The CBD-beauty investment space is heating up.
On Thursday, private equity firm LB Equity announced an investment in beauty brand Herb Essentials, after launching in January a $50 million fund to invest in companies that sit at the cross section of cannabis, beauty and wellness. The move follows the fund’s first investment in CBD retailer Standard Dose, in January, for an undisclosed sum. In October, LB Equity will also debut women’s beauty and stress-relief skin-care and ingestibles brand Mellow Giraffe, which is built in-house. Terms of the Herb Essentials deal were not disclosed, but Ian Knowles, director at LB Equity, categorized the company’s share as a “significant minority.” LB Equity’s fund invests in companies earning as little as $1 million to $3 million in annual sales. It plans to grow them to between $20 million and $50 million in sales, by supporting them with their general operations, distribution and product development.
Private equity has been gaining a larger foothold in the CBD space, despite cannabis’s still opaque legal regulations. Investors often have a shared hope of growing a brand that will be ripe for acquisition when beauty conglomerates and CPG companies are ready to take the leap forward.
“We see a major tectonic shift in the market, with the move toward natural and clean ingredients [like CBD],” said Jay Lucas, managing partner at LB Equity. “There is a murky legal environment and, as a result, a number of players, including [most] private equity and strategic buyers, are on the sidelines. That has allowed smaller players like us [who are willing to invest] to take advantage of this window of opportunity.”
Two-year-old Herb Essentials markets itself as a holistic cannabis brand that offers both beauty and wellness products. Herb Essentials will use its new infusion of capital to increase its product portfolio, make new hires, increase distribution beyond small boutiques like NYC-based Chillhouse to larger retailers, and invest in its first-ever marketing beyond posts to its Instagram account, where it has close to 4,000 followers. Robert Lund, founder and CEO of Herb Essentials, said the first key hire will be an operations manager. He declined to state annual sales for the brand, but said the company expects to double its sales in 2019.
The CBD mergers and acquisitions space has seen significant movement since the beginning of the year. In addition to LB Equity’s own investments, skin-care and wellness brand This Works, which does not sell CBD products, was acquired by cannabis company Canopy Growth Corp. in May for approximately $52 million. In August, Redwood Holdings-owned CBD brand Lord Jones was acquired by marijuana company Cronos Group Inc. for $300 million. Lucas said that LB Equity has the potential to not only grow existing CBD brands but also to work with brands that do not currently offer CBD but have the potential to do so.
In the short term, however, LB Equity is hoping to replicate the success of early players in the space. “We are on the path to creating the next Lord Jones,” Lucas said. “That’s the model of what we are creating here.”