Weller closes $3m funding round pushing CBD into the mainstream

By Mary Ellen Shoup contact

- Last updated on GMT

Photo: Weller
Photo: Weller

Related tags: Weller, Cbd, Sparkling water

CBD snack and beverage brand Weller has raised $3m in a funding round led by venture capital firm Brand Foundry Partners, which the company will put towards scaling up production and increasing marketing efforts to meet high consumer demand.

The funding also included personal investments from Justin Gold, founder of Justin's nut butters, and Bill Weiland, CEO and founder of Presence Marketing.

The CBD food and beverage category is taking off, making the move from online sales of tincture-type products to more familiar CPG product formats (e.g. snacks, bars, drinks) in traditional brick & mortar retail. According to a recent report by Brightfield Group​, there are now more than 1,000 CBD brands operating in the space with many more sophisticated players with a greater focus on product quality and consistency.

"While the start of 2019 was dominated by companies well-positioned to enter the space – vape companies, for example – Q2 gave way to large retailers like CVS and Walgreens, signaling to the rest of the country that CBD is going mainstream. 2019 is shaping up to be a massive year for CBD, leading to just over a $5 billion industry by end of year – a 706% increase over 2018. By 2023, Brightfield Group estimates that the total U.S. CBD market could reach $23.7 billion,"​ said Brightfield Group. 

“We looked at over 80 companies in this space and really wanted to find a brand that was approachable to the everyday consumer, built by a seasoned team with uncompromising standards of quality from seed to packaging,”​ said Bryan Bulte, managing partner of LivWell Ventures.

“We saw a lot of tinctures and a few brands that were doing some interesting things, but fell a little short on either taste, format, or quality,” ​said Bulte. “Weller stood out to us as a true platform of delicious, grab and go CBD products, and judging by the early sell-through the consumer agrees.” 

Retail interest is fast and furious, says co-founder

Co-founder Matt Oscamou told FoodNavigator-USA that the company is focused on keeping up with product replenishment at the current accounts the brand is in. This year, orders and re-orders have been coming in fast and furious since exhibiting at the Natural Products Expo West show in March where the brand debuted its CBD sparkling water in cans. After exhibiting, Weller expanded into more Wegmans locations, entered Fairway Markets in New York, and began working with a number of new DSD distributors.

Weller's national retail footprint now includes 1,000 stores in 25 states "seeing a huge wave of interest from retailers across all channels of trade,"​ commented co-founder John Simmons.

Moving forward with retail distribution, Oscamou said the brand is looking for retail partners that are willing to "lean in"​ and teach consumers about Weller and the CBD functional food and beverage category. 

'We look after more of a pyschographic...than a specific demographic'

Consumers reaching for Weller 'CBD-infused' sparkling water or coconut snack bites are active, wellness-focused consumers looking to maximize their day, noted Oscamou. 

"We look after more of a pyschographic when we think about who our customer is rather than a specific demographic,"​ said Oscamou. 

"It’s not so much the 'I want to take a break from reality' crowd. It’s the ones who want to be focused and on top of their game." 

According to the Brightfield Group, major brands and retailers selling CBD products have helped shift the stigma surrounding CBD as well as concerns over product safety and legality (although CBD is not considered a legal dietary ingredient in foods, beverages, or supplements by the FDA) as well as "distance​ itself from the shadow of the ‘stoner’ stereotypes,” the firm​ said. ​​ 

As a result, Weller has captured a much larger consumer base shopping in both natural and conventional channels. 

"That customer is looking for wellness on the go and that customer is showing up in a lot of different locations that's not just Whole Foods, natural stores, or independents. They're showing up at conventional retail, they're showing up at convenience [stores] and other on-the-go venues."

Weller uses the term 'CBD-infused' for its products. On its supplement facts panel, the company states that its products contain 25mg CBD derived from 'broad spectrum hemp extract (aerial parts)'. 

Check out our past VIDEO INTERVIEW​ with Weller at Expo West. 

Weller_videointerview

'We certainly want to be the leader of food and beverage CBD products'

In order for the CBD category to thrive and move forward, Oscamou mentioned that brands need to be focused on quality and product consistency.

"It is easy to put CBD in all sorts of things, but it is not easy to make it taste good. We want to make sure that everything we put out there tastes phenomenal and then also listen to what that consumer is looking for,​" Oscamou said.

"We certainly want to be the leader of food and beverage CBD products and we create unique formulations that we do ourselves." 

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