company announced in 2021 that it is making moves to enter the UK CBD market. In October, High Tide acquired Scotland-based Blessed CBD for £9.06m – a step towards solidifying itself as a major player within the global e-commerce marketplace for hemp-derived CBD products.
As part of the acquisition, Blessed’s founder and CEO, Vithurs Thiru joined the High Tide team as senior manager of research, helping grow High Tide’s CBD business globally.
Cellular Goods: Amazon’s CBD pilot is helping overcome ad restrictions
Cannabis Wealth speaks to Cellular Goods about advertising and sales restrictions and its appearance on Amazon’s new UK CBD product pilot.
Cellular Goods CEO, Anna Chokina, discusses how Amazon’s CBD pilot is helping the company overcome barriers from major online platforms when it comes to advertising and selling cannabinoid products.
The UK has a high demand for cannabinoid-based products. According to a report by the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis, the CBD market generated £690m in annual sales in 2021, and projects that it will reach nearly £1B by 2025.
Estimating the UK CBD market to be one of the largest in the world, the report notes that surveys from Dynata and YouGov indicate between 4 to 6 million UK adults have tried CBD.
CBD companies in the UK struggle to advertise products through usual marketing channels such as Google and other social media sites. This is a problem that does not seem to be moving, says Cellular Goods CEO, Anna Chokina, who suggests the platforms could play a more proactive role in the UK marketplace in their respective fields.
With the lack of marketing access to these platforms, Chokina highlights that the Amazon marketplace was a natural choice to host Cellular Goods’ products.
Chokina commented: “There is a considerable demand for products, yet somehow the information flow from the companies that play in this industry to the end customer is quite difficult.
“There is no lack of variety in terms of what’s available in the marketplace, but it’s very hard to understand what the products do and how they work. What is CBD, what is CBG, plant based, non-plant based, biosynthesised?
“It can be very hard to understand for the average consumer. It’s very hard as manufacturers and producers not only to sell our products but also to deliver truthful information to the customers about what the industry is and what the products do.”
Amazon approached Cellular Goods to take part in its new pilot trial of CBD products in the UK at the same time the company was discovering the limitations of Google and Meta. The eCommerce giant has already demonstrated that it is not shy about cannabis with its lobbying efforts for reform in the US having already removed cannabis testing from its pre-employment screenings, and now, its new CBD pilot is showing its support for the UK sector.
“We are quite happy to take part in this pilot because at least this way we have access to the Amazon consumer base that are searching for cannabinoid-based products,” said Chokina.
Cellular Goods will be featuring a number of its products on the platform, such as its cosmetic Look Better range which includes its new CBG face serum – the UK’s first CBG-based serum to prevent the signs of aging caused by UV light exposure and inflammation.
The company produced research on the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of cannabinoids CBG and CBD, which demonstrated the cannabinoids as contenders for other popular anti-inflammatory and anti-aging ingredients such as retinol and vitamin C serums, whilst also being much kinder for skin.
Chokina continued: “This was Cellular Goods way of ensuring that people who search for cannabinoid-based products were aware of our brand. As a startup, you have to look for ways to get your product out there, to get your name out.”
Many customers may not be aware of some of the cosmetic benefits of cannabinoids, and Chokina emphasises that customer education is key for the CBD market.
“I think consumer education is very important. I think one side effect from Meta and Google not taking a more proactive approach to allow companies to advertise freely or to trade freely on their platforms, is the fact that consumers are clueless,” said Chokina.
“They do not know the difference between CBD or CBG, they don’t know the amazing promises these ingredients can bring.
“So, we as the brand would like to become that voice that drives clarity, and hopefully, in time, the credibility will come with our name as well, that we’re only going to put the products in the market if they’re justified from the scientific standpoint.
“Science is very much who we are, so we want to make sure that what we bring is substantiated and it’s consistent as well.”
Chokina highlights that Cellular Goods has undertaken a 360-degree media campaign that includes billboards across London and Manchester, which will help drive customers to the Amazon platform as well as its own website marketplace.
Chokina said: “We have partnerships with Conde Nast with GQ with Vogue. So, there is a lot of influencer strategy involved as well.
“We’re working with bloggers and advertising, so, we have limitations on Meta and Google, but it doesn’t mean that the customers are not going to know about us. I don’t think one campaign is going to educate the market to get the customer base and get the sales growing. It’s just the start.
“We are pleased and humbled to be approached by Amazon because it’s also a sign that the industry is developing. It’s a sign that the wind is turning. So, it is definitely very positive for us. We are very much focused on our customers.
“If our customers prefer to shop, for instance, in some of the retail stores or in the pure play beauty stores, online that that’s where we would like to be because we are very much focused on making it easy for them to buy us.
“As part of our expansion to Europe and beyond, this is also going to be an integral part of our go-to market. What Amazon is doing is a sign of thriving, and I hope that the other big companies are going to follow suit and then we can advance and push the industry.”
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