Thanks to the explosion in the UK CBD market over the past few years, more people than ever are discovering its many wellbeing benefits and considering incorporating CBD into their busy modern lifestyles.
Aire is one of the new breed of CBD brands on the market, founded last year in Leeds by Oliver Harris and Adam Flanagan. Both had been working for a number of years at different creative agencies; Oliver as a designer and Adam as a project manager. “Although our day to day roles were very different,” Oliver tells me, “we both struggled with the stresses and anxieties of the job. Anyone that’s been there will know that agency-life can be lots of fun, but it can also be really demanding.” Independently they had both started to use CBD to help deal with the stresses of the job. “It was over a beer that we found out that we’d both been using it,” says Oliver, “and that led to lots of discussions about the different brands we were trying, and what we liked and what we didn’t. It was these conversations that eventually led to the idea of starting Aire.”
So just what exactly is it? CBD (or cannabidiol) is one of over 100 naturally occurring cannabinoids extracted from the marijuana flower and buds of Cannabis Sativa, and when ingested goes to work on a group of neurotransmitters and receptors in the body called the Endocannabinoid System (ECS), which play a key role in shaping how we feel and how we experience life every day. Unlike its unlawful partner Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD lacks the psychoactive ingredient found in cannabis, which causes the ‘high’ sensation. Instead, it claims to have an impressive plethora of health benefits, including reducing anxiety, depression, pain and even cancer-related symptoms.
As an emerging but fast-growing market there are an array of different types of CBD oil available and with it, plenty of mixed messaging. So, what makes Aire unique? “The CBD market is a little bit like the wild-west at the moment,” says Oliver, “with so many brands launching, and lots of them making unfounded and unresearched claims.” It’s no wonder consumers are confused.
Our hope is that positioning ourselves as a lifestyle wellness brand helps more people feel comfortable to try CBD, so they can benefit from it too.
Aire have tried to cut through the noise by doing two things. “Firstly, we want to make CBD more accessible,” they say. “When we were using CBD back in our agency days, we didn’t feel that the brands on the market felt very credible or trustworthy. They were all either pseudo-medicinal or hardcore-hemp themed, which I think puts people off trying them.” Instead, they wanted Aire to be more of a lifestyle wellness brand, rather than a full-on CBD or hemp brand. “Our hope is that this helps more people feel comfortable to try CBD, so they can benefit from it too. As part of this positioning, we avoid making specific claims about what CBD can do to help with specific medical conditions, and instead advise anyone with a health issue to seek professional medical advice before buying and taking CBD.”
Their secondary goal is to deliver the best CBD experience on the market, and to facilitate this they have spent a lot of time getting the little details as finessed as possible. Throughout the customer journey, from the clean, modern website design and interface, all the way to the luxurious and sustainable packaging that arrives through the door – and, of course, the actual taste of the oils – Oliver and Adam have poured everything into delivering their customers a premium quality experience.
The concept of sustainability is in Aire’s DNA. “This has been really important to us from the start,” Oliver tells me. “We spent a lot of time at the beginning finding a production partner that shared our ethos around sustainability. There’s only one ingredient in our product – hemp – which is grown in the Netherlands and has been certified by the Skal – the Dutch organic control authority.” But it’s not just about the product. Their packaging is also fully recyclable, 90% biodegradable and manufactured in the UK. The bottles are made from frosted amber glass with a white screen printed finish, each packaged within its own unique pastel hued box that has been pattern embossed and foiled to offer a luxurious, premium finish. “Undoubtedly, we could have got things produced more cheaply in the Far East,” says Oliver, “but as sustainability is important to us and we know it is for our customers too, ensuring this commitment runs through our products was worth paying a little bit more. In fact, you’d probably fall off your chair if we told you how much the packaging costs!”
The clean considered branding of the company was actually executed by Oliver’s own design and branding agency, OH+CO, which he set up 4 years ago. He is still really hands on with the work that goes through the studio, he tells me. “I think giving the design guys the Aire brief was a nightmare for them, because I’m very particular when working on other people’s brands, so you can imagine what I was like when it was mine!” he laughs.
The inspiration for the Aire brand stemmed from the desire to tell the story about how the brand started and reflect the values they have as a business. Their office is based on the banks of the River Aire, so the name came to them really quickly. It also resonates with how the product tastes, and makes you feel. “In terms of the design, we want to be modern, premium and simple – as that was the type of brands we bought into” says Oliver. “Also important was getting across a sense of calmness, as this is ultimately what the oil delivers.”
Oliver tells me that because they’ve always viewed Aire as a wellness brand rather than purely a CBD brand, their future direction lies in being more about general wellness rather than just CBD. “We’re looking at a number of products at the moment for the future, but are also considering events for when things get back to some sort of normality,” he says.
All photography © Aire CBD, used with permission.