As I write this, I’m on “dad duty” filling milk bottles for my two toddlers at home. Like much of our team, I’ve been working from home full-time since the second week of March. Our company rolled out this measure to preserve the sanitization of our laboratory and minimize potential exposure to our production staff. These workers are crucial to maintaining normal operations of the business and are still showing up to our facility every day.
The extent of this crisis has become much more real in a personal way over the past several weeks. Between recently learning that my cousin has tested positive for the virus and seeing the daily news reports about the now-historic unemployment rate, it’s really hitting home in both a literal and figurative sense. My personal anxiety levels have certainly increased, and my top concern every day is for the health and safety of my family, friends and employees.
From a business perspective, COVID-19 has also resulted in an economic crisis that’s impacted every industry—the hemp industry being no exception. Fortunately for Bluebird Botanicals and many other CBD companies, food and dietary supplements have been designated as essential by the government. Other non-essential hemp companies, however, have been forced to shut down for an indeterminate amount of time. Those with primarily e-commerce businesses are still fortunately faring well compared to brick-and-mortar companies now in dire straits.
Even for Bluebird and other essential e-commerce businesses who are able to keep going, this crisis has intensely shaken up our operations. We’ve scrambled to shift suppliers and increase inventory to protect against stock shortages if an outbreak were to occur in our office, all while already running on a skeleton crew with half of our employees at home. We’re fortunate enough to not be in “crisis mode,” but it’s certainly cost us extra time and money in addition to diminishing our wholesale revenue.
There is hope, though, for those of us in the dietary supplement industry that our businesses will be able to sustain through the crisis. Market research studies have shown the supplement industry has fared well in previous economic downturns such as the 2008 recession. Even during times of financial hardship, health appears to remain a top priority for consumers, and thus, their supplement purchases continue and, in many cases, increase.
The fact that a health crisis is at the root of this economic recession suggests the above trend will only strengthen this time around. In fact, we already have some proof that this is occurring. The New York Times reported that sales of vitamin C supplements have grown 146% in the past month while Google Search Trends reported a massive uptick in online searches for terms, including vitamin C. On the CBD side, Bluebird is also continuing to benefit from solid e-commerce sales performance and organic search traffic.
It’s difficult to predict what the future holds for the hemp industry or for the global economy. The industry may consolidate as non-essential and brick-and-mortar companies are forced into closure or selling. However, we have hope and optimism that most of us will be able to ride out this storm and find new, creative ways to thrive.
I’ve observed over the past month that this global pandemic is a humanitarian issue that requires us all to set aside our ideologies and borders and find new ways to work together and connect as a community. We are all one, and we have the ability to forge the path ahead together and support one another through this crisis.
Fortunately, I’ve already seen this happening. From the massive outpouring of support for frontline workers to the new virtual relationships connecting people from across the world, this crisis has forced a shift in the way we see each other. While this global emergency will surely continue to disrupt our lives for the foreseeable future, our communities are coming together. I find this refreshing after having witnessed a growing divide over the past five or so years. Despite the fear and uncertainty we’re facing today, perhaps we’ll still emerge from this crisis as a better society.
Brandon Beatty began his career in the herbal industry in 2009 when joining the Ananda Apothecary, an online retailer of herbal extracts based in Boulder, Colorado. He founded Bluebird Botanicals in 2012 and has served as its CEO throughout his tenure. Brandon is a dynamic professional who is widely considered a leading expert in the hemp-CBD industry, and he has been involved in a handful of influential associations over the last six years. In addition to his work at Bluebird, he currently serves on the board of trustees of the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) and the board of directors of the U.S. Hemp Roundtable, both of which are playing fundamental roles in the quickly evolving hemp industry.