Commercial Director Gives Top Cannabis Insights

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We spoke with Paul Fox who was working as the Commercial Director for a leading US Pharma company at the time of interview. Here are the main takeaways!

How long have you been involved in the industry?

Probably around 18 months including my research into the CBD category before jumping in with both feet.

What were you doing before you joined?

Before entering the CBD category I worked in Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) managing businesses around the globe for companies as diverse as pharmaceutical, haircare, and luxury cosmetics businesses. I also spent a brief period in finance before concluding that consumer goods is where my passion lies.

What was the thought process that drove you to the industry?

As I said, I wanted to get back into a dynamic, consumer-focused industry again that offered real consumer benefits, and what could be more dynamic and exciting than the cannabis wellbeing category?

Based on your previous FMCG experience — what skills and expertise have you brought forward with you that has been useful?

I think that putting the ever-changing regulatory landscape to one side, the CBD market follows the basic rules of consumer goods which are to identify your target consumer, understand their needs and wants, and how your products need to be positioned to meet these needs. Then identify your go-to-market strategy to reach your consumer (retail, communication, B2C etc)

What was the attraction to this space?

I think it is the dynamic nature of the category and that it is being forced to evolve from a rapidly growing, unregulated market with lots of new entrants piling into a more mature category with more structure and rules that will encourage the serious long term players to look at investing in UK CBD. I believe we are starting to see this evolution through the requirements of Novel Foods regulation which I think will cause a shakeout of the industry.

What were your assumptions and expectations before joining this industry?

Largely what I’ve mentioned already which is that the CBD category is going through significant change which will result in a very different brand landscape in the future. I also had a perception that I would meet some very dynamic and interesting people with lots of great ideas and I haven’t been disappointed!

Where did you get your information and research from before you joined?

There is a huge amount of consumer research online and I met some very knowledgeable and helpful people in the industry at the various networking groups available in this space. And here comes the shameless plug, I found talking with Tom and the highly knowledgeable team at Blume very informative and they put me in touch with a number of key people in the industry who I learnt a lot from.

Now that you’re in the industry, what is it actually like? What are the actual challenges?

The industry is more or less as I mentioned earlier. I think it is very volatile at the moment, not just due to the changing regulatory framework the industry has to operate within but of course the added complication of Coronavirus and its short to medium impact on both the consumer and the retailer. If you know the answer to these questions, please let me know.

Without giving away too many insider secrets, what is it that you’re working on at the moment?

I’m currently working on a very interesting project with the European team of a major US pharma company that is evaluating the European market and specifically the UK CBD market. These guys are very professional and really understand the cannabis industry, both pharma, and wellness, and are taking a very thorough and planned approach to the markets before investing. Watch this space!

What advice would you give to anyone looking to get involved in the industry?

I think there are people far better qualified to give advice on this industry than me. I would just add that as in any consumer-led industry, as long as you understand your consumer, know and be clear about your proposition and go to market with integrity and professionalism then success is likely to follow if you persevere and learn and adapt.

Where do you see the industry going?

Following a period of significant change, I see the industry evolving into a more structured and focused consumer-led category with some really strong manufacturers and brands. I think the category will see the entry of some major players from the US which will continue to see category investment growth and will start to resemble more mature consumer packaged goods categories. I hope I’m right about this as it will secure the long term future of the CBD industry.

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