When Garrett Greller was creating a formula to help alleviate his own chronic arthritis pain, he had no way of knowing that, just a few years later, the brand he would go on to co-found would count Magic Johnson as an equity partner and Toni Braxton and Jane Fonda as celebrity brand ambassadors.
Greller had been diagnosed with arthritis as a teenager and had tried numerous remedies and prescriptions to treat his chronic pain, to no avail. As a sophomore in college, he began working with an accredited lab to create a hemp-based topical pain reliever that would work for him and millions of other Americans who were dealing with daily pain. The resulting product, Uncle Bud’s Topical Pain Reliever, is now part of the Uncle Bud’s range of 72 different hemp and CBD products that span skincare, personal care, feminine care and even pet care.
In just its first 24 months on the market, Uncle Bud’s launched with 27 major retailers in the US and the brand’s products are now sold in some 15,000 stores. Greller’s partner, co-founder Bruno Schiavi, is a retail veteran who has launched a number of successful brands in the US over the last 25 years. He says educating US consumers by sharing high-quality information about hemp and CBD products, and using celebrities to help spread the word, have been key to the rapid growth of the Uncle Bud’s brand.
Expanding into China had always been part of the company’s strategy and the Uncle Bud’s team views Tmall as the leader in the retail sector in China. Schiavi says Chinese consumers’ “great attitude toward skincare, health and natural pain relief” make the country a “great match” for Uncle Bud’s. When the brand was named one of the winners of the Tmall Global Pitch Fest, Schiavi said the team “wanted to go all in” with its launch in China by not only selling during the 11.11. Global Shopping Festival, but also launching a flagship store on Tmall Global.
Schiavi says his early conversations with the Tmall Global team convinced him of the importance of using local key opinion leaders (“KOLs,” as influencers are known in China) to help share the brand’s story in addition to American celebrity endorsers. The experts at Tmall also suggested that Uncle Bud’s launch with an expanded assortment to see which products resonate most with Chinese consumers.
Accordingly, the company is offering 20 different items as it launches in China, including pain relievers and skincare products that range from CBD and hemp face masks to eye serums and creams, a sugar crystal facial scrub, an antibacterial hand and body lotion, a daily moisturizer, and a personal lubricant. All of the brand’s products are cruelty-free and made in the US with only US-manufactured ingredients. Uncle Ben’s products are also free of GMOs, parabens and THC.
When asked what the brand hopes to get out of participating in the 11.11 festival, Schiavi said that educating Chinese consumers about the benefits of CBD and hemp products is the first priority and that Magic Johnson will help on that front through interviews and public appearances, as will celebrity ambassador Toni Braxton and local KOLs in China.
“We’re partnering with Tmall and Alibaba exclusively in China,” added Schiavi. “We’re partnering for the long run.”