CBD in Japan: mellow eyes retail expansion for ‘relaxing’ CBD soda and supplements

By Guan Yu Lim contact

- Last updated on GMT

mellow’s existing lineup consist of a soda (100mL) containing 10mg of CBD, and a supplement containing 300mg of CBD, 3000mg of GABA and 300mg of L-cysteine. ©Mellow
mellow’s existing lineup consist of a soda (100mL) containing 10mg of CBD, and a supplement containing 300mg of CBD, 3000mg of GABA and 300mg of L-cysteine. ©Mellow

Related tags: Japan, Cbd

Japan’s mellow has established its first physical retail presence in Japan after launching its CBD carbonated beverage and supplements online in June this year.

The brand has sold more than 10,000 of its CBD soda and 1,000 CBD supplements on its website since the launch, with sales growing 150% month-on-month.

In September, mellow established a physical retail presence with b8ta, a US-based company which offered retail as a service (RaaS) solution for brands to list their products in physical stores. mellow’s products can be found at the b8ta’s store at Shinjuku Marui Main Building, Tokyo.

mellow is also banking on entering the convenience store channel with its CBD soda within the next two years.

The direct to consumer brand is owned by Linkship, and backed by Japan-based venture capital, Anri.

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Relax and destress

mellow’s existing lineup consist of a soda (100mL) containing 10mg of CBD, and a supplement containing 300mg of CBD, 3000mg of GABA and 300mg of L-cysteine.

The products are marketed with anti-stress and relaxation functions.

According to Kohei Hosono, COO and co-founder of mellow: “Japan is a stressful society that isconstantly working which leads to many health and mental problems such as suicide and anxiety​.”

We are a wellness D2C brand and we hope to make a positive impact on the stressed and burn-out prone society in Japan​.”

In studies conducted worldwide, CBD was found to interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) to reduce stress and anxiety. The ECS is what regulates mood, memory, immune and others.

According to Hosono, there were other CBD supplements in Japan, but these were mostly imported from the US and Europe.

mellow’s products also include GABA and L-cysteine. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that blocks or inhibits certain brain signals which decreases activity in the nervous system and produces a calming effect. L-theanine works with GABA to ease stress and promote relaxation.

We were the first brand to combine CBD, GABA and other stress-relieving ingredients. We are also the first CBD carbonated beverage brand in Japan​,” Hosono said.

The firm imports its CBD from overseas as hemp is highly regulated in the country. Its other ingredients are sourced in Japan.

For production, mellow works with a supplement manufacturer and a beverage manufacturer in Japan to produce its CBD products.

New and growing

As with most other countries, CBD is a sensitive topic in Japan.

According to Hosono, education was key to the success of CBD uptake in the country. As a lifestyle brand, mellow also produces its own educational magazine, sending it along to consumers who buy its products.

The firm hopes that by having a physical retail presence, consumers can understand the product better.

The firm initially sold the products on its website in June, which was advantageous as Japan had just come out of a state of emergency. But online also had its own set of challenges such as advertising.

Hosono told us: “Typically when you launch a product, you put an advertisement online to gain some attention. But CBD brands cannot do this. Google, Amazon, Twitter and Instagram do not allow CBD advertisements​.”

However, Hosono said since it was not relying on ads, and says its growth of 150% m-o-m was sustainable.

Furthermore, its supplement product is also offered as a subscription service, to attract regular customers.

R&D for mellow’s products took about one year.

Hosono added: “I am very certain that there will be a lot of new CBD products in Japan to come but we are unique for the products that we produce​.”

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