Interview with Antonin Cohen, CEO, Harmony
Prior to January 2019’s launch event, our conference producer David Jones sat down with Antonin Cohen of Harmony to gain a wider understanding of the markets in Europe for CBD products.
David Jones (DJ): For our readers, please could you introduce yourself, your company and product range
Antonin Cohen (AC): Harmony (https://meetharmony.com/) pioneered the most versatile CBD products in Europe—trusted for their unrivalled quality, top-notch branding, and frictionless compliance. Four years ago, we were the first company to release an e-liquid made with CBD isolate. Today, Harmony is the biggest provider of pure CBD isolate in Europe.
Our team of 29 employees in Barcelona—along with our multilingual e-commerce platform and distribution network of more than 2000 retailers—proudly ships beloved CBD products to over 26 countries all over the world.
We developed 11 unique e-liquid blends based on carefully crafted terpene combinations. We offer 3 ranges with concentrations from 0-1000mg of CBD. Each range of aromas is aimed at cannabis and tobacco smokers or vapers enthusiasts. Harmony also offers a propriety set of starter kits and hand-picked e-cigarette devices to complement our e-liquid product line.
We also help others companies to launch their own CBD & Terpenes products with our lab services Clarity (https://claritylabservices.com/)
DJ: What are some of the unique challenges you face in the Cannabis industry?
AC: The European market is fragmented and navigating the shifting regulatory landscape is incredibly tricky. As a result, no matter how many local competitors jump into the field, very few can achieve the scale, sales, and distribution capabilities on a pan-European basis that we have.
Not only have we been active—publicly and privately as a thought leader and policy advocate—with 11 different nationalities in our team, we are the only company operating in 7 languages. It allows us to target a much larger market size and adapt our strategy to local regulations.
DJ: What developments on the horizon could impact future opportunities?
AC: When we first started, people were really sceptical about products made from hemp. With so little information out there, it is easy to confuse CBD—which, according to the WHO just this past December, doesn’t get you “high” and is not generally used recreationally—with its polar opposite, THC.
Fortunately, regular positive appearances in the media and many influencers supporting the use of CBD is turning the tide.
We think that the European market represents a tremendous opportunity in itself, however, and we aspire to be a global leader. We’re looking to expand to North America in 2019 given current signals towards a favorable regulatory climate.
DJ: What advice would you give to industry professionals just starting out in the industry?
AC: Many CBD companies have a large range of CBD products but they lack authenticity, traceability, quality, and expertise. With regulations constantly shifting—and radically across markets—developing trust with consumers and helping them make the smartest decisions for themselves is the only clear path to both acquisition and long-term loyalty.
Our customers trust Harmony because we take great pains to go above and beyond. We want to help people make smart choices about the products they buy.
An example: We started out with a small range of nicotine terpene e-liquids that were TPD registered. Since there weren’t any regulations around CBD at the time to help consumers make smart choices, Harmony turned to the existing TPD framework that many people were already familiar with. In keeping our promise to ourselves and our customers, we continue to push a step further by testing our CBD with independent labs across Europe to certify the content and ensure they are free from harmful substances.
All this allows consumers to trust in Harmony—an important competitive advantage and distinguishing characteristic about the products they spend their hard-earned money on.
DJ: Where do you see the global cannabis market over the next 5 years?
AC: The CBD industry is booming; demand has increased at an incredibly quick pace and companies have been investing in growing facilities, extraction labs, and new products to meet this demand.
Harmony focuses on CBD e-liquids for the vaping industry, which compete directly with nicotine e-liquids. We believe that, with time, CBD e-liquids will overtake Nicotine e-liquids. In that space, the past few years have witnessed the enormous growth and success of key players in the European and North American market.
The UK is one of our bigger, more vibrant markets. From there, Harmony has seen nice boosts throughout Germany, Italy, Holland, Spain, and Austria and we’ve ramped up our manufacturing and compliance capabilities to keep up. The vaping industry is really maturing and we’re delighted to see how receptive consumers are to CBD
The legal European cannabis industry is predicted to become a £multi-billion market within 5 years. An overwhelming proportion of sales will come from hemp and CBD products. With such wide-scale adoption of CBD, we expect more innovation into many different products both inside the vaping industry and out. Topicals, food, supplements, and applications we might not have even thought of yet could be drastically different from the way we know them today, in such a short time. It’s incredibly exciting.
DJ: How have laws and regulations impacted the industry in your current markets?
AC: Because we’ve been in the industry for over a decade, we were very careful from the very beginning to develop products best positioned to withstand potential regulatory setbacks.
THC is not detectable in our products so they are legal in most of the world. Our CBD is extracted from certified hemp—legally grown in Europe, and purified in an accredited laboratory. Our terpene flavors are created from plant-based isolated terpenes. Finally, e-liquids without nicotine are legal to sell in most of the world.
DJ: How do you manage a new product launch within the industry? What tactics, strategies and processes do you use?
AC: The European CBD e-liquids sector is relatively fragmented by geography, with only a handful of competitors successfully penetrating markets on a pan-European level. Each market is unique and at a different level of maturity—this is likely one of the most important facts to remember.
At Harmony, we pay very careful attention to what consumers are asking for. It’s crucial to understand what the common conversation is in a particular market in order to do two things. First, you want to join the conversation taking place and second (if you do the first part right), you’ll know which channels will be most effective to distribute both products and information. The choice to buy CBD is a personal one and needs to be treated that way.
DJ: What made you join the 2019 ‘Future Cannabis Strategies Europe’ conference?
AC: We think education is the key to develop a sustainable industry, so we are always happy to join a professional conference along great speakers.
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