Q+A with Adrian Clarke, Co-founder and Chief Commercial Officer at Tenacious Labs

Adrian Clarke

In our most recent interview, Business Leader spoke to Adrian Clarke, Co-founder and Chief Commercial Officer at Tenacious Labs about the CBD industry and discretionary spend space.

What is your background and what led to the formation of Tenacious Labs?

At Delarki, my business partner, Nicholas Morland, and I were looking to invest in the cannabis industry for some time, but we couldn’t find anything that remotely survived our due diligence processes. Then it all changed when Covid hit. I realised that governments around the world would need to create new industries to maximize tax revenue, and this represented the biggest tailwind the Cannabis industry had seen thus far. So, my partner and I went all-in on the industry.

We have seen the benefits of CBD first-hand and witnessed the difference it can make to people’s day-to-day lives. With our experience in private equity and premium discretionary spend, we saw a huge opportunity to help deliver these benefits to consumers around the world and launched Tenacious Labs.

What other brands have you created in the discretionary spend space?

In addition to Tenacious Labs, we have launched AXIA. Axia is a new subcategory of Mastika spirit. Clear, dry and 40% ABV, it is distilled from the sap of the Mastic tree found on the southern parts of the Greek island of Chios. We have developed and refined it as an ingredient and will initially introduce it across the US and UK markets via bar owners and mixologists.

How is the current market for consumer CBD products looking? What trends are you seeing?

CBD is a hugely exciting industry and one that is driving a wave of innovative new product development to the benefit of consumers, who can now find CBD-infused variants across countless product categories. This ranges from lubricants to leggings, hand cream to hair gel.

I have a background in the premium spirits industry, which has a lot of crossover with cannabis in terms of regulation. The global cannabinoid industry needs further regulation in order to help the industry fulfil its value creation potential and ultimately provide a safe environment for all stakeholders, including businesses and consumers.

From our perspective, we see this following an incredibly similar model to the spirits industry post-prohibition. Like the Portman Group, we believe that all stakeholders need to come together and self-regulate to create the ‘ABV’ for the cannabis industry. That’s why we have set-up, and sit as Chair of, the Jersey Cannabis Services Advisory Group, which is acting as a catalyst for change across the British Isles.

As the industry regulates, new product development will accelerate as businesses will have a clearer framework. In the next few years, I believe that CBD will be seen within most discretionary spend product categories, particularly as more consumers try CBD for the first time and witness its benefits. We are particularly bullish on CBD drinks as they can give a high bioavailability of CBD and be easily dosed.

What effect did the pandemic have on the market?

Over the past 18-months, we have seen continued strong demand for CBD and cannabinoid-related products. CBD has anti-inflammatory properties and can aid sleep, as well as overall wellbeing. The pandemic has been a stressful time for all, and we’ve seen more consumers considering alternatives such as CBD to offer day-to-day relief.

This has also been seen in areas such as fitness, where we’ve seen a growing number of consumers incorporate CBD into their post-workout routine. We believe this is likely to be a consequence of consumers having more time to research CBD’s benefits, and investing in home workout sets.

Outside of this, the market has also continued to flourish, and we’ve seen several UK CBD brands come to market and list on the London Stock Exchange. This shows a growing confidence in CBD as a long-term consumer industry—and one that is becoming more investable—which is really encouraging.

What effect has the acquisition of two Colorado-based companies had on Tenacious Labs?

Our acquisitions of Press Pause and SZM LLC provide Tenacious Labs with a differentiated, lifestyle-led consumer brand and industry-leading contract manufacturing capabilities.

A core principle of our approach is that each product must only ever use consistent, safe ingredients and is rigorously tested in the UK and North America. Our acquisition of SZM LLC—now operating as TL Manufacturing–helps us to make further progress in this regard as it provides us with greater control of our supply chain, which ultimately helps provide cleaner, safer products.

With each of these brands, we have also welcomed new colleagues who bring a wealth of expertise to the group. From SZM, this includes its CEO Zac Larsen, who joined as Head of Wellness, as well as its Chief Operations Officer, Michel Defenbau, who joined as Head of Production. Together, Zac and Michel provide Tenacious Labs with industry-leading expertise in the regulatory space.

Elsewhere, Dawn Fable, previous Co-founder of Press Pause, has joined Tenacious Labs as Head of Pause Lifestyle Brands. She brings a wealth of experience to the group and will support the development of new, wellbeing-led products across our portfolio of brands.

We believe that these acquisitions provide Tenacious Labs with a strong North American platform that will support our future growth, both in the US and overseas.

How do you plan to fulfil your aim of becoming a world-leading, consumer-centric cannabis group?

In the short-term, we are executing our ambitious growth strategy, which includes the upcoming UK launches of our organic brands, Hoo Raa and Walker & Morland. We are also planning on launching Press Pause – our Colorado-based women’s lifestyle brand – in the UK in the coming months. We believe these brands, which have unique products and brand values, provide us with a strong platform for long-term growth, particularly when combined with our industry-leading manufacturing capabilities out of Colorado.

Additionally, as we grow, we will also significantly bolster our team with new hires across the group. In recent weeks, this has seen James Bagley, Co-founder and CEO of luxury CBD brand OTO, join Tenacious Labs a Board Director where he will support international growth. Under his leadership, OTO has experienced significant growth over the last year and has expanded through partnerships with leading retailers, fitness and leisure operators to seamlessly incorporate CBD into consumers’ daily rituals and routines.

We are delighted to have James join us and believe his expertise in driving growth and supporting the development of our global brands will be crucial.