Voyager Life is floating on the Aquis Exchange imminently, aiming to be one of the leaders in the cannabidiol (CBD) wellness and hemp products sector once the shake-out occurs.
“There’s probably an excess of 700 CBD brands in the UK at the moment,” says co-founder and chief executive Nick Tulloch.
“Of those, probably less than a quarter are professional businesses – a lot of them are literally running from people’s kitchens.”
Voyager by contrast is doing it all by the book. Its edibles, for example, are produced to good manufacturing practice (GMP); its relationships with other partners work on a just-in-time basis, while fulfilment is such that customers should receive their products the next day.
All of this speaks to Tulloch’s experience in the CBD sector cutting his teeth with main market-listed Zoetic which focused its efforts on the US.
Here in the UK, the size of the prize is considerable even if the CBD industry comes off more like a cottage industry run by born-again hippies than a fully-fledged new product segment.
Estimates vary, but the most recent guess puts annual turnover of infused edibles, oils, soaps and balms etc at £690mln – and growing at 20-30% a year.
That’s not bad for a sector that was virtually non-existent three to four years ago. And it now dwarfs sales of popular vitamins and fish oils.
Based in Perth, Scotland, Voyager’s route to market relies on a simple three-pronged strategy. It is already online via its own website and another 20 platforms including Amazon and Etsy.
This is the high margin, but comparatively low volume method of getting its products to market.
It is also going down the ‘third-party route’, by which Tulloch means the group is pitching to sell its oils and bath blocks in mainstream bricks-and-mortar outlets.
This is the lower-margin, high volume approach that could ultimately put Voyager on the map.
It is in around 30 independent stores already but is keeping its powder dry with large multiples until September when the big chains start considering new lines.
By that time the group should have collated a bedrock of data it can share with buyers at the likes of Boots, Superdrug and Holland & Barratt.
For them, it can often be less about how the product smells and feels, and more about its appearance on the shelf and the logistics, says Tulloch.
“What they all want to know is how it looks, how the package feels and what size it is,” the Voyager CEO explains.
“Above all, they want to know how quickly and reliably we can get it to them.”
A little counter-intuitively the third prong in the strategy will see Voyager taking its products directly to the high street with its own stores. Its first outlet will be in St Andrew’s, the university town on Scotland’s east coast.
Tulloch points out there has never been a better time to set up shop given the rock bottom rents and government support on offer.
The plan is not to rival the big health products chains by having stores in most precincts and malls up and down the UK, but to provide a visual, physical presence for the brand.
Surprise top seller
A surprise top seller for the company has been a hemp supplement aimed at the pet market, while its hemp dog leads are in demand too.
“The cliché that we spend more on our pets than our children seems to ring true in this example,” Tulloch says.
Since its inception in November last year, the company has raised £2.1mln and has enough money to see this capital-light business through to break even in around two years. The Aquis listing could bring in further funds, which should allow the acceleration of some of its plans.
As mentioned in our intro, Tulloch expects Voyager to become one of the leaders of what is currently a fragmented industry.
The leveller is likely to be regulation overseen here in the UK by the Food Standards Agency (FSA), which should favour those who took the early decision to set up a professional, compliant supply chain.
“We think we stand to benefit once our products are approved by the FSA,” says Tulloch.
“Over a period of time, those who label or produce products improperly will be cleared out, giving us a large slice of a much bigger market.”
Read More: Voyager Life eyes top spot in fast-expanding UK CBD and hemp market