Podcast: Inside the Martha Stewart CBD Launch With Guest Steven Leung of Canopy Growth

Greeting from John Wiesehan III:

Welcome to the Live Well. Be Well. Podcast. Our goal is to address the trials and triumphs of daily life and always being better in all aspects of your life, by looking forward to new challenges but by being present today, we hope you get inspiration to live better, be better, and learn small habits that you can incorporate into your daily life to accomplish your goals.

Let’s get started.

John:

Yeah, we’ll go ahead and get going. You ready?

Steven:

Let’s do it, yep.

John:

OK, so, today, we want to welcome Steven Leung [LUNG] from Canopy Growth. Steven is Canopy’s Head of Confectionary, responsible for CBD gummies in the U.S., also chocolates and gummies in Canada. All very, very important things.

Previously, you also held a number of roles in strategy and innovation, most recently as the Global Director of Innovation at AB InBev — the King of Beers. That’s very, very cool. I’d love to hear a little bit more about that. Steven, welcome.

Steven:

Awesome. Thank you, John, for having me, and pleasure to meet you and really excited to be on the podcast with you. And thanks for the wonderful introduction.

Getting to Know Steven and Why He Chose to Work in CBD

John:

Yeah, so did I miss anything? Is there anything we’re missing that you want our listeners to know about you? Like I want this to be a little bit about Steven — we want to get to know you a little bit. So, tell us something I missed, ‘cause I know I missed a lot-

Steven:

Nope, you nailed it. But I think, you know, like a lot of people who enter the CBD world, I moved and uprooted to Denver on a hope and a dream, and yeah, I haven’t looked back since and I’m really pleased to be in this space.

I think cannabis is such an exciting industry — and a natural pivot, to be honest, coming from alcohol, kind of in the ways that people modulate their moods. And just really excited to be in this space.

John:

Yeah, it’s funny, it’s almost like two very polar opposite ends of the spectrum, right? Like CBD is so focused on, you know, health and wellbeing and living well and being well and different things like that. And, alcohol is, I mean, alcohol is alcohol. We all know what a beer is and you know, most of us enjoy them sometimes more frequently than we need to, but that’s OK.

That’s really neat, though. So, where did you live when you were with AB InBev?

Steven:

Yeah, so I actually lived in New York, and, prior to that, London, and I moved around a little bit with AB InBev and SAB Miller before that.

Actually, the latest assignment I worked on in innovation was thinking about the future of beer and what are some of the trends that could disrupt beer and how would we gear up the innovation portfolio to solve for that?
And, naturally, as I was doing the digging and the research, certain terms on better ways to manage your mood or modulate your mood, you know, CBD, cannabis, kept coming up over and over and over again.

So, for me, I almost wrote myself out of the job with that assignment as I did more digging into it I realized — it’s almost a no-brainer. This has to be where I have to go. And that’s how I ended up, you know, taking a rather 90º turn and moving from the alcohol world into CBD and cannabis wellness.

John:

You know, it was interesting, where a lot of my pivotal and foundational things in my career started were in electronic cigarettes. And when that company kind of did what it did and exited my life at a very, very pivotal time in my career, I thought it was really cool to get into an industry that was going to help people and make it better.

And, you know, one of my mentors told me recently, he said, you focus a lot on the metrics and on the revenue and your team and your goals and the things you can measure… but what you don’t talk enough about is what you’re doing to better the lives of the people that you’re shipping product to.

And I think that’s such a foundational component to what you did with your career/life change and what I did. I think it’s really important for people to know that what we’re doing, we truly believe in, right?

Steven:

Yeah, 100%. I couldn’t agree more. And, you know, without going too deep into alcohol and troubles related to alcohol, I think what I realized is they’re just better ways to help people manage the stresses in their life.

And you know, cannabis and CBD in particular, are just a much more future-forward way to do that. And I 100% agree with you, John. We have an obligation to our consumers, really to educate them and to bring them great, safe product and really make CBD something that’s available for the masses.

One of the words we talk a lot about is normalization, right, in Canopy. And when we come to Martha we’ll talk a little bit about Martha’s role in that. And trust, I do think that our obligation as people involved in this industry is really to generate that level of trust in the product and make this an available wellness product for people and bring it to the masses.

So really, really agree with you there.

John:

Yeah, that’s super cool. So, the focus of the podcast today, and I appreciate the background on you. I think that gives a lot, you know, our listeners, a lot of context, right off the bat here, but we want to talk about Martha Stewart CBD. And, you know, as this is recording, Martha Stewart CBD launches tomorrow (Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020).

So, those of you listening, you know, a year from now, today is September the 9th, 2020, in the middle of COVID, where the world is different than we knew it a year ago. It’s going to be different a year from today, but tomorrow, Martha Stewart launches a CBD line. And, by the time you listen to this, it will already be launched.

‘Cause this will launch, you know, two days from now. But tell us, this has been one of the most secretive product lanches that I have ever personally been involved in. And, you know, your team, sometimes when I’ve talked to them about this launch and when we’re passing assets back and forth and images of products and all these things, they use this word, “embargo.”

Right? Like, that just sounds like I should be part of the United Nations, right? Like I embargo. So, but it’s cool. And it gets lifted tomorrow and we get to launch these products, but, you know, we can talk freely about the products now.

So, tell me about Martha, like how did this come to be?

Why Martha Chose to Start a CBD Brand with Canopy Growth

Steven:

Yeah, that’s a really good question, you know, the launch partnership was announced actually even before my time at Canopy. It was during Bruce Linton’s time as CEO. And Bruce was a fantastic advocate and champion for cannabis and CBD and was also a good friend of Martha’s.

I believe they actually met through a relationship with Snoop. So, you know, the relationship started a little while back.

John:

So, for perspective, how long ago was that?

Steven:

That was, I believe, early last year when the deal was.

John:

So, we’re talking like a solid 18 months ago?

Steven:

Yeah-

John:

OK, got it.

Steven:

So when we talk about embargo and things like that it’s really because there’s so much anticipation and excitement around this launch. And the Canopy team obviously wants this to go off in the right way and really make the right kind of noise and show off the product and the brand in the right light.

So a lot of it has been because this has been a long time coming. We are super excited about the line of products and obviously, you know, with stakeholders like Martha herself, there’s a lot that goes into the product. There’s a lot of specifics into every piece of collateral that you see in every aspect of the packaging and the product.

It’s all a labor of love. And, you know, with Martha involved, we want to just make sure that the Ts are crossed the Is are dotted, before we go to market.

John:

Yeah, I mean, you can tell, and I use this internally, right? With our team, it’s with everything that we do we want it to be done with absolute excellence.

And there are a lot of brands out there that change packaging, don’t tell us. They change the prices, don’t tell us. They change the formulas from full to broad, don’t tell us. And we have to figure out these things on our own, which is fine.

But one compliment I have for you, and your team, and the Canopy team is everything is done with excellence. And that goes without saying that this Martha Stewart CBD brand is done with absolute excellence. It’s beautiful packaging, you’re hyperfocused on product choice and development. I started using the product every day, I love it, it’s really good.

But, obviously, this is really important to Canopy, right? So, why does Martha make such a great addition to Canopy’s vision and vice versa?

Why Martha Stewart Is the Perfect Advocate for CBD

Steven:

Yeah, it’s a fantastic question, and thank you for being a product user, and thank you for all the kind words, John.

You know, part of the natural fit for Martha and why Martha sought out CBD, I would say, is that Martha has been the expert on better living for so many years, right?

She’s known for decades for giving simple solutions to people’s daily problems. And, you know, giving guidance to people on how to live better lives, healthier lives, and more and more meaningful lives. I think Martha herself saw Canopy as the right partner to help bring CBD to the masses.

And that’s really part of Martha’s personal mission with all of this in all of our interactions she’s been a great advocate of CBD. She talks a lot about her personal use of CBD and how it’s improved her own health and wellness.

And, you know, Martha herself sought out Canopy to bring this line of CBD to the masses just as she’s done in so many years with other products to introduce a consumer to them.

In so far as what Canopy brings to the table, obviously, you know that Canopy is the leader in cannabis science in Canada. We hope to be the leader in CBD as well in the US and we really believe in expanding the category of CBD, right?

And getting users who, right now, still have some trust and safety and quality issues, getting the right amount of product, the right dosage, the right product, the right brands — but also getting those intenders who currently have some nibbling doubts or some scaries about CBD to really reappraise the category and to find some way to engage with the category in a way that feels safe and comfortable to them, right?

And for us, Martha Stewart really is that voice of normalization for people who have considered CBD, but haven’t tried it yet.

And, you know, there are a lot of these people right now in the US — I think most of your listeners, John, will be, let’s say CBD users already, right? They’re hopefully shopping on your platform. But, I think it’s something like 86% of consumers are aware of CBD. Fifty-some-odd percent are interested in trying, but, you know, less than 20% have actually tried it, right, or are regular users.

And for us, we see our responsibility and our partnership with Martha as a way to bridge that gap between the people who want to try it but haven’t found the right level of evidence, the right level of trust, the right level of quality to give it a go.

And, Martha has a unique voice in that, right? She’s such a normalizing factor. She has been on the cutting edge of getting consumers to just step a little bit out of their comfort zone in the past, whether it’s taking a Meyer lemon instead of just a lemon, or a blood orange instead of an orange.

So, to just go a little bit out of that standard comfort zone and adopt something else and new habits to really improve your life. So, for us, Martha was such a natural fit for CBD.

John:

This is so exciting for me. And you know, if I weren’t sitting down, I’d be walking around, pacing around in the room, talking to you on the phone — you totally hit the nail on the head.

Here’s what I meant by that: there’s a massive need in the marketplace today for normalization. And, I really like that word. And I’m also going to use the word individuality. OK? It’s a term one of my very first podcast guests used. And, it means what is good for you, right? I’m going somewhere with this, because, right now, you have Gronkowski. You have Bubba Watson. You have athletes sponsoring sport CBD brands and more in the sports sector. OK? That doesn’t talk to the everyday American, it doesn’t talk to the female, and it doesn’t talk to the person who’s a little scared, right?

CBD is purely safe. We all know this. We’ve been in the industry, but it’s foreign, like you said, to 80% of the people. You know what’s really interesting with the data that we have, we show that 65% of our customer base is a female that’s between the ages of 45 and 65. That’s a lot.

And, those are people who are probably a little scared to go into a store and buy it and they’re buying it online. So it gets to shipped to them. They don’t have to tell anybody about it. And I think this is really going to make CBD acceptable and a household term now. Especially when somebody like Martha Stewart is on the face of a CBD product. And I think you guys are going to go after that, after those family members who are resistant to try it, you’re going after that entire clientele, that baby boomer America that it can truly really benefit.

And the reviews that we get in, we don’t publish all of our reviews on our website — we have tens of thousands of them — but, for liability reasons and for legal reasons we don’t do that. But, we get to read them internally and it’s in that group and that segment of people that it appears to be helping the most.

And that, to me, is super rewarding. That’s why I’m very, very passionate about this launch and you know, that passion is driven down to our team.

And I think Martha Stewart CBD can truly be a catalyst for trial in America. And the price points are perfect. The product design is perfect. It’s soft, it’s inviting — it’s everything about it. You guys have hit the nail on the head. It’s awesome.

Steven:

Thank you so much, John. And that’s the dream, to really catalyze the intenders to try.

I think, just to echo one of the points that you made, we sit in a lot of these focus groups to talk to consumers and ask them — we want to go back to the word trust and normalization — what would make you try CBD, given that you’ve heard of it?

And, if a big pharmaceutical company is developing the product, would that make you try it? No. When would it be interesting if we showed you all the science and the data, would that help you try it? No, you know, it’s really like a trusted word-of-mouth that moves this consumer and really resonates as a mode of communication.

And that’s when we realized we really have something here in Martha. Again, in terms of her guidance as a steward for better living.

These consumers were literally saying, if someone like a Martha Stewart or like an Ellen were to say this is that, then I would give it whirl, right? Then, I would know that it’s above everything, safe.

And, we know the facts, we’re in the industry, but you know, for the everyday consumer and this target demographic that you’re talking about, sometimes it’s not only the facts that are conveyed, but, you know, who says it and how it’s brought to their attention. That will get them off the fence and really into the category.

So, again, we are super excited to hopefully achieve that dream that you just mentioned.

John:

That’s awesome, I love it. OK, so let’s flip a little bit. As the Head of Confectionary, so that’s primarily food items, right?

Steven:

Yeah, primarily food items.

Martha Stewart CBD Flavor Creation and Product Development

John:

OK, so, let me say that one more time real quick. So, as Head of Confectionary at Canopy that’s primarily food products. So, did you have any influence in the design and the making of the tinctures as well because there’s flavorings and such, right?

Steven:

Yeah, I did. So, in my prior role, as Senior Director of Product Portfolio, I’ve managed to look after all of the products. So, I had a hand in a little bit of all of it.

John:

Oh, OK, cool. So, having Martha involved in this process — because it’s my understanding she was heavily involved in the creation of flavors and everything… tell us a little bit about that process and how impactful she was to design and what she designed.

Steven:

Yeah, I think it’s a dream to work with Martha and Martha’s whole team. ‘Cause it’s honestly not just the single individual, Martha. She’s got a fantastic culinary team, she’s got an amazing creative team. And their level of involvement is so incredibly high. And it’s a real privilege to understand the level of specificity that they put as the product. I think it just reflects that this CBD product is really a genuine passion point for Martha herself that she is willing to try all this.

So, I’ll give you some fun examples. In so far as the gummies are concerned, Martha tasted upwards of 20 flavors before we settled on the final six that we have in the medleys — the kumquat, the black raspberry, the huckleberries. So, a number of other flavors were tasted but put on the side for now.

We tasted with Martha a number of different flavoring levels as well, just to make sure that they had the right level of fruit intensity. And, as far as the packaging is concerned, I don’t think your viewers can see this, but when they have it in their hands, hopefully, they’ll notice — each of these fruits is actually hand-drawn, you know, in a watercolor style. They’ve got a little bit of white fading to reflect, you know, how the paper is effected with watercolor art.

John:

Yeah, I see that now, that’s really, really, neat.

Steven:

Yeah and Martha was very specific that she wanted no stock imagery, everything had to be custom drawn and botanically realistic, in so far as these are real blood oranges. And even the hemp that you see on the packaging, though, it doesn’t look like hemp, it’s actually a flower budding phase of the hemp. So, it’s young hemp that you see on the unflavored oils and the soft gels.

Everything in the packaging design that you see, it all goes straight up to Martha. And she’s great because Martha knows exactly what she wants. She’ll tell you what isn’t good, what is on-brand, what is not. But she’s very pragmatic, right? She’s a very savvy businesswoman. So, when things start to get a little bit too into the weeds or too off the rails, she’ll know when to say, OK, OK, I got it, enough.” So, it’s just a real, real pleasure to work with their team.

How Martha Stewart CBD Can Help You “Find Your Inner Martha”

John:

That’s really cool. So, define how you guys came about the slogan of “find your inner Martha?” I think that’s really cool because I think that that resonates to the consumer base we talked about earlier, but it’s, you know, it’s “find who you can be,” right, by taking products like these.

Steven:

Yeah, there’s an aspect of that, right? About what CBD can enable in terms of a better life. There’s also the idea that Martha has a very calm personality, right? She exudes calm. And a lot of the “find your inner Martha” slogan is really about having people give CBD a whirl.

And, see if I can find that sort of calm mindset, that Martha mindset, which is little disasters roll off my shoulders. I’ve got a solution for everything. All of the problems are manageable. So. yeah, that’s really how we came to find your inner Martha.

John:

That’s really cool. I think that’s a beautiful tagline and I think it resonates inside of households like we chatted about.

So tell us a little bit more about why Canopy as a company wants to continue to expand its CBD presence in the US and what we can expect from the partnership with Martha or anything else from Canopy, in the future?

What’s to Come From Martha Stewart CBD and Canopy Growth

Steven:

Yeah, great question. So, as our CEO, David, I’m sure you’ve heard of him on the interviews. You know, we as a company, we all believe that CBD in the US is a huge opportunity, upwards of $10 billion in a few years, right? The addressable market is huge. It’s really an untapped space in so far as single brands that really lead.

You know, with Martha, we hope to be one of the flagship brands in CBD, and really take a leadership role there. So, yeah, CBD for us is both a huge commercial opportunity but just a fantastic consumer opportunity for us. So, all of that is just for us, at a high, high priority. And we intend to continue to invest in both the Martha brand, but a portfolio of other products as well.

I mean I think Martha Stewart, for us, is our second dipping of the toe in the U.S. CBD marketplace. We think it will be very exciting and huge. We’ll have other products following up the Martha Stewart line, including a pet line that’s coming in January.

John:

Oh, nice.

Steven:

So there’ll be soft-baked chews for dogs, as well as an animal tincture. We also have other fantastic products in the works on the human side, you know, a holiday gummy gift box in December. So, exciting, exciting products coming down the pipeline from Martha, but also across a number of formats that you’ll see coming out of Canopy in the coming months and years.

Steven and John on Their Favorite Martha Stewart CBD Products So Far

John:

That’s really neat. So, I’m going to come back to Steven a little bit. I’m assuming you’re a CBD user?

Steven:

I am indeed, yeah.

John:

So, what is your favorite? I mean, I’m sure you’ve listened to me enough on my podcast, you know what mine is, but what is your like go-to or favorite delivery system, et cetera?

Steven:

My go-to in the future will be these gummies just because they taste so fantastic. And, it’s just such a great way to have an unobtrusive, daily dose of CBD. So, sadly these aren’t available for sale yet, so I’ve got a limited product allotment. But, currently, I’m using softgels.

So I’ve got my first three CBD softgels here. And, for me, they are a convenient dose, a single capsule, just take it. Just like I would any other vitamin in my wellness regimen and do it on a daily basis.

So, I do like the oils as well. I know, John, you’re an oil tincture user, but personally, I like, you know, given that I’m in the confectionary world, I’m going to be extremely loyal to them.

John:

And you know what I love about the gummies, unlike most CBD gummies out there, they have very, very little sugar. For overall health, foods these days, and the processed environment that we live in, sugar is a huge component to, you know, sugar is just generally bad for you, right? So that the fact that you know, one gummy only has, I think it’s two grams of sugar, is super, super low compared to most other CBD gummies out there.

And, if they don’t have any kind of coating on them, they’re not generally going to ship well and they’re going to show up in one big glob. You guys did an absolute perfect job of kind of balancing that act between sugar and a very good product that doesn’t stick to one another, and it’s easy to grab and stick in your mouth and go.

Steven:

Yeah, I think you nailed it John, which is a balancing act, obviously for Martha deliciousness, you know, tasting great is very high on her list, but as is living well, right?

So, you know these gummies were inspired by some of Martha’s trips to Paris. She draws from this path as you see in these gummies, there’s sort of this indulgent and squishy texture with the sugar coating on the outside but not overly sweet, right? Just enough of a treat to make wellness not a chore.

So it’s a fine balance of not putting too much sugar but still having a fantastic, great taste that Martha would approve, right?

John:

No, it’s perfect, it’s awesome, I love it. I’m a huge fan. Our UPS driver came in today and I was like, “Oh, man, we’re doing this new launch with Canopy Growth tomorrow.” I said, “Man, you got to try these.” And he was like, “Man, these are the best. These are good.” And I gave him about a Ziploc bag of five of them to take with him for the rest of the day. But he was excited.

OK, cool, so I think we’ve got, I’ve heard a lot today. I think our listeners are gonna really enjoy listening to kind of behind the scenes of Martha Stewart CBD, which is really what I think this is. Is there anything that I fundamentally missed or we didn’t talk about that you think our listeners should know about?

Steven:

Nothing specific except that we’re excited about the launch. It’s the flavors of Martha Stewart combined with the science and safety of Canopy Growth. It’s a line that we think everyone can be excited about.

And, just to talk through the whole lineup, you know, we’ve got two SKUs of gummies: one is a Citrus Medley which has kumquat, Meyer lemon, and blood orange. We’ve got a Berry Medley which is a black raspberry, huckleberry, and red raspberry. We’ve got three oils: there’s the blood orange variety, the Meyer lemon variety, and then an unflavored variety. All of these are 750mgs of CBD. And then we’ve got the softgels, which are just beautiful, single-dose, easy-to-use, softgel capsules, 25mg in each.

So, yeah, I hope that your listeners love it. I hope that everyone buys it and tries it. Yeah, I look forward to the feedback.

More About Direct CBD Online’s Partnership With Canopy Growth

John:

Yeah, and I just want to say on behalf of myself and our company and my team, that we are very grateful at Direct CBD Online for the partnership that Canopy has entrusted with us. I know you don’t take these types of partnerships lightly. So, as the only third-party distributor that we know of, especially in the eCommerce marketplace, we’re very grateful for the opportunity to be able to partner with you guys. So, thank you for that and entrusting me with the brand.

Steven:

We really appreciate the partnership and have huge respect to everything that Direct CBD is doing. You’ve got a leading position here and so hats off to you and the team as well for doing such a fantastic job building this eCommerce platform. We’re excited for the partnership not only for this, but for all future launches.

John:

Yeah, yeah, likewise. So we always ask a couple of questions to our guests at the very end of every episode, so, who is one person in your life, Steven, that you don’t give enough credit to for your success?

Steven:

Oh, I would have to say my wife, who obviously puts up with me receiving product calls, emails, at all hours of the night. I have to give everything to her.

John:

Yeah, it’s funny, I was on the same level with my wife. You don’t ever give them enough credit, you know, it’s the easiest person to kind of go-to when in tough times but in good times. I love that, great answer.

And then, what is your favorite song of all time that has had the biggest impact on your life? ‘Cause I think music is a very emotional thing.

Steven:

Oh, that’s a tough question. Let me ponder on it.

John:

Yeah, man.

Steven:

I would have to say Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons,” which is a classical music set of concertos. I mean, I was a violinist when I was younger and I love playing it, but I think it just represents a diversity of the bumps and little disasters in our life along the way.

John:

They always happen, it’s just how you overcome them. That really makes the difference. Right. That’s really cool. I’ve never listened to that, but I’m going to do that right after this podcast on Alexa. Awesome.

Well, Steven, thank you for joining us today. Everyone, just so you know, we’re going to have a full writeup of the product links on the podcast. You can go to directcbdonline.com to view the products that are on the homepage. They’re also going to be in a pop-up. They’re everywhere. You can’t miss ‘em.

We thank you for believing in us and staying with us through everything. And, Steven, thank you again for being such an amazing guest. We look forward to having you back sometime in the future.

Steven:

Thanks a lot, John. It’s such a pleasure and good luck with the launch.

John:

Yeah, yeah, same thanks. Cool, thank you!

Closing from John:

Thank you for listening, you can keep up on iTunes, Google podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts, you can also visit directcbdonline.com where you will find all podcasts under our resources section on the main menu bar. You can use coupon code LIVEWELLBEWELL for 25% off of your first order.

And remember to always live well and be well — we’ll see you next time.

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