Jason Walsh is co-founder of NativeJack a cold-brewed nitro coffee with CBD. Learn how this food scientist is using his family’s unique recipe to get his coffee on grocery store shelves.
[2:15] – What is Native Jack
[2:31] – Jason talks about how he got into the cannabis space
[4:34] – Jason talks about getting the ingredients right
[6:21] – Jason explains where the name Yummari came from
[7:16] – Jason discusses putting nitro in coffee
[9:05] – The reason some nitro cold brew coffee tastes sour
[10:15] – The ingredients in Native Jack
[10:49] – Jason discusses how he sources his CBD
[14:37] – Jason talks about the hemp market in Colorado
[15:21] – Where is Native Jack sold
[16:45] – What are grocery stores looking for
[18:36] – Letting customers know there’s CBD in the coffee
[20:39] – Jason discusses the manufacturing process
[22:02] – Jason answers some personal development questions
[30:45] – Investment opportunities for Native Jack
[31:39] – Native Jack contact details
What are the five trends that will disrupt the cannabis market in the next five years?Find out with your free guide at: https://www.cannainsider.com/trends
The cannabis conversation is moving out of dispensaries and on to store shelves. I am pleased to welcome Jason Walsh co-founder of Native Jack CBD Coffee onto the show today to tell us all about bringing cannabis and hemp derived products on to grocery store shelves. Jason, welcome to CannaInsider.
Jason: Yeah thank you for having me.
Matthew: Jason give us sense of geography. Where are you today in the world?
Jason: I am in Boulder, Colorado.
Matthew: Okay, and are you originally a Boulder native or where are you from originally?
Jason: No, I am a transplant. So I am from the New York City area. I recently moved to Boulder it will be three years this April.
Matthew: Okay. What’s Native Jack at a high level?
Jason: Native Jack is a nitrogen cold brewed coffee that meets the benefits of CBD oils infused into its product.
Matthew: Okay, and what’s your background? How did you get into the cannabis space and start Native Jack?
Jason: I guess my journey probably started some time in the early 2000s when I worked in the pharmaceutical industry as a graphic designer. So my role was to help the sales team really pitch the products and the new drugs coming onto the market. So I got to gain a big experience learning about types of new molecules that were coming to the market and how they were being presented to customers. After I had my time in the pharmaceutical experience which was great, I really thought about other products in the food category that could be beneficial to consumers just like medicine is as well.
So I researched a ton of different seeds; chia seeds, hemp seeds, hemp hearts and I understood there was great molecules that were undiscovered in these seeds. I thought well if could make a great product that had medical benefits that maybe weren’t tested by the FDA but were understood to be beneficial, I could really start developing great products. From there I quit the pharmaceutical space and launched my first company Yummari which is a hemp derived energy bar and then after six years of running that we were fortunately sold to a larger company here in Boulder and during that time I was experimenting with cold brewed coffees and trying to understand how I can incorporate different levels of benefits into coffee and the help plant again came to my forefront of thought and how can I do this and I guess Native Jack was born out of all these progressions of learning throughout the year.
Matthew: When you were developing the Yummari bar how do you create a formulation that tastes great, has shelf life and then get the distribution for it because it seems like there’s a lot of people that may be able to create a great bar but they don’t get the other components right. Is there any words of wisdom there?
Jason: Yeah you’ve got to be 100% in. So my wife and I worked corporate jobs for just about a year and a half while Yummari was getting launched and we were doing about 120 hours per week and the bulk of that, 60 hours, was basically just into this one food company, the Yummari product, and we were not getting paid. It was something that we wanted and felt passionate about and that I think is an ingredient that most entrepreneurs overlook. How many dark days you’re going to have, how isolating it can be because it’s just going to be you, the product and whoever you’re working with for a long period of time. You’re not going to get a lot of congratulations and way to go.
This is something that you’re going to be buried into and basically your passion is going to get you through those dark times and you have to believe that what you’re doing is necessary and it’s something that you want to really follow and I think that is overlooked by a lot of people thinking they can just jump into the food business and not really understanding it takes a lot of hours and time. If you enjoy it, it doesn’t seem like a big deal, but if you hate it, those early mornings where you’re producing and then you’re selling that afternoon and then you go home and clean up so you’re really not having any breaks or down time or you’re not taking long sleeps anymore, but at the end of the day if you feel this is something that you want to have people experience, it’s definitely worth it. I think it’s a big lesson I’ve learned.
Matthew: So looking at how you spelled Yummari, Y-U-M-M-A-R-I, was it on purpose that the first three letters make the word yum? So kind of set the stage like this tastes good.
Jason: Yes so Yummari actually comes from the tribe of runners in the Copper Canyon in New Mexico. Yummari is a dance to the native culture in the Copper Canyon. They’re called the Raramuri Tribe. They’re known for their long distance of running. So Yumari is their dance for good luck. I was inspired by their culture because of their healthy eating habits and they’re able to run long distances. We incorporated the second “m” into that word to really make it our own and kind of acknowledge that we have this connection to their tribe and respect for their food.
Matthew: Interesting. Let’s talk about cold brew coffee. Nitro coffee is really just getting started in a lot of places but can you describe what nitro is and why people are putting it in coffee?
Jason: Sure. So nitro coffee adds a really great benefit of taste and flavor and texture to coffee. So cold brewed coffee I feel is kind of the first generation that kind of broke out of the standard model, went into the cans and glasses that we see on the shelves at Whole Food. I think nitrogen is the next evolution of coffee where you can actually have this great tasting coffee with silky textures, the nice smooth taste to it. So it just adds another benefit without adding calories or sugar content.
Matthew: Yeah, the head on the cold brew coffee is like a Guinness and that’s what it looks like and kind of tastes like. I have to admit that I’m really in love with nitro coffee, but I haven’t tried the CBD coffee yet. I see all the coffee shops with the taps now. They’re starting to spring up. At first you’re thinking is this beer. What are they having there? When you see a tap now in a café it’s typically because they have a cold brew there that they’re serving of some kind. A lot of times it has nitro in it, but I find that at least half of the ones I try in cafes or coffee shops stink like they’re sour or there’s something going on and then I go to another one and they’re excellent. I was like why is there such a huge disparity between the excellent cold brew nitro and then this crappy stuff? I take a sip and then I have to throw it away. I mean it’s really not good at all. What would you say the reason is there?
Jason: Well I’ve experienced that as well and I was kind of baffled to where the sourness came from and I kind of figured out and learned that it’s actually if the baristas at these coffee shops are not using a properly mixed gas, if they’re using a beer gas which is part CO2 and nitrogen, they will get a sourness to their coffee because the CO2 will incorporate into the coffee faster than nitrogen and spoil the coffee. I would always ask if it’s a clean nitrogen, if it’s 100% nitrogen you should be fine. There should be no issue with it, but if they’re using a beer mixture which is a combination of two gases, the CO2 again will leech into the coffee. It doesn’t ruin the quality. It just ruins the taste. How about that?
Matthew: Okay so there should be no CO2, there should just be nitro?
Jason: Yeah 100% nitrogen. That’s all they should use.
Matthew: Okay that’s good to know.
Jason: Yeah it’s important.
Matthew: So Native Jack has nitro in it and CBD. Can you describe the ingredients in there so we can get a sense?
Jason: Yeah so the first launch of our beverage line is Native Jack and that’s a Thai cold brewed coffee. So this is a Thai coffee if people are familiar with that style. It’s a sweetened condensed milk, cardamom spices, almond extract is something I’ve added to it. Then we use the hemp plant oils. So all that incorporated we have this nice Thai cold brewed coffee that has great benefits of the hemp plant oils.
Matthew: How do you source your CBD?
Jason: I have a local farmer here in Boulder that sources it from Europe. So he has two options. If you want to do local Colorado hemp, obviously I can’t use that hemp because I want to sell this so I bring this across state lines. It has to be European hemp and then from there he actually takes the hemp in the raw form and does his extractions in his facility.
Matthew: There’s a certain amount of THC in hemp but does this satisfy the threshold so it’s legal in all 50 states? Can you tell us about that?
Jason: Yeah so the threshold is .3% so it’s very low. He tests his own batch sheets and he’s been recently getting where his CBD has actually had 0%. This is the first time he said he ever really gotten this low but I think he’s been really developing this method to really protect his customers from any type of litigation from the FDA. So his CBD is high quality and it’s a very low or zero THC and well under the federal allowance of .3%.
Matthew: How much CBD is in each can?
Jason: So it’s 15mg of CBD per can.
Matthew: Okay how does that relate to what people would consider a normal adult dose?
Jason: So under CBD the dosage really varies from 50-100mg a day. It’s really up to the consumer to determine how much is necessary. So the part of the 15 is really just a part of their daily routine. So if they’re doing let’s say 100, they can say alright I’m having maybe two cans a day I’m already at 30 and then I have pills and some supplements that have CBD. So it’s part of their daily routine or their weekly habit of incorporating CBD.
Matthew: Now I recognize the CBD oil taste, but how do you incorporate the CBD oil into the Native Jack can? Do you taste it or do you don’t taste it? How does that work?
Jason: I try to mask it out as much as possible. I think with new users and consumers if they did taste the CBD flavor, they may be off put by thinking maybe the coffee is bad or the dairy went bad. So I use with the condensed milk, since CBD is a bitter product, the best way to mask out bitterness is with sugar and that’s where the condensed milk comes in. It works together with the CBD bringing down the bitterness and kind of leveling it out.
Matthew: Okay I’ve had Vietnamese coffee before and it has condensed milk in it and so the Thai coffee is a little bit more of a spicy coffee would you say?
Jason: Yeah it adds cardamom is the Thai version of the Vietnamese coffee. That’s the biggest difference and cardamom is great for inflammation properties. It has a lot of benefit that I like. I’m part Thai. So my mother grew up in Thailand and we had Thai coffee as a kid all the time. It was more like a dessert and when I was thinking about flavors I was like this could be interesting to incorporate a specialty coffee into a can and it’s not a black coffee on the market. It’s something different.
Matthew: What’s the help market like in Colorado? Is it starting to mature more? I haven’t got an update in a little while. You’re closer to it. What would you say about it?
Jason: I would say it’s pretty much like the whole country. Misinformation is the biggest thing I deal with. People not understanding when they say medical marijuana and CBD hemp they often combine the two and I say once you say marijuana that’s when you’re drawing the line and saying it’s not marijuana. This is hemp. Once you get that out of the people’s minds of how they confuse the two is a challenge and it takes a long conversation to say two different plants for different reasons. One is CBD, one is THC and then go on from there to explain the differences and why this is legal to sell in all 50 states.
Matthew: Where are you selling Native Jack now?
Jason: Right now I did a few test runs or sales in a few grocery stores in Boulder. So it was the first production run we did and it went extremely well and now we’re doing a second production run to kind of improve the actual texture of the coffee and that should go back on shelves into alfalfa stores and Whole Foods here is interested in bringing it in as well, hopefully. I have a call with them in November but it looks promising. I have to say anything can happen. At the last minute they could say no we’re going to move a different direction and not bring in the coffee, but at least I have a meeting so that’s always a positive. We launched on Amazon about a week and a half ago.
Matthew: Okay and do you sell on your website as well?
Jason: Yeah direct to consumers. So both pricing models on Amazon and my site are very competitive. I try to give a little bit better pricing on my site, but with Amazon you get free shipping so there’s kind of a tradeoff.
Matthew: Okay. How do you figure out what the buyers from grocery stores care abouts are? I mean obviously they want the product to sell but what are their other care abouts that you try to address so they help get Native Jack on the shelves?
Jason: Well most of the grocery national stores that I’m selling into have a banned ingredient list and you can look that up on the Whole Foods website, any local grocer will have say you can’t have these ingredients in our store. So that’s a big check box. If I produce this product, I want to make sure I follow the guidelines of let’s Whole Foods is like the master guideline. You can construct a lot of your recipes and guide yourself through the process developing products if you follow their method in how they like things incorporated. And too they like to have local companies in so it helps to be in Colorado and I want to sell in Colorado and then they really like the story of where this product came from and how it helps people and who actually the owners are.
I think the last one is if you can support the brand. So you go there into the store and demo the product, discuss any type of questions you have with consumers and help them feel more comfortable about the product. Again since this is coffee it’s a little bit different from the market. There were a lot of questions that initially came in asking different types like how can you sell this, will I get drug tested. So I’m there to really calm people down and educate them at the same time. If you work with them, so all those components together, right ingredients, supporting the brand and having a story to sell to the buyer, you should be good to sell.
Matthew: Okay. People are looking at cans of coffee on the shelves. How do you quickly display to them that there is CBD in this coffee? Do you make that larger somehow? How do you get that across when they’re just glancing?
Jason: I really call it hemp because not everyone knows what CBD is. So I call it as a hemp plant oil. One, I think just the term hemp gets people interested. Wow, this is hemp and then they dig a little deeper and they can read about the benefits. So I don’t hit them over the head with new terms that might take a little longer for them to digest, but if I say this is a nitro, my label is a nitro hemp coffee. And if (19.08 unclear) just a cold brew black coffee right there I’m a little bit different. I’m a little more interesting and they can pick it up. Most consumers understand what hemp, but they don’t get the finer points and that’s why I try to be a little broad with my labeling.
Matthew: Yeah you hit on something there. More unique, that’s back to having a unique selling proposition. I get emails all the time from listeners that are creating kind of a “me too” product and I try to encourage them. Do something different here or else you have no special sauce. So you’ve got the hemp infused nitro coffee plus the cardamom flavors that’s unique in a few different ways. So I think that’s compelling.
Jason: Yeah, no, I think the more you can offer a consumer within a category that’s been understood, so coffee obviously is a huge category. If you go to Starbucks people are putting spices on their coffee, whip cream. So people do like combinations of flavors in their coffee. Not everyone loves black, bitter coffee. I prefer it black myself, but I understand that 90% of the country is into flavored style coffees and this is something that is it better for you product and it has different options as well.
Matthew: What is it like producing a drink like this on a commercial scale? Do you have a machine to do this or contract partners? How does that work?
Jason: It’s kind of a mixture of two. I am considered I guess the brew master for the coffee line. So I have a facility where I can produce about 600 cans at each run which isn’t a huge production. It’s a good start. Then after it’s been produced I have a mobile canning company meet me at my facility and they actually hook up all my kegs onto their canning line and they actually fill cans for me. So it’s a two-part operation.
Matthew: Wow that’s pretty clever. Clever business on their part as well.
Jason: Yeah because it helps me with overhead. I don’t have to spend money investing in equipment but I can lease it from them technically for a few hours and they will can everything perfectly and I know I have a safe can on the market. It’s clean and I can go out and sell it.
Matthew: How long does it take when the mobile canner arrives to get 600 done?
Jason: Just roughly under three hours depending on how efficient everything is.
Matthew: Very good.
Jason: Yeah not a lot of time.
Matthew: Jason I like to ask some personal development questions to give listeners a sense of who you are. Is there a book that has had a big impact on your life or way of thinking that you would like to share with listeners?
Jason: Yeah I think there are a few books. I’m a big fan of nonfiction. I read a lot of biographies of people from the past. I read from Jefferson to basically all the founding fathers. I kind of respect them. I’ve read all their bios. Currently I read the Mark Cuban bio and Sam Walton for Walmart. I think that’s a great one. That kind of really changed the way I thought about a lot of different things because everyone knows the Walton family being the richest family I think in the world. Sam Walton, he came from nothing and he started his empire of really trying to get pricing and be more efficient in helping the end consumer. So I thought his book is great.
A few of them I recommend to anyone starting out is one that’s called the Myth of the Robber Barons and they talk about basically the capitalist families in the early part of the century of industry. You’ve got the Vanderbilts and the Whitneys and Morgans. They come off really poorly in history but what they did for this country of really consolidating railroads and oil and gas and really producing lower cost products but at really high quality and be more efficient. Then after time of their retirement they’ve donated basically billions of dollars back into the community. I think it’s a good model for a lot of people. I think you can see that today with Facebook and Warren Buffet and the guys today are actually going back to that model of making their billions and then giving it back. These guys did this before it was popular.
So I kind of thought that was interesting. The last one is I, Pencil is a good book. It’s about how you actually build a pencil and how involved it is where you have to actually source probably 15 different parts of the pencil all over the world and how global trade is important. How one pencil is used by the whole world, but it actually takes countries to build a pencil. And at the end of the book you realize you’re not alone. There’s lots of parts. When I get my ingredients it’s all over the country and all over the world just to make a can of Native Jack. It’s the same thing with the pencil.
Matthew: That’s interesting yeah. I never would have thought of that. You got graphite, wood, rubber, little metal band. That’s crazy.
Jason: Yeah the supply chain is always interesting when you start a business and you have to go beyond your boundaries of your backyard, your local grocery store. You have to really think other countries, how can I incorporate better ingredients from parts of the world. Maybe it’s a little intimidating to say I’m going to call up Bali for chocolate or start sourcing coffee from Thailand and before you know it you’re pretty much internationally supply chain management guy.
Matthew: Is there one of the founding fathers that kind of leaps out to you as being interesting or compelling in any way?
Jason: Thomas Jefferson is probably my favorite of all the founding fathers because of basically his writings, his passion for knowledge was, at such a young age I feel like I was nothing compared to this guy. What he was doing, you know, it went from year to year but it’s inspiring to kind of do better and really understand and to learn as much as you can so that’s where I kind of followed that kind of thought.
Matthew: Yeah the Federalists Papers and all these original documents were so compelling to learn about where their ideas came from. They also borrowed a lot from the French. Having witnessed the French Revolutionary War were they got a lot of their ideas for liberty. It’s really cool. I sometimes think about how they talked about taxes being such a burden and there should never be a personal income tax and don’t let that ever happen and don’t let the banking cartels control money supplies. All the things that they warned about we’ve done and somehow it still has stuck together, but I think about those things sometimes. Like wow we’re kind of teetering way way away from the original thesis that these guys brought back hundreds of years ago. So I’m glad that there’s people reading it out there.
Jason: Yeah just the fact that even the cannabis plant itself is banned and is a federally Schedule I drug.
Matthew: Right, right.
Jason: I’m all for personal freedom so if people want to make decisions on their own and test a drug. I’m always baffled how you can say tobacco is fine. The whole argument is if one drug is legal, I think they all should be.
Matthew: Yeah. Yeah certainly Portugal is trying that route and they seem to be having success with it. They’re like we’re just decriminalizing everything. We don’t have the resources or time and if we do, do we really want to put people in jail or help them recover if they’re nonviolent. So that is an interesting argument.
Jason: There are laws when you’re violent there’s a law for that, assault and battery and that’s fine, but if you’re on an ingested drug in your own private time and not hurt anybody, what’s the big deal.
Matthew: Now is there a tool web based or otherwise that you would consider indispensible to your day to day productivity and you could not imagine living without?
Jason: I would say my iPhone. It really extends my desktop from anywhere I have to be. If I have to try to try to spend a lot of my time in production but I can also be physically writing emails back and taking phone calls. I didn’t have that when I started in ’99 with my first job and you were pretty much tied to your desk. You got back to your desk, checked your emails. This extended unfortunately my day is a little longer but it’s more efficient. I can have maybe ten emails instead of 50 before I get back to my office. Being a small business owner I think that’s the most important. I put down fires much faster and I respond to customers quickly with any concerns. So the desktop I feel like it’s an extension of my desktop, my iPhone.
Matthew: Yeah I hear ya. I’ve been experimenting with new morning rituals and right now I’m trying to not look at anything internet related until after all my morning rituals are done; eating, showering and all that stuff. I find I have a much clearer mind because as a great of a tool it is it kind of takes away the attention to focus on one thing. There’s all these background processes going on when I have emails to respond to and these things to do. In other words, if I don’t look at it, I don’t think our evolution has caught up to the technology. I don’t know if it ever will. I mean it seems like that’s growing exponentially and we’re still here in these primate bodies trying to figure out how to use these effectively.
Jason: Yeah there’s definitely encouragement on family life. I have on kid, a baby. He’s one year old. So I think we’re going to probably put a lot of parameters on his uses of technology until he gets old enough he can have a reason for it. When I visit families they’re always on their iPhones. They’re not even making eye contact. A lot of social interaction is lost. I think conversation is important. People have to learn how to have that. Networking is such a powerful tool when you have a small business to go into a room or a bar or any location and go up to people and start introducing yourself and speaking and that could be lost art. It could be something that could die away.
Matthew: Right. I see sometimes now in restaurants there’s these baskets where everybody puts their smart phone in the basket and if anybody has to get their smart phone out and look at it, they have to pay for the whole group’s meal. So it’s kind of a way of incentivizing focus on the group you’re with and what you’re doing now. So that’s kind of a welcomed change. It’s a little sad that we have to do it that way but it is still kind of cool.
Jason: No, it’s great. I think conversation is important. Just talking to someone, someone brand new and just understanding where they came from and what they’re doing and why they’re here. It’s more fascinating than social date.
Matthew: Tell us, are you still looking for investors for Native Jack?
Jason: I did a first round with investors and I did a safe note so if anyone is interested in learning more about that, it’s basically a simple agreement for future equity. So it’s a different level than a convertible not. It doesn’t bring any debt in the company. It’s more of a promissory note to investors that when I do convert into equity everyone converts at the same time. There’s no time cap to actually raise in that trend. So the note is always open. It never really closes until you do your next round. So if I do speak to an investor tonight or tomorrow and he’s like oh I would like to do 50K, I can easily have that note offered to him. Yes I’m looking for investors, but it has to be the right one too.
Matthew: Okay. If someone is interested in investing in Native Jack is there a way to reach you or reach somebody at Native Jack?
Jason: Yeah you can go directly to my website at the contact page. All the emails get sent to me or you can just write me directly at Jason@pharmalabsinc.com.
Matthew: Jason can you tell us your website url one more time?
Jason: Sure. It’s www.nativejack.com.
Matthew: Okay www.nativejack.com. Well Jason you have a great sounding product here. I’m really excited about it. I want to try it soon. I’m going to be purchasing some to give it a try. Thanks so much for coming on the show we really appreciate it.
Jason: Great well thanks for having me.