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.”
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.
A long way to go: potency testing in the CBD industry
The CBD industry remains a ‘wild west’ with recent data finding an alarming number of companies mislabelling or failing to test their products for purity and potency.
Recent data from Leafreport shows less than half of CBD brands tested the majority of their products for potency and 60 per cent of products did not match the labelled CBD content.
The cannabis and CBD industry is one of the fastest-growing sectors in North America with many other countries, including the UK and much of Europe, starting to catch up. But as the sector grows regulators have lagged behind, allowing for mislabeled and untested products to flood the market.
Although regulators are struggling to keep up with the rapid growth of the nascent sector, increasing competition has helped to boost the number of companies carrying out third party testing. Despite some small steps being made towards a more regulated industry, recent data has found that there is still a long way to go.
In August 2021, Leafreport, a peer-reviewed watchdog for the CBD sector reviewed 2946 products from 136 CBD brands for purity and potency testing. The results confirmed the CBD industry remains a ‘wild west’ with mislabelling and inaccurate claims still running rife. Less than half of the brands tested the majority of their products for potency while just 13 per cent tested the majority of their products for purity. 25 per cent of brands carried out no purity testing at all.
Leafreport’s 2021 market analysis solidified its earlier findings with the report showing that 60 per cent of 221 products sent for third-party testing did not match the labelled CBD strength. Just under half of these had CBD levels that differed front the label by more than 30 per cent. This week, the company released a further study which found that more than half of 52 tested CBD products currently marketed for sleep contained the wrong amounts of CBD, CBN, and/or melatonin.
“Frankly, the results of this research are shocking and continue to illustrate the need for a more transparent CBD industry,” said Gal Shapira, Product Manager at Leafreport. “Consumers need to know when they buy CBD products that there are certain quality standards being met. Leafreport exists to help these consumers make better-informed decisions about what they put into their bodies. We see this report as a critical service to help consumers ensure they buy products that actually work.”
In the US, some states require CBD products to undergo third-party testing before they can be sold on the market. But despite these rules being in place, they often go unenforced. Scott Mazza, founder of New York-based organic CBD producer Vitality CBD said that although the state has introduced rules surrounding labelling, third-party lab testing and extraction methods, there is no regulatory body ensuring that companies comply.
“New York really tried to come out with a lot of regulations but it’s nothing that’s ever been enforced; not in any way shape or form,” Mazza told Cannabis Wealth. “The [state] tried to come out with certain labelling requirements [but] there’s no regulatory body that is checking any of the boxes. They’ve even tried to ban certain methods of extracting CBD but I know people around here that are still using extraction methods that technically aren’t compliant.
“We adhere to all the [regulations] to a tee, but then you’ll go around locally to a lot of CBD stores, hemp stores and vape shops and you’ll see companies in there that are completely disregarding any of the rules or regulations that just came out.”
Inesa Ponomariovaite, founder of Chicago-based producer of full-spectrum CBDa products, Nesas Hemp, echoed Mazza’s view. Before launching her ‘Beyond Organic’ full-spectrum CBDa hemp extract, Ponomariovaite travelled across the US and Europe to independently test the products that were currently on the market. She said she was “devastated” by what she found.
“I had to really investigate because the [industry] is still not regulated,” Ponomariovaite said. “Anybody who wants to be in the cannabis business can be. You can do whatever you want and nobody’s going to stop you and you’re not even going to [face] a penalty. I saw heavy metals, I saw organic certified farms sharing soil with cornfields. We have this major industry growing and who knows what is in these bottles.”
While the industry remains unregulated, Mazza said consumers should not be afraid to reach out to the companies they are buying from and ask for proof of lab results and growing conditions.
“I think the more information a company can provide and the more transparent they are about the products that they’re selling is a positive sign that they’re being honest and selling what they claim to be selling,” he said.
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