Wildflower Brands (CSE: SUN, OTC: WLDFF) is a Vancouver-based company developing and designing brands that focus on plant-based health and wellness products. All of the company’s brands work in synergy toward becoming a global wellness leader. Wildflower distributes products across North America through the regulated cannabis markets as well as through nutraceutical channels, and the company has a significant and growing e-commerce operation as well.
Recently CFN Media spoke with Wildflower Brands CEO William MaClean to discuss the company’s growth and entry into other global markets.
CFN: How did Wildflower start, and what kinds of products do you offer?
William: I founded Wildflower five years ago and the impetus for starting the company was developing wellness and plant-based products. I saw a huge trend with consumers looking at their health in a different, more holistic way, and we really wanted to explore the health benefits of hemp and cannabis-based products. Ultimately here in the West coast we have a very strong focus on plant-based remedies so that’s really been the impetus for our company. Our initial product that really put us on the map was our CBD infused topical but at this point we have over 25 SKUs including capsules, tinctures and soaps.
CFN: Wildflower is an integrated health and wellness company. Can you talk a bit about what health and wellness means to you and how that drives your product development?
Wiliam: I myself have been a long-term athlete and have used a lot of medicines, mainly ibuprofen; I used to pop them like they were M&M’s and then I really started to feel the effects of that so I started looking at other types of products to help with the backaches and shoulder aches and so forth. I started exploring a more holistic and natural approach to my health and that’s what caused me to discover some of the benefits that cannabis and hemp plants have which is why I focused on the topical as the first product. I realized that there’s a huge need for products like these versus the chemical-based pharmaceutical products that can have negative effects on your health in the long-term.
Our focus has always been on the wellness side and that’s where we see a huge movement. If you look globally the nutraceutical industry last year was about a $260 billion industry so you can really see this global movement right now where people are steering away from pharmaceutical medicines and looking at their health in a completely different way. Essentially what you see are consumers trying to have the optimum scenario for their bodies to fight off a lot of these ailments naturally and thereby avoiding having any of these medicines that are addictive or have negative side effects.
CFN: What does Wildflower’s distribution network look like?
William: Wildflower is in over 300 retail stores nationwide. We have some products in the regulated cannabis markets in Washington State and we are in a lot of wellness stores and vitamin stores. We have distribution all throughout the US, we have retailers in almost every state that carry our products and we’re in over 20 retail locations in the greater Manhattan area alone. We have online sales, our e-commerce site does over one hundred thousand every month and growing.
Right now we’re in a phase of impressive growth where the business is coming to us, we’re really in a scenario where we’re ramping up to be able to handle the demand that we have for our products. Currently, 40% of our online sales come from New York. We identified New York as a global, trend-setting market and we knew that if you’re big in New York it would spread from there. We saw a lot of indications from that when we started expanding to other states. A lot of these wholesale accounts essentially went to Manhattan, looked at all the wellness stores, found products they wanted in their stores and contacted us so that’s been a huge help for us. And of course the direct-to-consumer sales on our e-commerce site has really been affected by having a stronger retail presence in that marketplace. Consumers are just more confident ordering on-line when they know that they can find you in brick-and-mortar stores as well.
CFN: Wildflower acquired City Cannabis Co. in Vancouver. What are the benefits for Wildflower and what is your vision for the Canadian market?
William: City Cannabis is a great acquisition for us because it gives us access to the end consumer and the data that comes from the end consumer; they have over 20,000 consumers that they have access to in the database. It will really help us and direct us as to what they need moving forward and for future product development. On top of that, City Cannabis is a highly profitable company that’s got a lot of experience and has been operating for many years here already. They’ve got applications in multiple jurisdictions right across Canada and they’re holding a dozen or so leases across Canada.
The way I like to look at it is City Cannabis is going to be able to fuel our short-term needs, it’s the low-hanging fruit, while we get ramped up and ready for the huge explosion Wildflower is going to see in the near future. What we’re seeing is more and more requests for Wildflower products in alternative markets globally, huge demand in the US as well, and so we’re really getting ramped up with manufacturing and our other distribution streams. So the City acquisition allows us to fund the whole company in the short-term while we get those things ready and then when we launch everything else with Wildflower then there’ll be some fantastic synergies between the two teams.
CFN: What can you tell us about the European expansion which started with your agreement with Two Towers?
William: Two Towers has a lot of experience, they’ve been in operation since 1994 and essentially they have been importing pharmaceutical products into the Polish Market since then and with their experience and contacts in the government there they were able to get importation codes for every one of our products within weeks of signing that agreement. That really opened up the entire EU Market for us. Once you’re in the EU, dealing with member states becomes a lot easier, a lot less restrictive and we’re seeing more and more EU countries open up more to medical cannabis or CBD products. That was a huge and important agreement for us.
We have multiple countries in the EU that are looking to distribute Wildflower products. We have three different distributors looking at the UK Market and a few other markets that are coming down the pipeline that I can’t mention just yet. But we will have a strong presence in Europe and as these markets open up a consistent story is unfolding where you have these distributors looking at the US market and they’re looking for quality CBD companies, they end up looking at all of them, testing all the products and we consistently get picked as one of the best ones out there and consistently get approached for these distribution agreements.
You’re going to see more and more of these come down the pipeline as we start expanding and there’s a huge opportunity here. As a first-mover, the market share will never be cheaper than it is right now and it’s essentially fallings in our laps so we’re taking it and running with it right now.
CFN: What is the goal with the South African exclusive distribution agreement with Africann?
William: Africann distributes into 1400 pharmacies, they have access to a lot of health and wellness stores in the South African market and they’re one of the leading distributors there. They approached us and wanted exclusivity for our market so, for this exclusivity, they were willing to agree to beneficial terms that worked out really well for us.
We’re in the process of getting everything ramped up there. What you’re going to see is more and more of these markets open up as we extend into new markets here and we’re also going to get manufacturing up and running closer to some of these markets. For example, fulfilling and distributing into the EU it makes a lot more sense to have manufacturing set up there so that will also allow us to manufacture for the South African market.
So it’s an important agreement there and we’re also seeing these opportunities come up in Asia as well. We’re currently looking at the Philippine, Japanese and South Korean markets as additional markets that we want to expand into and we have had some discussions with groups there as well.
CFN: What are Wildflower’s plans for 2019?
William: What you’re going to see is Wildflower ramping up its manufacturing to be able to handle a lot of these wholesale requests that are coming in right now. Once that manufacturing is ramped up you’re going to see a change in focus for us. We are going to start targeting and looking at the larger national chains that you have across the US. There’s been a lot of interest already, a lot of these companies have called us and approached us but we’ve really held off on that component of the business based on our ability to fulfill with our current manufacturer.
So you’re going to see a huge ramp up in manufacturing, you’re going to see us expand into a lot more retail right across the US and then you’re going to see us start distributing into new markets. With the City side you’re going to see expansion right across the entire Canadian retail front. Our goal this year will be to have somewhere in the ballpark of eight-to-ten retail stores open by the end of the year and then continued expansion the following year.
CFN: Can you tell us about yourself and your background?
William: I have been in sales and marketing most of my career and it was through that process that I learned how important it is to market and to have a strong brand to market under. Ultimately that was the impetus to me getting involved in the industry; I saw this industry that was emerging that was a multi-billion dollar industry with no recognizable brands of any sort. So seeing that and seeing the opportunity that’s really the part of my background that has allowed me to see the opportunity and essentially launch Wildflower.
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