CBD 2.0: Why 2021 is the Dawn of a Promising New Era in the Hemp

CBD 2.0: Why 2021 is the Dawn of a Promising New Era in the Hemp

NOTE: ABRIDGED VERSION ABOVE PUBLISHED BY NASDAQ 2-18-21

In 2004, Tim O’Reilly popularized the term “Web 2.0.” According to Tim O’Reilly, “Web 2.0 is the business revolution in the computer industry caused by the move to the Internet as a platform, and an attempt to understand the rules for success on that new platform.[3] He went on to say, “Web 2.0″refers to the historical context of web businesses “coming back” after the 2001 collapse of the dot-com bubble, in addition to the distinguishing characteristics of the projects that survived the bust or thrived thereafter.[4]As we enter year three of federally legal hemp CBD, I am calling CBD 2.0.

 I lived through the dot-com bubble having founded eSkye.com in 1999 as a B2B exchange for the alcohol industry. I then led through the transition from dot-com to Web 2.0 morphing eSkye.com into eSkye Solutions and shifting to become a SaaS software provider to the industry, at one point establishing it as the largest provider of dedicated software services to the wine industry. We also handled all the vendor managed pricing with Walmart, Walgreens, and other chains for many of the largest wine, spirits and beer companies in the world. I was also Chairman of Wine 2.0, which was a riff of the Web 2.0 movement to bringing technology and wine experiences together.

O’Reilly and Gary Vaynerchuk (winelibrary.tv and Vaynerchuk Media) joined us at the New York Wine 2.0 event that featured cutting edge wine start-ups and wineries, plus over 1,000 wine and tech lovers coinciding with O’Reilly Media’s Web 2.0 Expo.

This week, on Yahoo Finance, I characterized 2021 as “CBD 2.0.” as the beginning of a fundamental shift from the early “Wild West” days of the hemp CBD industry to a year that will lay foundation for national brands. Let me explain and see if you agree.  

Pablo Zuanic, the well-regarded research analyst at Cantor Fitzgerald, put out several reports this week on the Cannabis and CBD markets and companies. As he points out:

“Macro view: our projections remain bullish for the next five years. Despite lackluster trends in 2020, partly COVID-related, and a slowdown pre-COVID in 2H19 – as lack of regulatory guidelines from the FDA prevented the FDM channel from adapting CBD a widely as had been expected, across formats and by all major retailers – projections remain quite constructive. Most estimates by the industry’s trade shops continue to forecast US CBD $ sales of $15-20Bn by 2024. The Brightfield Group projects sales of $15Bn by 2024, up from $4.2Bn in 2019. BDS Analytics projects sales of $20Bn by 2024, more than 10x the $1.9Bn in sales generated by the industry in 2018 (~50% CAGR), as per their estimates. BDSA estimates 63% of the $20Bn 2024 figures would be hemp-derived CBD and 37% marijuana-derived CBD. The current market split is as follows, according to BDS Analytics: ingestibles 47%, topicals 26%, inhalables 21%, pet products 3%, and 4% other (including pharmaceuticals). But as discussed below, without clear FDA guidelines and formal classification of CDB as a dietary supplement, the bulk of the FDM channel will stay reluctant to stock CBD products, and this will limit growth, in our view.”

He goes on to point out that without a major FDA/regulatory catalyst, it’s hard to see things improving rapidly from 2020. While I agree with his general assessment of the handful of public CBD companies he covers – cbdMD (YCBD/Neutral), Charlotte’s Web (CWBHF/Neutral) and CV Sciences (CVSI/Neutral)— I think those companies’ biggest issues are more related to the rising tide of other serious brands from mostly private companies but also new entrants. This new onslaught is much more sophisticated and include larger scale CPG brands than what the early CBD companies are used to competing against. Two such examples are Martha Stewart’s CBD Gummies launched by Canopy Growth and Molson Coors announced launch of their CBD beverage, TRUSS CBD in Colorado. This new crop of brand focused companies is leading the way and initiating the dawn of CBD 2.0.

Hemp CBD Early Days

In 2014, after years of grassroots efforts, Congress included an experimental program that allowed hemp to be legally grown in the US for the first time since 1937, provided it was attached to a University. 14 states ended up participating in the program. It was quite restrictive but a huge step forward for the industry. This was pre-CBD 1.0, a period of primitive CBD industry and initial consumer trials of the cannabinoid. During this time, there was a volatile) gray/illegal market for CBD with shady operators popping up all over brokering CBD from China and putting it into products with no testing, no truth in labeling and zero reliability. It was truly the “Wild West” and was common to have “brokers” claiming to have for sale or want to buy millions of dollars or liters of CBD, only to have them disappear when one actually tried to make a deal. It was a close cousin to the illegal cannabis industry with many of the same players participating in both.

I went to Washington DC to meet with congressional leadership in March 2018 to gauge the likelihood of expanding the hemp program nationally and of cannabis prohibition repeal overall. My impression was that full-on cannabis prohibition repeal still had meaningful opposition, but that hemp legalization could move quickly with bipartisan support.

My team jumped into it in 2018 growing 115 acres with partner farmers in Kentucky and establishing a hemp processing facility there as well. Just about everything that could go wrong did. The seeds were not great, the weather was terrible (wet when we needed dry and dry when we needed wet – “Welcome to farming,” they told me), our equipment kept breaking as most was not designed for the hemp plant, etc. Despite these challenges, we learned quickly and were able to lay the groundwork for what was to come.

Hemp CBD 1.0

Enter the Farm bill, which passed on a bipartisan basis and was signed into law in December 2018. This laid the foundation for a truly national, legal hemp industry, provided that each state set up a system and apply with the USDA. The excitement was palpable. It was a bit like a mini dot-com in terms numbers of start-ups, money flowing into the space, and news coverage. We bet heavily that the market would expand dramatically with legalization and committed to growing more than 1,800 acres of hemp with partner farms in KY and TN. We plowed millions of dollars into the production side of the business while at the same time putting a portfolio of brands together. We successfully launched our first brands into nearly 1,000 convenience stores in late 2018. It was a CBD “Gold Rush” with 100s of new “brands” appearing out of nowhere. Farmers switched to hemp production in mass, and $100s of millions of investments pumped into hemp processing operations. Big retailers began taking meetings with the anticipation of rolling out CBD products in 2019.

Between the Fall harvest of 2018 and 2019, the hemp growing, processing, and CBD ingredient side of the industry collapsed. In retrospect, perhaps it seems obvious that a frenzy of new investment and market participants in a brand-new industry would cause over-supply. Also, the proliferation of start-ups, populated with inexperienced business operators, caused plenty of issues. However, in a twist unforeseen by anyone but perhaps big pharma, the regulatory headwinds led by the US FDA threw a wrench in the momentum towards retail adoption. Their position was that CBD ingestibles are unsafe until proven otherwise, and therefore not permitted. This declaration caused most of the major retail outlets to cancel plans to bring CBD onto their shelves. (See my article in the Denver Post on this here)

The resulting destruction of value in the industry was swift and massive. Seven of the largest hemp processors who had raised over $400 million failed by February 2020 (pre-COVID lockdown). The largest, GenCanna, had a reported $2 billion deal to go public in the Fall of 2019, only to collapse into bankruptcy months later. I was 36 hours from a $700 million+ merger into a SPAC on NASDAQ when it unraveled in October 2019. We faced a collapsing market and a flight of investment capital. My team at Vertical Wellness took immediate action by cutting our costs and pivoting to a services business to help recover investor/creditor dollars from all these failed companies. In the end, we landed contracts to dry or process over 18 million pounds of hemp, making us profitable in 2020 during the pandemic. Given the retail environment, our brand launches were pushed into 2021, but we used the time and cash flow to prepare and make strategic acquisitions to be ready for what was to come. I share our rare success during a dismal time in the industry not to boast, but simply to inspire other entrepreneurs and demonstrate that being resilient and never giving up are essential qualities.

Entering CBD 2.0

In five years, we can look back and see if I called this too early, but something feels different to me. To be clear, I’m not suggesting good times are here immediately, but rather, we will soon be able to clearly see the path forward for a thriving cannabinoid industry. Here is my case that 2021 is the turning point for CBD.

1.    Survivors: Only the strong survived the great destruction of CBD 1.0 – those of us remaining either pivoted, figured out how to make money, or emerged with new focus on execution.

2.    Execution and Funding: The extreme loss of value has scared away many investors. This makes it a lot harder for new entrants to attain funding and for existing folks who are not executing to stay in the business.

3.    State Permitted Ingestibles: In spite of the FDA inaccurate proclamation against the safety of CBD, consumer demand for health and wellness products has only grown. Fundamentally, consumers want natural alternative solutions (from Big Pharma drugs) to solve sleeplessness, anxiety, pain, and other ailments. Cannabinoids increasingly demonstrate their proper role in solving for this consumer demand. Just as in the overall THC-based Cannabis market, the States are leading the way in permitting ingestibles of CBD. This will accelerate in 2021. The states are driving permitted CBD consumption and consumer demand (it’s 47% of consumption nationally in spite of the FDA). Additionally, there are more studies coming out regularly, adding further lack of evidence of any harm caused by CBD. These factors and continued support from a growing bi-partisan group of lawmakers will eventually overcome big-Pharma’s grip over the FDA on this issue. I’m hopeful this can happen in 2021 but is not essential for my case for CBD 2.0.

4.    Retailers Need for Growth: Retailers who are coming out of a crazy year of focusing on essential supplies or in other cases being shut down are looking for new ways to grow. CBD is back on top of their list of growth categories in which many are not yet participating.

5.    Efficacy Matters: More and more companies and brands today are focused on the real impact CBD and other cannabinoids can have on people’s lives. Faster acting products with clear uses will lead the growth.

6.    Real Brands: More legitimate, credible brands, not named “CBD this” or “CBD that,” are emerging. That would be like naming my new beer brand “Beer.” CBD is simply one of about 150 cannabinoids in the Cannabis plant that, when combined with the right balance of other ingredients (e.g. melatonin), can have tremendous efficacy in solving or alleviating real health and wellness ailments. Consumers want it, but they don’t know who or what to trust because of the lack of workable regulations and proliferation of unknown, unproven, generic brands. That is starting to change as premium brands are being backed by credible companies and honest leaders with proven track records. Our kathy ireland Health & Wellness® CBD solutions is a great example of this. Kathy is a recognized leader and advocate for women’s health. Our acquisition of The Organic Candy Factory is another. We are very excited to bring these to market.

As Tim O’Reilly once said, “Pursue something so important that even if you fail, the world is better off with you having tried.” I believe “CBD 2.0” is a worthy endeavor and indeed will make the world better off. I recently had my whole team read the late Tony Hsieh’s (former Zappos CEO) book Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose. In it, Tony shares a plethora of stories where Zappos was at the brink of going out of business but found a way to persevere despite the odds.  Had a small group of impassioned leaders not fought through those times, there never would have been a $1 billion exit. Many in the industry are in a similar moment. Those who show resilience and conviction will prevail. 2021 will prove to be the turning point in building a thriving, healthy industry that contributes to the societal good.

Evolving Drinks Brands

Evolving Drinks Brands

Evolving Drinks Brands banner

I recently read and shared an article in Forbes by Patrick Hanlon called, “Why Brands Must Evolve” that is so spot on that it has led to a number of interesting conversations in the past week with some of my clients and partners who own brands in beer, wine and spirits. As one who spends a lot of time thinking about new brands, as well as igniting established brands in new ways, Patrick’s thoughts really resonated with me. I don’t think there is a better industry than beverage to illustrate his points about what is going on with brands. Brand proliferation is happening across the board making “breaking through the clutter” ever more difficult. At the same time, the reason this is happening if fundamentally that there is demand for new brands. As I wrote in “RE: Is Craft Beer In A Bubble”, there is a big and growing market for new brands in beer, but also in wine and spirits. Not everyone will succeed and in fact many new brands will fail. To the big brand manager, the fundamental challenge has also never been so big – how do you keep a loyal following when your following gets gigantic. I think about an Iconic brand like Patron Tequila. I was a distributor for Patron as it passed between different sales companies and was a very difficult sell. Five years from the time it launched, Patron was doing about 55,000 cases. Now that is a nice little brand, but nothing would have screamed, “This brand is on fire!” Then, it did catch on fire and became the very symbol of luxury. Check out Patron case sales for the first 10 years:

Patron sales first 10 years

Patron is an amazing brand and continues to outsell all of the other super premium tequilas (and frankly all other spirits brands at $40/750ml bottle and higher). They have a huge and loyal following. However, as brand manager for Patron today, the things one has to do to market the brand are quite different than in the early years. How does one keep the “cool” factor going when you are the largest brand in your category. There are dozens of new entrants who are going after their market and have the advantage of being smaller (think Avion, Casamigos, Don Julio) and bringing a new “cool” factor to the market. Clearly there are many that succeed at this but being true to your brand and your audience while changing things up can be quite difficult. Absolut Vodka was THE luxury brand of the late 1980s and early 1990s. It was the “it” brand among the “it” crowd.

Andy Warhol Absolut IMG_6541

Pernod Ricard paid over $8 billion to acquire the brand a few years back. How does Pernod now manage a giant brand that was formerly the top luxury vodka in a market with such massive proliferation of brands that the high-end vodka category has experienced. I’m told there are 800 vodkas in the Beverage Media New York book. Pernod recently announced a new bottle. Absolut is one of those brands that defined itself by its bottle.   Changing the bottle is a big move even in subtle ways. Adding the big A is a pretty big move. Large companies don’t usually make big moves, but staying relevant in a crowded market sometimes requires big moves.    Pepsico made an even bigger move a few years back with their Gatorade brand. I thought at the time, it was fairly risky, but it appears to have paid off (does anyone know details?).

gatorade new gatorade old label

Patrick’s article certainly cites a number of great examples of big brands that have managed to evolve over time and keep or even build on their past successes. “…the challenge for brands has evolved from creating awareness to creating meaning.” How do you keep creating meaning at scale like Nike, Apple and Disney have successfully done.  They each connect to their consumers and continually create meaning.

The wine market has evolved so dramatically, that I have to look up many of the brands on the grocery shelf today and I have been involved in selling $100s of millions of wine over the years. Why? New brand proliferation to attract the millennial consumers.

barefoot wine logo Meiomi wine

Take a look at the top 10 domestic “Hot Brands” put out by Marvin Shanken’s Impact Databank:

  1. Barefoot
  2. Black Box
  3. Bota Box
  4. Liberty Creek
  5. Boggle
  6. Apothic
  7. 14 hands
  8. Barefoot Refresh
  9. Gnarly Head
  10. Meiomi

Four of these are Gallo Brands, but none say Gallo. All have interesting, contemporary labels. To succeed in this hyper-competitive market, every brand must have a number of things. Great branding is vital, without it your brand is lost and has no chance. Great liquid that fits the taste of your target market is key, without it they won’t buy a second time. Distribution is essential, a brand cannot become relevant if consumers can’t find it. But how does a brand build a real following of consumers who care? That is, how do we create meaning? That is the question every new brand team needs to answer.

 

To quote Patrick again: “We want the added value of believing in something. The added value of belonging to something: being a part of something that hard-wires us to a larger community of “people like me””

 

Seth Godin in his fantastic book “Tribes” articulates this concept well.

“Seth Godin argues the Internet has ended mass marketing and revived a human social unit from the distant past: tribes. Founded on shared ideas and values, tribes give ordinary people the power to lead and make big change. He urges us to do so.” Brands have to figure out how to reach their tribes and how to engage with them. Notice, I did not say create their tribes. This is an important distinction. I believe tribes are discovered not created. Brands who overtly try to create one typically struggle. If a following is not organic, today’s savvy consumers sense it.   I think brands can make themselves relevant and worthy of a following and then as that following begins to show signs of life can play a role in fostering and accelerating it.

 

I’d love to hear your stories of brands you think are doing this right.

 

Cheers,

 

Smoke

 

WineTwits to Lead #Wine Tweetup at #WITS2014 the 10th Annual Wine Industry Technology Symposium

WineTwits to Lead #Wine Tweetup at #WITS2014 the 10th Annual Wine Industry Technology Symposium

Excited for #WITS2014 and BITS in 18 days… This wine tasting tweetup has become a highlight of the social aspects of WITS… here is winemaker Alison Crowe at one..

 

 

 

I hope to see as many of you at this year’s event as can join.  Reach out to me if you have any questions.

Smoke

WITS cover impage

WineTwits to Lead #Wine Tweetup at #WITS2014 the 10th Annual Wine Industry Technology Symposium

Tweetup wineries include: Franciscan Estate Winery, Garnet Vineyards, Jamieson Ranch Vineyards, Kendall-Jackson Winery, Wente Vineyards.

(NAPA, Calif.) – The 10th Annual Wine Industry Technology Symposium (WITS) has partnered with Taste140 to again host a worldwide virtual wine tasting event June 30 – July 1, 2014 at the WITS event, which this year also includes a new concurrent Beer Industry Technology Symposium (BITS).

While it is anticipated that conference attendees will naturally be active across various Social Media platforms using the #WITS2014 hashtag over the course of the two-day conference, organized and focused online wine tastings have also been scheduled with participating wineries including: Franciscan Estate Winery (Franciscan Estate 2011 Magnificat Napa Valley), Garnet Vineyards (Garnet 2012 Monterey Pinot Noir), Jamieson Ranch Vineyards (Jamieson Ranch 2011 “Double Lariat” Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon), Kendall-Jackson Winery (Kendall-Jackson 2011 Grand Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon), Renwood Winery (Renwood 2011 Premier Old Vine Zinfandel) and Wente Vineyards (Wente 2012 Morning Fog Chardonnay).

In advance of the #WITS2014 WineTwits Tweetup, Taste140 is shipping wines from each participating winery to online wine influencers and bloggers who have committed to live participation. The wines will also be available for tasting at the event, so that event attendees can contribute to the conversation and post their tasting notes, experience and feedback.

“Having attended WITS since its inception in 2005, I’ve gained valuable insights directly from wine industry thought leaders while forging immeasurable relationships which have continued to grow over the years,” said Stephen Gilberg, Taste140 and WineTwits founder. “Similarly, beverage brands that properly leverage social media are able to build long-lasting relationships with influential consumers. The #WITS2014 Wine Tweetup will likely be one of the most wide-reaching virtual tastings to date.”

“We are pleased to partner with these fantastic wineries and with WineTwits to bring some of the #WITS2014 experience beyond the conference in Napa and to bloggers and consumers around the country. This online event demonstrates the power of a connected wine community and has become a fun highlight of the event each year,” said J. Smoke Wallin, WITS founder and co-chair.

The 2014 Wine Industry Technology Symposium (WITS), which will run concurrent with the first Beer Industry Technology Symposium, will cover a wide range of wine and craft beer industry topics such as mobile e-commerce, data breach and security, breakthrough marketing, supply chain innovation, leading edge hospitality systems, new on-premise kegs and product tracking. Panels of leading restaurant and grocery operators will also provide valuable insight as they discuss their first-hand experience with wine and beer consumers.

Registration is now open at www.wineindustrytechnologysymposium.com.

 

wits logo

About WITS: The Wine Industry Technology Symposium® (WITS) is the focal point for thought leadership in the strategic and tactical use of technology in the global wine industry. WITS was created in 2005 by a group of wine industry and technology professionals to advance innovation and to address the unique information technology and services needs of the wine industry. The 10th annual WITS is June 30 & July 1 in Napa, CA. This year, the newly formed Beer Industry Technology Symposium (BITS) will be held in conjunction with WITS. To learn more, join WITS on Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

About DrinkTwits, LLC (Taste140/WineTwits): Founded in 2008, DrinkTwits is a social media firm comprised of interactive food and beverage-related social media channels. Its flagship entity, @WineTwits is a Twitter-powered community with 100,000 followers dedicated to wine consumers, retailers, vineyards and experts. In 2009, through its network of leading social influencers, the firm pioneered the practice of online virtual tasting via its Taste 140â„¢ social tasting platform, which allows brands to virtually pack their tasting room with hundreds of people and have their recommendations instantly reach thousands worldwide. For more information, visit www.Taste140.com or www.twitter.com/winetwits.

For more information about the Wine Industry Technology Symposium, contact Kathy Archer of the Wine Industry Symposium Group at 707-261-8719 or kathy@winesymposium.com. For sponsorship and registration, contact Waunice Orchid of the Wine Industry Symposium Group at 707-261-8716 or waunice@winesymposium.com.

 

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9th Annual Wine Industry Technology Symposiumâ„¢ – Witsâ„¢ Set To Deliver Action Packed Agenda Next Week

9th Annual Wine Industry Technology Symposiumâ„¢ – Witsâ„¢ Set To Deliver Action Packed Agenda Next Week

I’m looking forward to seeing everyone attending WITS on Monday and Tuesday at the Napa Valley Marriott!  Here is our final announcement re the event…

wits logo

9th Annual Wine Industry Technology Symposiumâ„¢ – Witsâ„¢ Set To Deliver Action Packed Agenda Next Week 

There is Still Time To Sign Up Today For 9th Annual WITS™  

Beginning Monday, July 15 and 16 @ Napa Valley Marriott 

Leading Technology Innovators Demonstrate Latest Products and Services During Sold Out Showcase 

Napa, CA— July 11, 2013— Wine Industry Technology Symposium (WITS) today announced its final agenda and speakers for the 9th annual event to be held July 15 & 16 in Napa, CA.  Keynotes bring elite leadership, social media and the transformative cloud to the wine industry.

If Technology is the making, modification, usage, and knowledge of tools, machines, techniques, crafts, systems, and methods of organization, in order to solve a problem, improve a preexisting solution to a problem, achieve a goal, handle an applied input/output relation or perform a specific function, WITS mission is the creation of a safe environment to challenge assumptions in order to elevate the wine industry’s strategic use of technology to achieve superior results.

Over the years, WITS has done exactly this, by hosting the Chief Information Officer CIO Forum, providing thought provoking keynote speakers, delivering hands on break out sessions, profiling a technology showcase while fostering extensive networking opportunities for all attendees.  This 9th conference promises to be the best ever!  If you are involved in using, choosing or creating technology for your wine related business, you really don’t want to miss this once a year opportunity.

WITS Promo PHoto

3 Keynotes & A Tribute

  • Jonathan Good,  Senior SMR Solutions at Oracle will speak on “Developing a Social Relationship Management Strategy for Wine ” building on his experience as founder of HelloSocialMedia.com – a social media and marketing agency that focused on the creation and execution of social media programs, including blogging, community development, Internet marketing, design and web development.
  • Miles Ward, Solutions Architect, Amazon Web Services will speak about Big Data for Real World Businesses showing tools, techniques and clear ROI for analysis in the cloud.  Miles helped NASA live-stream the Mars Rover landing, developed the online Obama For America 2012 presidential campaign, and has helped thousands of companies make the leap to the cloud.
  • Award-winning serial entrepreneur and successful luxury hotel owner, author, speaker, and former U.S. Army Green Beret Larry Broughton shares his insights on transforming ordinary teams into extraordinary ones.

“I’m very pleased to have Larry Broughton, Jonathan Good and Miles Ward join us on our Keynote program.” said J. Smoke Wallin, founder and co-chairman of WITS.  He continued, “I have had the privileged of interacting with each of our speakers and know they will each deliver inspirational and thought provoking discussions that will deliver real take home value to all our winery attendees.”

WITS 2008

Attendees can register at www.wineindustrytechnologysymposium.com

About WITS: The Wine Industry Technology Symposium® (WITS) is the focal point for thought leadership in the strategic and tactical use of technology in the global wine industry.  WITS was created in 2005 by a group of wine industry and technology professionals to advance innovation and to address the unique information technology and services needs of the wine industry.  The 9th annual WITS  is July 15 & 16 in Napa, CA.  Join WITS on Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to learn more.

For more information, contact Waunice Orchid of the Wine Industry Symposium Group at 707-261-8716 or waunice@swgnapa.com

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