- Brandless is venturing into the uncharted world of CBD.
- Business Insider spoke with CEO John Rittenhouse and Jen Hagness, the company’s new chief merchant officer, about the online retailer’s pivot.
- “Brandless is going to be the No. 1 destination for CBD wellness products in the future,” Rittenhouse told Business Insider.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Brandless isn’t just looking to sell CBD products; the e-commerce business wants to establish an industry gold standard for all other manufacturers to follow.
Previously, under the tenure of founder and former CEO Tina Sharkey, Brandless was primarily known for its online grocery business and set price points. CEO John Rittenhouse told Business Insider that the company is “declaring a success” as it looks to double down on new categories.
“Brandless is going to be the No. 1 destination for CBD wellness products in the future,” he said. “In order to do that, we spent three and a half months getting up to speed and understanding the science behind it.”
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is an ingredient found in cannabis that may have medicinal uses in treating pain. Moving into the CBD business is one of three prongs to a strategy that Rittenhouse and the newly appointed Chief Merchant Officer Jen Hagness are dubbing “Brandless 2020.”
The rest of the forward-looking plan includes a product rollout at retailers across the country and a jump into beauty and wellness items. Rittenhouse said Brandless’ CBD initiative would kick off with brands like Plant People and Sunsoil.
The next phase of the pivot will include introducing two Brandless-owned CBD products: a midline option made with an outside manufacturer’s formulations and a premium brand with Brandless’ own mix of botanical oils and packaging.
“Consumers really trust Brandless and what we stand for,” Hagness told Business Insider. “As you come to our site to buy CBD, you’ll know the manufacturer. You’ll know the package has been really thoroughly tested with rigorous standards, which is not really in the marketplace today.”
But why focus on CBD, a product that has not been officially regulated at a federal level? Hagness, who previously served as an executive at Caribou Coffee for five years, says that the answer is simple: Customers conveyed through direct feedback and collected data that they wanted to buy CBD.
“We’re bringing products to market that we know there’s a huge demand for,” Hagness said.
Rittenhouse said consumers ages 55 and older were especially interested in CBD to help manage pain and sleep cycles. Brightfield Group analysts told CNN that the CBD business could become a $24 billion industry by 2023.
That being said, don’t expect to be able to buy CBD-infused coffee on Brandless’ site anytime soon. Rittenhouse said he was “saddened” by the overuse of CBD in different products, as well as the unscientific claims about the substance’s healing properties.
In fact, Rittenhouse and Hagness said that they were looking to turn Brandless into the “standard bearer” of the CBD industry.
“We have an initiative to be the certifying body for CBD products in the United States,” Rittenhouse said.
The CEO said the idea would be to certify “other people’s CBD products, all the way through the lab, not just with a mark of trust, but with a certification process.” That would mean testing for pesticides and herbicides and producing literature on topics like the types of fertilizers appropriate for growing the product.
“We want to kind of be a leader in that learning, for others as well as for consumers and, frankly, other producers that are out there,” Rittenhouse said.