MJBizMag January 2021 - 10

FiveQuestions | with John Mackey
Dialing in Dosage
Industry needs to crack down on inflated CBD labeling before it damages
consumer perceptions, Whole Foods co-founder says
By Solomon Israel
J
ohn Mackey knows all about building a fringe business
into a thriving mainstream brand.
The CEO and co-founder of Whole Foods Market saw
an early opportunity in natural and organic foods, growing a
small store in Austin, Texas, into a global natural foods leader
that was acquired by Amazon for $13.7 billion in 2017.
Mackey, who co-wrote the book " Conscious Capitalism:
Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business, " recently gave the
keynote address at MJBizCon 2020 before sitting down for a
virtual Q&A with Marijuana Business Daily CEO Chris Walsh.
We've been trying to land you as a keynote speaker at
MJBizCon since 2016. Sometimes executives outside
the industry are hesitant to speak at a cannabis
business conference. Did you have any hesitancy in
agreeing to join us?
Initially, when you reached out a few years ago, my PR team
looked at it and said, " There's no upside for Whole Foods,
but there might be downside. "
But the world's changed a lot in the last three, four, five
years. More and more states are legalizing cannabis first
for medical purposes and then recreationally. So it's no
longer seen as a radical thing. There's little doubt that
over time we'll probably have it in, if not 50 states, in
almost all the states.
Cannabis has a lot in common with the naturalproducts
industry. Can you draw any parallels
between the evolution of natural products over the
past couple of decades and what we might see as
the cannabis industry grows and matures?
When the natural-products industry got started, it was way
on the fringe. That's one of the things it has in common
with the cannabis industry. It wasn't taken seriously.
It started out mostly with retail: Initially, we had a lot
of retailers and not much product. Now that's reversed
because it's moved into the mainstream. The supermarket
companies are all selling natural and organic foods.
Now it's become more and more of a product-dominated
industry. The retailers are almost secondary because the
products are being sold everywhere.
If you could create a category, and you could create the
brand that would dominate that category, you could make a
ton of money. I've seen it.
I see no reason why that can't happen in the cannabis
industry. But as long as cannabis is seen as just a large
category, then that will limit the potential for brands to
stake a claim. Instead, you have to create categories within
the cannabis industry.
Large grocery chains, including Whole Foods, have
started selling topical CBD products over the past two
years, and they're devoting more shelf space to these
products. What led Whole Foods to go that route?
We wanted to sell CBD long before we started selling it. I've
been using CBD myself for many years, mostly as a topical.
Those folks that have this passion
and imagination and good
entrepreneurial instincts, they're
going to reinvent the world. "
- John Mackey
CEO and co-founder of Whole Foods Market
10 Marijuana Business Magazine | January 2021

MJBizMag January 2021

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