In March, after spending two years as CEO of the U.S. arm of Scottish craft brewery BrewDog, Tanisha Robinson took on a new position within the company as its Chief Disruption Officer, a move that put her in charge of seeking out the next big trends in beer and beverage to help the company stay ahead of the industry.
Almost immediately, she took an interest in CBD — something BrewDog wasn’t ready to embrace just yet. Rather than let the opportunity get away, Robinson quit her job in July and founded W*nder (pronounced Wonder), a CBD-infused sparkling water brand set to launch this January.
“The point of that role was to assume that not everything BrewDog is doing today is going to work in the future,” Robinson told BevNET this week. “I basically kind of disrupted myself out of a job.”
Based in Columbus, Ohio, W*nder is a line of sparkling waters containing 20 mg of CBD per 12 oz. can along, with various adaptogens and other functional ingredients. The product will launch in four SKUs: Breakfast Club (blood orange, mint and ginger flavor with vitamin B12, L-tyrosine and ginseng), Born to Run (lemon and rosemary flavor with valerian root, L-theanine and rhodiola rosea), Fast Times (cucumber, mint and lime flavor with schisandra and gotu kola), and Night Moves (blueberry and basil flavor with melatonin, chamomile and ashwagandha). The line will retail for $19.99 per 4-pack and will also be available in single units.
Though the sparkling water category has been a popular platform for upstart CBD brands — with companies such as Recess, Daytrip, Good Day, Dram, Sweet Reason, and Weller all launching within the past two years — Robinson told BevNET that she intends to launch W*nder as a regional play in Ohio, where CBD beverages are still sparse.
“A lot of people ask am I worried about competition,” she said. “Well, I’ve sold t-shirts and craft beer so I feel pretty good about this space. I think there’s going to be a lot, lot, lot of new players in the game, so the question will be who has the right brand and the ability to connect with their customers so they can then have staying power in the market.”
The brand name, she said, is both easy to remember and invokes positive feelings in consumers. However, due to difficulties trademarking the word “Wonder,” Robinson opted to use an asterisk in the name (stylized on the can with a hemp leaf).
To-date W*nder has been mostly bootstrapped by Robinson along with investment from BrewDog co-founders James Watt and Martin Dickie. However, Robinson is careful to note that Watt and Dickie have invested as individuals and there are currently no plans for a strategic partnership with W*nder and BrewDog. Robinson added that she is currently raising additional funds from friends and family.
Robinson is currently W*nder’s only employee, however she said she plans to hire a sales team and supply chain managers closer to January.
“In terms of the business model, I’m pretty inspired by Fever Tree,” she said. “They built their empire not on the production side but on sales, marketing, logistics and relationship management. From a strategic point, that’s the direction I’m heading in, in terms of building out my team.”
At launch, Robinson intends to target independent retail and on-premise accounts, including yoga and pilates studios and salons. W*nder, she said, will employ an aggressive field marketing strategy emphasizing sampling and consumer education. The company is also planning to open a pop-up retail store to serve as a “central hub” to begin consumer outreach.
In addition to capitalizing on the emerging CBD products space, W*nder also includes a social mission that Robinson calls “The 420 Rule.” According to Robinson, 4.20% of all profits will be reinvested into communities of color that have been harmed by the prohibition of cannabis by helping entrepreneurs raise capital for cannabis-focused business ventures.
“As I look at this industry and this space there’s already a bunch of wealthy straight white dudes who are investing and going to make a fortune, while a lot of black and brown people — sort of the OG entrepreneurs of cannabis — are doing decades in prison for a tiny baggie of cannabis from an illegal stop and frisk,” Robinson said. “It’s difficult for entrepreneurs of color to access capital to build businesses. Some of the states that are legalizing cannabis for recreational use are expunging records, vacating convictions and setting aside licenses for entrepreneurs from these communities. But there’s still the barrier of capital to help them get to the next level.”