Matthew, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Firstly, I am a proud Yorkshire man. You won’t be hearing the thick northern accent so that’s great for you! I have been based in York all my life having studied at university before getting a career in sustainability on the railway. It was in my professional career as a sustainability manager that I met my co-founder, Gregor Pecnik. We both had a passion for sustainability and wanted to create something that reflected our beliefs in a mainstream product.
At Cannasa, we believe hemp can be a force for good and we want to increase its recognition by producing great tasting, innovative, non-alcoholic drinks that are good for people and the planet. Hemp is after all one of the most sustainable plants that can not only help us fight climate change, it can support local biodiversity and as a sustainable material can reduce pressure on the environment.
At the same time, we recognise that Cannabidiol (CBD) extracted from hemp could improve wellbeing and compliment people’s active lifestyles. Combining these two elements together Cannasa wanted to create a product that will be attractive and will help popularise hemp and its benefits. Creating a drink that would be tasty and also good for people and the planet was a good place to start. And so Cannasa was born. I was also named after the hemp plant – Cannabis Sativa.
I have to admit it’s been a roller coaster of a ride and not one for the faint-hearted. Starting a business in one of the most competitive markets along with navigating around Covid 19 and supply chain issues has got me a few grey hairs – I am only 27!
You co-founded Cannasa, can you tell us a bit more about the product?
We have two products, our Rose and Raspberry CBD lemonade and our Peach and Jasmine CBD Lemonade. We have been fortunate to win some awards with these including:
1. Best New Drink Product 2019 – Rose & Raspberry CBD Lemonade at Food Matters Live
2. Innobev 2020 Finalist for Best Premium Drink – Rose & Raspberry CBD Lemonade
3. Innobev 2021 Finalist for Best CBD Drink – Peach & Jasmine CBD Lemonade
Can you explain why Cannasa is unique?
What sets Cannasa apart from other CBD drinks in this emerging category:
• Innovative. Cannasa is the only drink that uses microencapsulated CBD, which has no aroma or bitter taste of hemp and will not degrade with exposure to light or oxidation. Our CBD will not separate from the drink or make the drink look cloudy.
• Good for people. We use only natural fruit juice and botanicals. We do not use soy or egg-based emulsifiers (potential allergens found in other CBD drinks), preservatives, artificial ingredients or sweeteners. 100% vegan friendly.
• 100% planet positive. We use sustainable packaging (100% recyclable glass, compostable hemp label), source ingredients locally (beet sugar from East Anglia) and work with bottlers that use renewables. We will be the first carbon-neutral CBD drink by offsetting all emissions we have generated since our launch in 2019.
What challenges did you encounter and overcome?
If you can think of a problem, we have faced it, from supply chain issues to failed bottling runs. However, it is a true test of an entrepreneur to learn from every mistake and hurdle to overcome them the next time it arises.
Firstly, the biggest challenge was navigating Covid 19 and the impact it had on all our listings. Cannasa relies heavily on the business 2 business volume and within a blink of an eye our volume dropped to nearly zero. We must go back to the drawing board. We recognised the impact it was having our community, so we decided to donate product which was usually going to our listing. We donated as many bottles as we can of Cannasa to food banks and charities. We had a target to donate 10,000 bottles last summer, but in fact we donated over 14,000! We have donated bottles to Bicester Food Bank (part of Trussell Trust), SOFEA, The Real Junk Food Project.
Another challenge was to drinks industry itself. It is a very competitive market. Unfortunately, we are not in the place to have money invested into large listing, so we had to be strategic about the wins we get. We really focused on cementing good listings in premium venues which would separate us in the market. It is a challenge when you see other brands going into supermarkets, but we must remain on course.
You’d kindly decided to donate a part of the proceed of the sale of Cannasa to The Drinks Trust. Why did you choose us among many charities?
With lockdown hopefully a thing of the past it is easy to forget those who are still struggling from the repercussions of the 16 months. The on-trade sector and its workforce are key to survival of many drinks brands, and we believe by supporting the Drinks Trust we can help the drinks and hospitality community best we can. I am proud that we are partnering with the Trust and going the extra mile. After speaking with the Drinks Trust Team, Alessandra, Anton and Ana I am blown away about how this charity supports those within the drinks industry. I wish we could only do more but right now as a small brand we will do everything we can to help.
Where can we find Cannasa?
You can find Cannasa online at our shop where every bottle sold will support our donation to The Drinks Trust. Also, you can find Cannasa at many premium outlets such as Harrods, Daylesford Farms, Sourced Market & Selfridges. Eateries include the Adam Handling Group venues.