Editor's Spotlight: Startup Focus
Startup introduces CBD to mainstream sports nutrition audience
Ex-international footballer Simon Church has teamed up with former footballer turned fitness model and entrepreneur Russell Short to create the company CBD Performance after having to retire from football due to severe arthritis.
Church, who remained on pain killers throughout much his career, discovered the pain relieving benefits of CBD oil in his last year of professional playing in 2018.
He was already working with Short on a football related business project and it was during a meeting in early 2019 that they discovered a shared passion for this rarely discussed ingredient.
Short explains: “I had a little black book of notes, information, ideas, where I had written ‘CBD in sport’. Simon saw the note and asked ‘why do you have that written?’ and we started to talk about how this seemed to be a huge untapped opportunity within sports nutrition.
“We both shared this vision to create a CBD sports nutrition brand which removed the stigma around the ingredient. At the time, the talk was fairly negative in the sporting and health and fitness worlds. Most people in the industry didn’t want to be associated with taking CBD because it had connotations of being a drug."
The two set out to create a brand that athletes and everyday consumers could proudly associate themselves with.
They concentrated on creating all-natural, highly bioavailable, 0% THC, vegan products that looked and felt just like other sports nutrition products on the market.
"We didn’t want to use the usual imagery of the cannabis leaf or the usual green branding. We wanted to make the ingredient more accessible to a new market of consumers who previously might have thought it's not safe or had never even considered trying CBD."
They launched their brand with an eight-strong range online in late 2019, providing products which seamlessly integrate CBD into sports nutrition consumers’ daily routines.
The range includes: a honey and orange or peppermint flavour ‘night spray’ oils with added magnesium; an orange flavoured multi-vitamin oil with added Vitamin D3, Vitamin A & Turmeric; protein powder in chocolate or vanilla flavour; orange and mixed berry flavour ‘hydration additive’ powders with added BCAA, electrolytes & vitamin B6; and a CBD muscle gel.
“The CBD protein powder is very popular because it’s a different and convenient format as a lot of professional athletes and active consumers already use protein shakes regularly.”
The range also includes a ‘Pro Series’ of CBD Isodrop oils produced to ensure that athletes and anyone else subject to doping tests can use the entire range with complete peace of mind as they contain only 100% CBD and no other cannabinoids.
The company gained a landmark listing in Selfridges in January, helping to position the brand as a premium product for the everyday active consumer as well as elite athletes.
But even before this listing, Short says online sales had really ‘taken off’ in the last six months, thanks in part to the novel food regulation which has increased awareness, as well as the pandemic which has given rise to mental health concerns.
“We think 2021 will be the year that CBD really does hit the mainstream. Especially with the novel food law which will really regulate it and get rid of the brands and people that aren’t doing things properly. So we are really excited for this year.
“The pandemic has definitely made people more conscious about their mental healthy and anxiety and people are looking for natural ways to avoid anxiety as well as ways to avoid pain from exercise."
Short says they have already been surprised by the wide variety of consumers who have shown an interest in their products and they will be expanding the range to cater accordingly.
“Our shoppers are 50/50 male and female and we really thought it would be more male dominated so that’s been great for us to realise there’s a lot of interest from females too. I think many of them are interested for the anxiety reduction and sleep aid benefits.
“I do feel that we have probably brought a lot of females into this market, from the feedback we have received as it seems that this is the first CBD brand many of our female shoppers have tried which is really promising for us to know we are opening up the market.
"We had launched with very masculine branding but we’ve toned that down to make packaging less black and a little brighter to give it a more gender neutral feel. We are also planning new product launches which to respond to feedback from female consumers."