CBD is a chemical compound naturally found in the cannabis plant and is now legal in all 50 states of the US.
NightFood Holdings contends CBD has long been understood to promote sleep without the psychoactive effects that many people associate with marijuana.
Sean Folkson, CEO at NightFood, said: “Consumers are at a tipping point in terms of the acceptance level [of cannabis], and it’s time to explore something with sleep benefits.”
The company recently engaged Dr Michael Grandner, a sleep expert from the University of Arizona, as an advisory board member to serve the nighttime snacks market. The company currently produces two nighttime snack bars: cookie n’ dreams and midnight chocolate crunch.
"Whoever is going to dominate the nighttime space could totally change the landscape of the snack category."
NightFood said 44% of snack consumption occurs at night, which represents a consumer spend of over $1bn per week on nighttime snacks, according to IRI data.
However, Dr Grandner said the research on CBD and sleep is still emerging, "but what is there is quite compelling.
"I look forward to helping the company evaluate the short- and long-term effects of CBD on sleep and how those might be helpful in a night snack ... and will assist in product development if and when we get to that stage.”
Even though NightFood has its eye on the $2.1bn CBD market (by 2020) in the US, it expects nighttime snacks to continue to be its cornerstone business, and be “more strategically valuable than the rapidly growing CBD market,” said Folkson.
Using ingredients that support better sleep
He added NightFood has two key messages for consumers: “One is to keep away from the extra calories and the guilt that comes with [snacking at night]; and the other is to help them sleep better by removing some of the stuff that’s getting in their way.
"Just because snacks have healthy ingredients doesn’t mean they are appropriate before bed,” he said.
“Companies making healthy snacks [for daytime consumption] are energy snacks makers. And energy snacks are about keeping you going, having good energy. You don't want some of those ingredients before bed."
“We’re going the other way. We’re using ingredients that support better sleep, like extra magnesium and calcium. We’re also using fewer energy boosting ingredients you find in energy bars and energy drinks.
“It’s not just about sugar versus no sugar, or the number of calories," said Folkson, noting there’s a lot of ingredients-based thinking throughout the product formulation process.
"We also think chocamine (a caffeine-free cocoa extra) is a perfect nighttime ingredient that helps focus and calm the mind, and suppress cravings.”
NightFood has experienced "substantial growth" in dollar sales since it started selling products on Amazon four months ago. NightFood was previously only available through a few US retailers, including Meijer. Now, it has realized direct-to-consumer marketing via e-commerce is more effective in improving sales.
“We have run some Facebook tests and campaigns to give away samples, because we wanted to see what kind of messaging resonates with the consumer. We could generate between $2 and $3 in sales for each dollar spent on advertising, that’s a powerful metric that allows us to rapidly increase spending,” said Folkson.
NightFood relaunched its own website recently. “We expect a lot of people to buy [our products] from Amazon, but there are people buying directly from us, which means higher growth margins, less promotional discounts and less promotional fees being paid to Amazon,” he said.
When the CBD-infused snacks line comes to fruition, Folkson said e-commerce would be a good platform to test the new products. Once NightFood receives positive consumer feedback, it will make its CBD snacks available through brick-and-mortar stores.
Acquisition ‘inevitable’ as sales soar
Commenting on potential acquisition, Folkson said: “I don’t think we’re going to have a choice.
“Those snack companies know people are eating snacks at night, but they don’t chase trends early or develop new products. That’s why Kellogg acquired a company like RXBar, General Mills acquired Epic Provisions and Hershey acquired Krave beef jerky,” he said.
However, he added that nighttime nutrition has yet to become a proven concept.
“Until it’s proven, it’s very unlikely those big guys will dip their feet in because none of them know how big the category is going to be. But I think the acquisition offers will be inevitable once we hit some of the metrics.
“Whoever is going to dominate the nighttime space could totally change the landscape of the snack category," said Folkson.
In addition to developing a CBD-infused snacks line, NightFood is looking into gluten-free and nighttime ice creams.