WHEN two business owners booked stands at November’s Healthy Living and Lifestyle festival, their aim was simply to raise awareness of their brands among a wider audience.
What they did not anticipate was the level of ‘banter’ that would be exchanged between the two of them or that, as a result of the event, the seeds for a new business collaboration would be sown.
On reflection, however, that outcome may be a little less coincidental than it first appears.
‘I founded The Green Machine, in Market Street, two and half years ago with the support of my wife, Linda, bringing a range of CBD products to the Island,’ explained company owner Colin Toudic. ‘The response to the products has been tremendously positive, and the range is supported by my manager, Brandon Nicolas, who has a degree in cannabis studies and is able to educate customers about the products and their wellbeing benefits.
‘Having established a loyal clientele, who have supported the business throughout the pandemic, it is now time to expand and, to do this, we are looking at new product lines and opportunities which support our ethos of promoting a healthy lifestyle.’
One such business opportunity which Colin and Linda had identified was alcohol-free drinks.
‘About a year ago, I started contacting UK companies who offered alcohol-free drinks and, in every conversation I had, the supplier mentioned that Andy Delaney had already been in touch and was importing their products to the Island,’ said Colin.
Indeed, it was early in 2021 that Andy Delaney and his wife, Charmaine, founded ClubAF.
‘It all started after I made the lifestyle choice to give up drinking over two years ago,’ said Andy. ‘I’d reached an age where, although I still enjoyed a drink, I didn’t like the hangovers quite so much. Having made that decision, Charmaine and I started trying to source some alcohol-free products and found it really difficult to find anything.’
Realising that they were unlikely to be the only Islanders struggling to obtain such products, the couple undertook some market research and set up a ClubAF Community Group on social media, before launching the business last October and meeting Colin at the November festival.
‘We launched on 1 October and now have a range of more than 85 products that we’ve sourced from the UK, France, Canada and Australia,’ explained Andy. ‘Having started from nowhere, we are now building a base of both retail customers and hospitality clients who are realising the growing need to cater for non-drinkers in their restaurants.’
Having attended a number of corporate events and run a variety of pop-up shops since launching ClubAF, Andy is now looking forward to collaborating with Colin to establish the brand within The Green Machine.
‘We say collaboration because this goes beyond your typical supplier/retailer arrangement,’ said Andy. ‘This is about two businesses coming together in the health and wellbeing space to benefit those Islanders who want to embrace a healthier lifestyle.’
‘Our approach to the ClubAF drinks will be exactly the same as our approach to our CBD range,’ Colin added. ‘It is all about understanding our customers’ concerns, the health or lifestyle element that they want to change and then advising them about the products. Education is a huge part of our business ethos as we really want people to look and feel the best they possibly can.
‘When we launched The Green Machine a few months before Covid hit, the response was phenomenal, and I am confident that the demand for the alcohol-free drinks will be similarly high.’
From Andy’s perspective, establishing a presence in St Helier as the Island emerges from Covid could not have come at a better time.
‘We have found that a lot of people consumed a fair amount of alcohol during lockdown and many of them are now reassessing their lifestyle and are more mindful of their overall wellbeing,’ he explained. ‘ClubAF is not a temperance movement. We aren’t saying that people should never drink. We are just giving them choices.
‘While some people may have decided not to drink, others may be temporarily abstaining for health reasons, because they are pregnant or because they are the designated driver for a particular occasion. Whatever the reason for not drinking alcohol, they should still be able to relax and enjoy a high-quality “grown-up” beverage that tastes good.’
The benefits of the ClubAF range extend beyond the lack of a hangover the morning after the night before.
‘Many of the products are about more than just an alternative to a traditional glass of wine or beer,’ explained Andy. ‘There’s our organic vegan ginger concentrate, which offers significant health benefits, particularly around digestion and inflammation, and we also have an assortment of drinks made from adaptogens, which are herbs or vegetables with natural health benefits.’
This focus on natural ingredients is one which resonates particularly with Colin and Brandon, as it is central to The Green Machine’s philosophy.
‘CBD is a natural product, which can help with a range of medical conditions,’ explained Brandon, who is now studying for his Master of Marijuana certificate.
‘While the awareness of CBD is growing, there is still a widespread misconception about it, with a number of people asking whether it will get them high. It won’t. But research in Europe and America is showing that it can be used to treat more and more conditions.’
While the team cannot say that their products will cure a particular ailment, as a qualified cannabis consultant, Brandon can educate people about the ways in which CBD may be able to help them.
‘I snapped the cruciate ligament in my knee when I was 15 and started using CBD to relieve the pain,’ he explained. ‘That really piqued my interest in cannabinoids and balanced health and, from bath bombs and oils to gummies and coffees, we now have an extensive range of products that can support people with a range of complaints from muscle pain and acne to anxiety and stress.’
And the range of CBD products has just grown further, thanks to a partnership between The Green Machine and the Guernsey-based company, Bailiwick Botanicals.
‘This is another exciting partnership for us and one which will bring a greater choice to islanders in both Jersey and Guernsey, as we will bring in their CBD vapes, herbs, grinders and edible products, while exporting some of our products to them,’ explained Colin.
As well as extending the range within the store, Colin and Andy are looking forward to venturing beyond the Market Street premises with a presence at a number of functions throughout the year.
‘We have already held a number of tasting events for various companies and, with summer coming up, we are receiving a lot of inquiries for various corporate and social events,’ said Andy. ‘We are keen to increase the number of hotels and restaurants stocking our products and have more tasting events planned in store as well.’
‘We’re determined to really build the community side of the two businesses,’ added Colin. ‘Coming out of lockdown, this is now a really exciting time and we are both bubbling with energy and enthusiasm to build the brands.’