Aptly timed for healthy New Year’s resolution-seeking consumers, East Coast grocery chain Fairway Market debuted Jan. 4 its new private label cannabidiol (CBD) line, Essential Wellness, marking one of the first grocers in the U.S. to launch its own brand CBD products.
Derived from hand-picked hemp grown on sustainable, pesticide-free farms in Colorado, Fairway’s full-spectrum hemp line features seven products, including oils, capsules, lotions and balms, designed to “provide all-natural solutions for a healthier, less chemical-dependent life,” according to the retailer. All products are non-GMO, kosher, gluten-free and made in the U.S.
“We're starting slow,” Jason Bidart, VP of private brand programs for New York-based Fairway, told WGB. “We’re trying to get as much information out there about CBD as we can, especially since we carry 80,000 products in our stores. … Now we just need to educate customers and make sure they know that we’re in the business and we’re not just known for great food. We can have some great wellness items as well.”
CBD is the nonpsychoactive chemical compound found in hemp or marijuana plants and has been linked to a number of physical and mental health benefits, including relieving pain and inflammation as well as reducing the symptoms of anxiety and depression. With manufacturers hopes of cashing in on consumers’ health and wellness interests, the last year saw countless CBD products flood the market, from beverages to candy and cookies, with even Heineken USA and the Coca-Cola Co. expressing interest in cannabis-enhanced drinks.
While Fairway has carried other brands of CBD products over the past two years, Bidart said the recent increase in consumer interest and available research on its health benefits inspired the retailer to launch its own proprietary CBD items to become a leader in the category.
“In today's space, a lot of consumers are looking for holistic wellness. They're looking for less drug-dependent lives, so any way they can find something that's natural that can help with whether it's anxiety or stress or inflammation,” Bidart said. “We've always been known for being an innovative retailer and bringing things first to market. Our goal is to now become a destination for holistic healing and wellness items that you can't find anywhere else.”
Indeed, while the Midwest and West Coast have long embraced the use of marijuana and hemp products, Fairway’s Essential Wellness launch signals a bold and strategic move in its East Coast market, which has historically been slower to adapt.
However, with the recent passage of the Farm Bill, which legalized industrial farming and state-regulated production of hemp and derivatives of cannabis with 0.3% concentrations of the psychoactive compound THC, the CBD market is poised for exponential growth as the stigma of being related to cannabis continues to decline and recognition of its medicinal value expands. According to a recent report by cannabis and CBD market research firm Brightfield Group, Chicago, the CBD industry nearly doubled from 2017 to 2018 and is expected to become a nearly $22 billion market over the next five years.
In an effort to ease shoppers into the world of CBD, Fairway curated its initial product lineup with moderate levels of CBD concentration, Bidart said, with total CBD extract ranging from 250 to 500 milligrams. The products are nonpsychoactive with THC levels below the 0.3% legal limits, and they range in price from $45.99 to $59.99.
The complete lineup of Fairway’s Essential Wellness Full Spectrum Hemp products includes:
- Hemp Balms, available in Unscented (250 milligrams) and Lavender Eucalyptus (400 milligrams) varieties.
- Hemp Lotions, available in Unscented (250 milligrams) and Uplifting (500 milligrams) varieties.
- Hemp Oil, available in Unflavored (250 milligrams) and Citrus (500 milligrams) varieties.
- Hemp Oil Capsules, available in a 30-count package (25 milligrams per capsule).
Fairway’s products are made from a custom, proprietary blend of essential oils and full spectrum CBD, which includes additional beneficial compounds from the hemp plant—including CBN, CBC and CBG—versus other products that contain just the isolated CBD compound.
“We think we have a far superior product than what you find on the market elsewhere,” said Bidart. “We've invested a lot of time and energy and research in development with our partner, and we stand behind it, and we're in this for the long haul.”
As the CBD market continues to grow, Bidart said Fairway plans to expand its lineup to include items with higher concentration, such as 1,000 to 1,500 milligrams, as well as explore other innovative uses and applications for CBD, such as beverages.
“I think what's exciting about it is that it's now something that grocery retail can really get behind, not just in the wellness sets with vitamins and supplements, but it's also in the drink cooler,” Bidart said. “It's in the candy aisle. It's at the front registers, so it's something that is new. It's in the forefront of wellness, but it's also really exciting for the food portion of it, as well.”