Yesterday prima, a wellness brand championing the use of CBD, announced it had closed a seed round of $3.3 million. The round was led by Lerer Hippeau, with participation from Greycroft and other undisclosed investors.
As of now, the website is just an email signup form to request early access to the site. The Santa Monica, CA-based prima plans to launch an education platform to share data and research about CBD and, eventually, sell CBD-infused products. (If you’re not familiar, CBD is short for “cannabidiol,” the non-hallucinogenic chemical compound in cannabis.)
According to Techcrunch, prima will initially peddle beauty and pain-management products. This entry point makes sense. One of prima’s founders, Christopher Gavigan, previously co-founded The Honest Company, a wellness brand which sells nontoxic beauty and household products. Besides beauty products, down the road, prima will add edible products to its lineup, including powders that can be added to everything from coffee to water. Each blend will have a different intended effect, such as sleep, energy, or immunity.
It’s a tumultuous time in the CBD market. The passage of the Farm Bill in late 2018 legalized sales of hemp-derived CBD, but the FDA has yet to approve CBD as GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe). In other words, it’s not exactly legal to sell food products infused with CBD.
Up until recently, however, regulators seemed to have been turning a blind eye to companies selling things like CBD-infused gummies or skin serums. But the tides may be changing. Just this week, the New York City Health Department issued a ban on CBD in food and beverage items and cracked down on local NYC establishments selling CBD-infused products.
That’s where the platform aspect of prima could really do some good. According to a press release from the company, prima wants to help lead the global transformation from “fear-based cannabis prohibition into a hemp industry fueled by facts, market data, medical research, customer-patient experiences, and evolving legislative solutions.” Essentially, prima want to help de-stigmatize CBD and re-label it as a wellness ingredient, not an intoxicant.
Though they don’t provide any details on how they plan to achieve this mission, there’s one reason that Gavigan can help move the needle on CBD acceptance for one reason: his resume. Gavigan’s past experience at the Honest Company — which built its brand on transparency and ethical, non-toxic products — could give prima a boost not only in terms of media buzz, but also consumer trust. True, his co-founder was Jessica Alba, who did a lot of heavy lifting to give Honest Company its status, but just being associated with the brand will work in Gavigan’s (and prima’s) favor.
On the regulatory side, Gavigan told Fortune that the startup also plans to work with the FDA to push CBD products labeled as a nutritional supplement — though again, he didn’t give any details.
We predicted that 2019 would be a big year for CBD. In fact, over the next three years, the CBD market is expected to grow to as much as $22 billion. However, continued regulatory hurdles and health department crackdowns would put a serious damper on what has the potential to be the next big wellness ingredient. Hopefully prima will be able to use its pedigree to destigmatize CBD for consumers — and maybe even get the FDA to play ball.