Prima launched in March 2019 with a mission to develop a science-driven therapeutic whole-body wellness brand leveraging organic hemp CBD and functional botanicals to help combat stress and target issues at their source. The brand launched as the Farm Bill passed in 2018, which legalized industrial hemp farming in the US and as cultural interest in cannabis collided with the self-care and wellness boom. This opened the CBD floodgates, unleashing a gold rush mentality up and down the value chain and across categories.
The beauty industry had never seen a trend gain traction as fast as CBD. The global cannabis extract market is expected to reach $28.5 billion by 2027, with 17% annual growth. The CBD skincare market alone will reach $1.7 billion by 2025, demonstrating 32.9% CAGR. The crazy statistics, hype, and energy of the perceived opportunity has created a flood of brand launches, all looking to capture a piece of the hot new CBD beauty category.
The CBD Beauty Bubble
Fast-forward, the nascent category saw commercialization happen much faster than regulatory standards and clinical substantiation. CBD companies must ensure compliance with both FDA and FTC regulations. Opportunistic brands that launched solely to capitalize on the green rush with unsophisticated formulas lacking in efficacy have either shuttered or removed CBD to avoid the marketing challenges that come with the ingredient.
"The efficacy depends on the surrounding ingredients and the carrier ingredient," explains Jessica Assaf, Prima's co-founder and Chief Education Officer at Prima. "If you're putting a carrier extract in oil and you're charging all this money for it and [the customer is] only absorbing 10%, max of the CBD, you're not going to feel anything and you're going to give up. That's a huge risk for us. Because of the lack of innovation and sophistication, a lot of people aren't absorbing what they think they are."
The hype seems to have quieted, at least in the beauty realm. According to Spate, CBD searches declined in 2021 over 2020 by 27.3%, CBD supplements by -17%, CBD skincare by -33.9%, and bath and body by -15.2%. The only product category that saw a slight increase was CBD cream (+1.4%). Searches for CBD gummies, however, grew by 8.8% during the same period, with 83.1K monthly searches; those for CBD essential oils increased by 49.8%, but overall searches only average 4.2K.
Assaf confirmed our suspicion, sharing, "The CBD beauty bubble has burst with the reality that CBD is an ingredient, not an industry or category has finally set in."
The Brick-and-Mortar Pivot
However, that's not to say they haven't had to pivot. Prima forecasted the restrictions on traditional advertising levers like social media would have changed allowing them to scale their DTC business at a faster pace. It hasn't, driving the brand to accelerate its brick-and-mortar strategy looking to retailers as a channel for storytelling, education, and brand building.
Today the brand's distribution is evenly split between DTC and wholesale at 1,000 points of distribution nationwide including Sephora, The Vitamin Shoppe, Thrive Market, The Detox Market, Amazon, Nordstrom, Pharmaca, Erewhon Market, and Milk & Honey. The strategy has been successful. The company witnessed growth of 142% YoY for wholesale/retail and 77% YoY for DTC in 2021 and repeat customers averaging 60%+ average MoM. Sell-through at Sephora is 81% YoY.
Prima sells its products online and partners with retailers including Paris-based Sephora, Seattle-based Nordstrom, Marina del Rey-based Thrive Market, and Fairfax-based Erewhon.
New Product Innovation
Prima remains nimble, reacting to the market and listening closely to its consumers, and continues to evolve formulation and innovate product formats. The newest product launch, Chill Out, is a nutrient-dense Vegan CBD Chew combining 20 mg broad-spectrum organic hemp CBD per serving plus magnesium and ten neuro-supportive nutrients. Its patent-pending, plant-powered delivery system addresses major deficiencies with traditional gummies.
Co-developed with a neuropharmacologist and nutritional biochemist, Chill Out is designed to actively address underlying nutrient deficiencies that contribute to stress, burnout, and fatigue. The brand claims Chill Out outperforms the traditional "gummy" and "CBD gummy" in ingredient quality, delivery system, and overall efficacy, reducing stress, soothing tension, and supporting healthy adrenal function.
"The modern-day stress epidemic is wreaking havoc on our bodies and minds, and we all need daily, fast relief to escape the chaos. Unlike the standard gummies that are loaded with sugar and toxins, we spent over two years designing a truly health-conscious formula that enables immediate uptake via oral micro-vascular absorption, surpassing traditional gummies with its exceptional bioavailability and optimal absorption. Co-developed by leading doctors, Chill Out's patent-pending plant-based formula manages healthy cortisol levels and actively calms the body and mind within minutes. It's a delightful, instant way to take the edge off and just chill, without the hangover or the high," said Christopher Gavigan, Prima's founder and Co-CEO.
The $3.7 billion global gummy vitamin and supplement market is ripe for innovation. The majority of products on the market contain known questionable, unhealthy ingredients like refined sugars, FD&C food dyes, and animal by-products like gelatin. The $2.1 billion global CBD gummy market is expected to grow to $13.9 billion by 2028, and Prima's Chill Out will set the new elevated standard for pure, conscious ingredients and format innovation, serving informed consumers an alternative that aligns with their values and plant-led lifestyles.
Chill Out's launch campaign, "No Gummy Business," aims to educate consumers about the negative health effects of traditional CBD gummies and gummy vitamins by questioning the typical ingredients in these products.
"The CBD gummy is contradictory in nature. How can we be calling this a supplement or health product when the majority on the market contain known toxins like refined sugar, potentially harmful dyes and colorants, and animal by-products like gelatin that don't align with the vegan and plant-based lifestyle? It's time we stop undermining the helpful active ingredients in these products with unnecessary additives. Finally, there's a better and much needed alternative, with added benefits," Assaf said.
The Future, and Funding
To date, the brand has raised north of $12 million in two rounds of seed funding and financing from institutional investors including Cincinnati-based H Ventures, Woodside-based Defy Partners, and New York-based Greycroft and Lerer Hippeau. In a statement last May announcing the $9.2 million in new funding, Gavigan said, "Prima is even more emboldened to broaden our digital and retail strategies, build best-in-class education partnerships and ensure these therapeutic botanical compounds are destigmatized, understood and accessible for all."
Laurel Angelica Myers, Prima co-founder and Co-CEO, said, "Our team brings institutional strategy, sophistication, capability and execution to a burgeoning sector that has yet to see any brands like Prima. As a Certified B Corporation that is Carbon and Plastic Neutral Certified and EWG Verified, Prima is built on strong, sophisticated, sustainable infrastructure across every touchpoint of the business."
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