Weller: Consumer interest in CBD is intensifying, despite lack of federal oversight

By Mary Ellen Shoup

- Last updated on GMT

Photo Credit: Weller
Photo Credit: Weller

Related tags Weller Cbd cbd beverages Sparkling water Fda

The FDA’s stance that CBD is not legal as a dietary ingredient as it was first investigated as a drug has not hindered consumer interest in CBD-infused food and beverage products, claims Matt Oscamou, co-founder of CBD sparkling water brand Weller, which is experiencing “off the charts” velocities at retail.

On the contrary, consumer interest and retail sales for CBD consumables have only intensified despite the fact that brands are operating in a constrained patchwork of state-by-state legislation, according to Oscamou.

Brightfield Group​ ​forecasted that even without FDA regulation recognizing CBD as a dietary ingredient, the US hemp-derived market is expected to reach between $6bn and $7bn in retail sales by 2027 (with FDA guidance, the projection is $11bn).

'Retailers have always had an eye on this category.'

Shortly following its official debut at the Natural Products Expo West show in 2019, distribution for Weller exploded with retailers, including Wegmans and Sprouts Farmers Market picking up the brand, providing a solid vote of confidence in the CBD category.

“There are more and more retailers and distributors entering the category, emboldened by the fact that Sprouts Farmers Market (a publicly-listed company) recently expanded their CBD set – of which Weller leads the pack – to a total of eight states,”​ Oscamou told FoodNavigator-USA.

“Retailers have always had an eye on this category,” ​he said, but there’s still a ‘you-first’​ mentality among some retailers waiting to see how competitors navigate the space.

"What we’ve found over the last six months or so is that a lot of the retailers that were waiting for someone to go first are now at the table."

In the states where CBD is permitted to be sold as an ingredient in a food, beverage, or dietary supplement product, Weller is experiencing continued strong growth at retail, according to Oscamou.

“It’s a set of metrics that any CBD brand would be envious of,”​ he said, noting that in some stores, Weller is in the 50 top-selling brands across all categories from diapers to dog food.

Weller is currently in the process of significant expansion with Wegmans and is in the final stages of a large regional rollout with another publicly traded company, added Oscamou.

“While there’s been a little bit of resistance to the category to some degree, we just haven’t seen that in retail. When we see placement in the store, the consumer is still very motivated to buy the product in this category,”​ he said.

‘Consumers respond to great brands, great tasting products, and effectiveness.’

“The demand is still out there from a consumer side. Like any other category, consumers respond to great brands, great tasting products, and effectiveness.”

While careful not to make any specific claims regarding its products, Oscamou said that consumers are seeking out CBD products for perceived personal health and wellness benefits related to mood, stress, and other mental health-related issues.

Weller’s product formulation has not changed much in the past three to four years featuring 25mg of cannabidiol from full spectrum hemp extract. Oscamou said the industry must prioritize transparency despite the lack of regulatory oversight.

“At this point, we have pretty rigorous lab testing requirements for our product both from the state level and from our own quality control perspective,” ​he said.

Weller shares its certificate of analysis listing the exact quantities of the various cannabinoids in each of its products on its website.

“That’s something we’ve baked into our brand from the get-go not only because it’s the right thing to do but because we are focused on having a top-quality product that consumers can rely upon every single day.”

Doubling down on beverages

In terms of its portfolio, Weller decided to put its CBD-infused snacks on pause to focus on beverages.

“I think for any startup or new business, we’re always focused on where our resources give us the most bang for our buck. If we’re going to double down on anything, it’s more beverages,” ​he said.

"I feel really strongly about our flavor profiles right now. Our tangerine flavor is the best tangerine sparkling water on the market, regardless of CBD."

‘There’s really two pathways forward in the category’

But even with the retail success Weller has experienced, the glaring issue remains that CBD is still not federally legal as a dietary ingredient.

“There’s really two pathways forward in the category,”​ said Oscamou.

“There’s either legislative action from Congress to direct how CBD as an ingredient can be handled. The other path is waiting for the FDA to come out and make some clarifications, but there’s no expectation of that happening in the immediate near term.”

But he added: “We’re optimistic that in the next 13 months, there will be some activity, be it one direction or the other.”

‘If anybody was coming into this category to get rich quick, they’ve already come and gone.’

As for the nay-sayers who believe the category will never really take off and the brands looking to make a quick buck off of the category, Oscamou said that patience will ultimately pay off for the most committed and responsible players in the category.  

“If anybody was coming into this category to get rich quick, they’ve already come and gone,” ​he added.

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