Dragonfly CBD was the first CBD brand to be available in high street chemist giant Boots. Cannabis Wealth caught up with CEO Regan Saveall to find out more about being in the right place at the right time.
How did you first get involved in the world of CBD?
Like most people, a few years ago I didn’t really know anything about CBD. I was introduced to it by one of the founders of Dragonfly, one of these people who have these crazy ideas all the time, so I didn’t necessarily think anything of it.
I started out helping with financial planning side, then once I got to hear of all the benefits of CBD, and the anecdotal stories of people it helped with anxiety, sleep issues and chronic pain, I started wondering why it was not more widely known about.
The other element was researching what happened in Canada, where they deregulated earlier, and seeing how the market had matured pretty quickly and became a whole new industry.
For me, part of the appeal was the chance to be involved in a whole new industry, but it was more about how can we have CBD more widely consumed, so people can find out the benefits.
So that’s why I got involved and it has literally blossomed from there.
What were Dragonfly’s earliest successes?
The stigma of cannabis has waned since those early days, and, by the time I joined Dragonfly full time in 2019, you couldn’t open a magazine without reading about CBD benefits.
However, it was still not widely available. In fact, we were the only brand available in Boots, which is a far cry from where we are now, so it was a very exciting time to be involved.
The Boots situation came about due to luck, to be frank, but it also justified our long-standing approach.
We’ve always felt that we want to do things properly, to give consumers trust in the product and be absolutely transparent about what they’re getting, to be comfortable that what it says on the bottle is what’s in the bottle.
We also want consumers to be confident that our products contain no THC, so they’re not going to fail a drugs test, or lose their job.
At the moment, I’m not sure these are things consumers are even aware of, but we’ve started as we mean to go on.
Our products are ours from seed to shelf, we own all our own land, which is organically certified, we have the highest accreditations for farming and our own extraction facility.
So, back to Boots – they’d heard about CBD, and actually had another brand lined up to stock, but they came to us as the other brand had failed compliance when they couldn’t prove certain elements of their production chain.
We said, we can, and we have all the certifications to prove it, so Boots said that, if we met compliance, we could take their pace – and we did.
It was a major benefit for us, as it helped us to wave our compliance flag; if even Boots has accepted us, it put other retailers’ minds at rest and we’re now in Tesco, Sainsburys and Cohens pharmacies – it’s provided that benchmark that we are the brand to have.
What are Dragonfly’s other key achievements?
We’ve recently been listed on Amazon, which is great. We’ve always talked about Dragonfly being part of your grocery basket, so, on the high street, we’re keen to be in supermarkets.
Online, Amazon is where people buy things, because they know they’ll get it for the lowest price and get it tomorrow.
Previously, CBD was never legal in US, so it wasn’t an option, but now, in the UK, Amazon has invited a few brands onto the platform, and one of those was us.
Tell us more about your own extraction facility.
We had originally partnered with a Canadian firm on our extraction facility as a joint venture; they built it, and our crop processed through it.
However, our partner was recently acquired by a competitor, which is when we thought it would be better to go for full ownership – we don’t want to be reliant on a competitor.
There aren’t that many facilities in Europe, and a lot of those are add-ons to existing labs, so you’re not getting a high volume. We realised we needed to be prepared for demand to grow exponentially; with deregulation in Australia, and the EU clarifying their stance, those markets will start to open up.
It’s a key part of our strategy to have this in house. At full tilt, we can produce more than 1,000kg of CBD a month, which is a massive difference from what get with third parties.
And it’s not just for Dragonfly products; we offer white label and wholesale services to other companies too – we have spare capacity, at the moment at least.
What do you think is going to happen to the CBD industry over the next few years?
I think there will be more and more acceptance of it, and in a medical way too. We’re already seeing a lot more press about the benefits for certain ailments, and obviously the knock-on effect will be that more people will know what it can be used for.
So even though we can’t make any medical claims whatsoever, it doesn’t stop people doing their own research into uses and benefits.
The UK set the benchmark on how to give users confidence that they are consuming a safe product, and that will start to be implemented in other countries.
Australia is a good example. CBD was not already available, but they took the view that they wanted people to be able to use it, so they’re allowing it to be prescribed by doctors and pharmacies under the Special Access Scheme. So if you register your product with the TGA, it can be sold over the counter.
And Dragonfly is looking to benefit from this opening up; we’ve got our amazing infrastructure in place, we’ve got eyes and ears on the ground in many countries, so want to be at the forefront of that.
International expansion is our main focus this year, aimed at countries like Australia and Poland that are clearly embracing the move to CBD but don’t necessarily have the standard of products available.
What do you think is key to Dragonfly’s success?
We’ve stuck to our message from day one.
It has been difficult, and plenty of people suggested we took shortcuts, like contracting out the farming and buying in the CBD.
We could have done that, and the consumer probably wouldn’t care, but the education will come, and when consumers want a CBD product they can trust in, they’ll come to Dragonfly.
We’ve been true to our word since day one, we’re overly compliant, so all this will build that trust in our brand and we’re quite protective of that.
This will also help us when it comes to the novel food regulations compliance; we’ve always come through tests and surveys with flying colours – it’s our USP.
Are you ready for the novel foods regulations?
While the timeline of the novel foods regs being brought in has been a little constrained, we had the data ready to go – we put our application in last year.
As far as we’re concerned, it’s a good thing – if you’re on the list, great, you’re safe to trade; if not, there’s more work you need to do to be allowed on the market.
So it provides a lot of clarity and a lot of protection for consumers, although I expect that enforcement may become a big issue going forward.
In fact, the next stage for the industry is to work on the education side, so consumers can learn how to ensure they’re getting the best product, the right amount of CBD, they’re not wasting their money and it’s actually going to help them.
It’s still a burgeoning industry, but it is growing up a bit, and those who are keen to take it seriously and be legal and compliant will reap the rewards.