The timing could not have been worse. On March 1st, 2020, Colorado-based start-up Remedy + was launching its first-ever line of hemp-based sports performance products at the US Open Paddle Tennis tournament. A salesperson had just been hired to get the CBD-infused gels, tinctures, salves and other products onto shelves at country club shops and spas.
Within a few weeks Covid shut the country down.
Suddenly there were no stores to set up the displays that would introduce Remedy+ to the company’s target consumer, said company co-founder Tom Kurz, “country club athletes – people in their forties that still want to compete.” The natural place for a pivot would be to online advertising he said, but the major social media and advertising companies like Facebook and Google, don’t allow any CBD brand advertising, even of hemp-based products which contain none of the psychoactive ingredient THC found in close cousin marijuana.
Without a retail presence or online advertising available, the company turned to informational web content to introduce the brand said co-founder Chris Peck. Remedy+ funded research at the University of Colorado at Boulder to study the interaction between CBD and other drugs to help people decide which could be taken together safely. The company also commissioned CBD and sports-performance content on Instagram and Facebook. It is currently considering adding a You Tube video channel.
Sparking demand online however, had to be accompanied with the ability to deliver those products to customers. With their original plan to distribute through golf and tennis shops on hold, Kurz and Peck turned to their investor network to fund an e-commerce site to serve as their new distribution method.
The company also took time during the shut-down to study and better understand the distribution channels it wanted to enter beyond country club shops. Convenience stores might stock their protein bar and two ounce caffeine “shot” as alternative purchases to chips and a soda said Kurz. Spas might want to showcase the whole line of products including tinctures and salves together in one display. Diving deep into the relationships that needed to be formed and the physical delivery mechanisms required, helped the founders get products on more shelves more quickly when businesses re-opened they said.
There are still few rules around CBD product ingredients and how to label them, so earning trust from customers, distributors and sellers is a big part of the company’s strategy said Kurz. “We are transparent about our ingredients and our testing,” he said. When the market grows and sellers are looking for three or four brands to put on their shelves Peck added, “We’re trying to position ourselves to be at the front of the line.”
Pandemic or no, “it’s still the first or second inning” of the CBD market, and the situation is evolving rapidly said Peck. There are a large number of brands are out there now, he said, but in a year or two he predicts only half might remain.