We meet Luke Langfield and Layton Brooks founders of CBD brand, Zenbears, to ask what got them interested in CBD and where they see the industry going in 2022.
When it comes to entering the CBD market, a lot of founders decide to start a brand after experiencing the benefits personally. The sense of passion and community created by independent brands who connect with their products gives the industry an authentic feel where founders can’t wait to share the benefits with others.
Zenbears is no exception to this. The company began in 2019 by co-founders Luke and Layton after a personal connection with CBD. Zenbears has gone on to develop a loyal community of customers who engage with the brand’s fun marketing and tasty products.
Layton explained his personal connection with CBD. “My wife suffers from Lyme disease. She was bitten by a tick when she was nine then struggled for years with symptoms of the disease. She’s been on multiple antibiotics and prescriptions over the years then she wanted to try more holistic or herbal remedies.
“The antibiotics were having a detrimental effect on her long-term health so she decided to try CBD. She used it at first for arthritis and joint pain. That’s where the interest came from as it seems to be a booming industry and something we wanted to explore.”
Layton approached Luke with the idea of starting a CBD brand.
“At the time, there weren’t a lot of trusted sources on the UK market so we decided if we were going to do it, we would do it properly and create a good brand. Let’s get people excited about this and give them a brand they can trust.”
When it comes to products, they decided to focus the brand on producing high-quality CBD gummies rather than an array of products. Both of the founders came from finance and marketing backgrounds so an analysis of growth trends in the wellness sector and keyword searches revealed a consumer interest in edibles.
Layton said: “Oils are a great product but we felt that with gummy bears, we can reach a wider demographic.”
Transparency Market Research estimates that the CBD edibles market is expected to expand at a CAGR of 13.7 per cent and is projected to reach a valuation of US£34.15bn by 2031.
The growth of edibles such as gummies can be attributed to many different reasons but certainly, taste plays a part. Oils can have strong hemp flavours that leave an aftertaste in the mouth. The accessibility of gummies for those who may be new to CBD or hesitant to take them in public is another reason for their growth in popularity.
Luke said: “The accessibility of the gummies for us and consumers was key. A lot of people don’t want to put a pipette in their mouth to take oil or do that in public. Whereas you can just take a gummy at work and no one needs to know.”
The company had already gotten its start by the time COVID began. However, there was no denying that even established brands were thrown a curveball when it came to long-term planning. Lockdowns, raw material supply, Brexit rules and also delivery issues combined over the past two years to make it a complex time to be starting or expanding a business.
For Zenbears, it meant rethinking their retail strategy.
Layton explained: “When it came to online sales, we saw an initial dip when the first lockdown happened but since then, growth has been steady. I would say the overall decrease hasn’t been negative. Where we have seen the real effects has been our expansion into wholesale and retail.
“This was something we were planning on doing last year then doubling down on this year however with lockdowns, retail stores shutting then we had to close that side of the business to revisit in 2022.”
Despite the lockdown, Zenbears moved into a department store this year. There have also been positive moments. Both founders reflect on their proudest moments so far with the brand.
Luke: “We’ve always wanted to be a fun-loving brand so we have branded merchandise as well as the gummies. We’ve got great reviews from people who have tried the gummies but also we’ve seen people start to engage with the brand by buying beanies and T-shirts. It’s exciting to not just make a CBD product but be a brand with a community where they come back to us to say hello. The engagement is a positive thing for me.”
Layton agreed: “From my side, I would say that consumption of the gummy bears makes it easier for some people to take CBD. We see that a lot, especially with the mums that have kids with potential issues that want to try CBD. They contact us to say it’s helped us and it’s lovely to see those types of reviews.”
There are many variables to owning and operating a CBD brand with new variants threatening potential restrictions, Brexit shipping issues and also Food Safety Authority (FSA) regulations causing havoc in the industry. Where do Luke and Layton see the CBD industry heading for 2022?
Layton highlighted the FSA regulations: “I’m hearing rumours that the FSA public list with all the brands should be around March time. That is going to have a huge impact on products so we will see where the dust lies and what brands are left in the market. That may open up opportunities and gaps for us in the market as we are fully licensed. Next year is going to be all about people consolidating market position.”
Luke added: “It will make it easier for international expansion as well because you will have the validation of the license behind your brand. It may not be relevant to the international markets that have their criteria but it will add some authority behind it. I think you will start to see more CBD brands going through the mainstream channels like Boots or Tesco because of the license behind it.”