THC as a Daily Supplement: Q&A with Zeno Co-Founder Jeronimo De Miguel
Can THC be taken as a daily vitamin, as part of a consumer’s daily routine?
For Zeno, a company that recently unveiled a 0.4 mg THC tablet, the answer is yes.
The company launched its product in August, and recently announced that it will be sold in Sweet Flower dispensaries in California.
Here, Zeno co-founder Jeronimo De Miguel shares more about the product, the recent retail partnership with Sweet Flower, microdosing trends and more.
Melissa Schiller: Can you give me some background on Zeno and its product?
Jeronimo De Miguel: We just launched a little over two months ago, in early August, and that was mostly through [a] D2C or direct-to-consumer offering, through a platform called Grassdoor, which is a delivery platform here in California. By design, we wanted to be able to [reach] consumers who are not necessarily shopping at dispensaries, and that just goes hand-in-hand with the type of product that we put in the market.
We have to think about our product as a THC-based microdose that is meant to be taken the way you take your daily supplement. I think that’s the best way to think about this product, [as a vitamin]. You take it as part of your morning routine, as part of your ritual, [like] having your coffee or [exercising]. It’s really meant to be that boost in the morning, this particular SKU. We’ve only launched with one SKU so far. Obviously, we are planning already formulations that will address people’s needs when it comes to sleep and energy boosts and so on.
The founder’s story is really compelling. My co-founder, Jack Dreifuss, was suffering from depression, anxiety and so on, and eventually got around to trying gummies because he was having a hard time with flower, not knowing exactly what the dose would be. If he was ever in a position where he would try smoking flower, it was always hard to place certainty with your dose. And also, generally, flower is a lot stronger than a microdose, period. We don’t often think of smoking flower as microdosing. [Jack] went to gummies, and he ended up cutting them up. That’s how we landed on 0.4 [mg]. It was a sweet spot that worked. We [said to] ourselves, “If this is working for me, it can probably work for other people who are dealing with the same things I’m dealing with.”
Schiller: What is unique about Zeno’s product formulation?
De Miguel: The daily product that we’ve launched and have in the market today is really intended to feel and be like a daily supplement, except it’s THC-based. I very much believe that it’s charting new territory because we don’t have anywhere near the level of microdosing elsewhere in the market at 0.4 mg. If you think about most products out there in the market, they’re either at 5 mg, [or] some make it down to 2.5, but most of them are just 5 mg. Even 5 mg is considered microdose. For us, [our product is] like a nano-dose. It’s so low that it doesn’t even compare with anything else in the market. That’s why I feel that we’re essentially charting new territory, creating a category of our own with this very low-dose THC product.
We believe wholeheartedly in the plant’s ability to address issues like anxiety, depression and ADHD. We’ve seen earlier results with early adopters and ambassadors of the brand that were taking the product before we actually launched it, some of which came off of pharmaceuticals. Some set aside their daily Adderall consumption or Ritalin consumption. There’s a lot of promise with microdosing THC. I really believe that THC has a lot to offer, so it’s really exciting to be part of that pioneering effort in the space.
I personally [use] the product [on a daily basis], not because I’m trying to address issues like anxiety or depression or ADHD, but I get up in the morning—I’m a morning person, and I have my routine [with] meditation and so on—and I just love what this product does for me in terms of that added boost of creativity, energy [and] focus. This is where the formula is so powerful because we have the 0.4 mg of THC, but we also have L-theanine, [which] plays a significant role and is also natural in its form. L-theanine [is] the active ingredient in green tea, and it really does give you that sustained focus.
Schiller: Why is Sweet Flower a good brick-and-mortar retail partner for Zeno?
De Miguel: There are a couple big reasons. The retail experience at Sweet Flower is very much aligned with how we see and envision the industry evolving. It’s got a very clean aesthetic. It’s very accessible. It’s very friendly. It’s very much driven by the fact that somebody can come in there and be educated about different products and opportunities. It has a wellness section, which is great. We also see Sweet Flower committed to what we’re committed to in many ways, which is the idea that this plant and the products that come from the plant ultimately can do a lot of good in the world. They have an entire program and a lot of things going on in the social equity side of things. We’re doing the same thing. We think culturally, there’s real alignment.
We think from a brand perspective, they attract a similar demographic. We’re doing everything we can right now to promote our partnerships so that we can bring in more of that canna-curious consumer—the consumer who hasn’t really tried cannabis or THC in particular as part of their daily routine. Of course, a lot of dispensaries out there predominantly think about or concentrate on cannabis as a recreational consumption opportunity, to have a good time or to check out of your day or relax. We are thinking about it as a way to get into your day in the morning, and sort of just generally boost your day. It’s very much a functional microdose, and that functionality we feel is very aligned with how Sweet Flower envisions the retail experience when it comes to a new type of consumer.
Schiller: What kind of micro-dose trends are you seeing in the cannabis market?
De Miguel: The biggest thing, I think, is education. The consumers [need to gain an] understanding and [be] willing to try cannabis and microdose as part of their daily routine. There’s a lot of stigma, obviously, and legacy that we need to be mindful of. When we think about a product like ours, I really do believe that it is the way to normalization, the way to mass consumption. To be able to get there, we need to reach a lot of people and we need to educate them. You’ve got the cannabis side of it, but you’ve also got microdosing and people not knowing what that looks like and what their stacking routines might be.
I think education is our biggest opportunity, but it’s also our biggest challenge. You’ve got to be able to open the door, if you will. People’s curiosity needs to be there and somehow you need to spark it with conversation, dialogue, press—anything that gives [consumers] a chance to say, “Huh, I haven’t thought about that. Let me learn more.” Of course, that means content.
For us, one of the biggest strategies right now is to create content to educate—to put out as much as we possibly can to consumers [to get them to] think about this in legal states where they can access it. Because our product is very much a health and wellness product, there are opportunities for us to move into states that aren’t recreational. It gives us a chance to reach people through a medical opportunity.
Schiller: What are the company’s shorter- and longer-term goals going forward?
De Miguel: Short-term, I would say our biggest opportunity right now is to drive people to our dispensaries, Sweet Flower being the primary one right now. We’re doing everything we can to incentivize budtenders at the dispensary level, to educate them and get them excited about the product. Ultimately, they’re the ones bridging the conversations with consumers. [We’re trying] to get them to really understand the product and get excited about the product and, obviously, drive people to the dispensaries. There are four [Sweet Flower] locations now and there will be five by the end of the year.
Medium-term, by the end of the year, we’re keen on making sure that we start to think about new formulas, new SKUs, whether it’s Zeno Sleep or some nightly [product], or maybe something along the lines of energy so if people have [an energy] dip—the 2 p.m. or 3 p.m. dip—we can come up with something that gives people that midday boost from a very natural perspective.
We are also keen on looking to expand beyond California. Canada is an opportunity we’ve been exploring. I’m Canadian, so we want to start having those conversations. Canada is federally regulated, [and] with the Canada landscape being more open to subscription opportunities, people can subscribe to the product and Canada Post will be the biggest distributor as they’re delivering products to people’s homes. We want to have this proof of concept of what that could look like so we can maybe one day bring it to the U.S.
I am having some conversations with universities and institutions to ultimately prove the science behind what we’re seeing. Obviously, we’re collecting a lot of data anecdotally, a lot of qualitative information from our consumers, and everything is positive, particularly when you see people come off of pharmaceuticals and [talk] about how Zeno is helping them function and get on with their day free of depression and anxiety. I would like to be able to more scientifically make the connections between the low-dose formula and some of these ailments. We’re exploring what that could look like, through maybe a study or some research.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for style, length and clarity.