Producers Series: Lei Back

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Written by | October 29th, 2021

For the fourth post in our Producers Series, we spoke with Kirk Pearson, beverage industry veteran and co-founder of Lei Back, a tropical hemp-infused sparkling water. The company is based in Northern California, and there are two flavors on the market — Guava and Pomelo – with a third, Pineapple, coming soon! If you need a little “Aloha” and island vibe in your life, look no further than Lei Back. The tropical flavors will make you feel like you’re sitting on a warm sandy beach under a palm tree, even in the middle of winter. Here, Pearson shares what inspired him and his partner to create a CBD-infused beverage, the qualities it takes to start a company and get a beverage to market, why they chose SōRSE as their emulsion supplier, and a hint about what’s to come in 2022.  

lei back cbd drinks

Can you start by sharing a bit of your background with us, and what inspired you to create a cannabis-infused product line?  

My background is in beverage alcohol. When I was 21, I got my start in the industry when I went to the American Brewers Guild and about the science of beer production, then worked as a commercial brewer for a few years. That gave me a solid background in recipe development and packaging. Eventually I got out of production and into sales. About 7 or 8 years ago, I started my first beverage company – cocktail mixers – and then got the itch to do something else. I wanted to create something impactful, something meaningful. Being part of the cannabis/CBD industry in this early stage of infused products was exciting – because we could be on the ground floor of this, elevate the infused beverages, and bring them to mainstream society. We want to be part of an up and coming industry that helps people. 

What are your company’s mission and core values? 

 Our mission is to produce high quality natural products that the consumer can trust. We also believe in being transparent with our customers. We know that if the consumer can’t trust the companies making products in this marketplace, the category runs the risk of failing.  

How do you educate your consumers on CBD and how to use your product in their daily routine? 

It’s a little tricky right now, because until the FDA weighs in on CBD as an ingredient, we can’t talk a lot about its benefits. That said, we try to put as much information and educational points on our website as we can. It’s also important for us in a retail setting to verbalize what we believe the benefits are to a buyer – but it’s hard to say whether or not that information will be communicated to a consumer. Hopefully sooner than later, we will be able to pass our message to consumers more freely.  

lei back cbd drinks

What’s been challenging about getting your product to market? 

Before Governor Newsome signed AB 45, the bill legalizing the sale of beverages, foods, and supplements containing hemp-derived CBD in California, the greatest challenge has been distribution. Because large distributors have been wary to work with companies making CBD products, we’ve been working with smaller distributors, which means we’re not reaching as many retailers as we’d like. We’re just started getting into restaurants and bars as they are getting back on their feet and opening up. We launched in September of 2020 – right in the heart of COVID – and it was difficult to get in front of buyers and talk about why they should be carrying our drinks.  

How did you find SōRSE, and why did you choose SōRSE’s emulsion solutions over other providers?  

I was introduced to SōRSE by a competitive brand. We have been in communication with other founders and executives of CBD beverage brands since our inception. We had launched our first batch using another emulsion provider and were not satisfied with the results. I reached out to a couple of contacts who recommended a few other options, including SōRSE. I was drawn to the quality of the product and the SōRSE team. It’s been very easy working with you. I look at this relationship as a partnership – and I believe SōRSE cares about how we work together as well. From Day 1, I have felt comfortable with whomever I have talked to at the company.  

Why did you choose to put “Powered by SōRSE” on your product? 

This goes back to being transparent about our product, and being as open and honest with the consumer as we can be. The moniker “Powered by SōRSE” signals to the consumer that they are buying a high quality, safe product. And a curious consumer will potentially go to the SōRSE website and find all the valuable information that is there.

Is there a lesson you’ve learned while launching a cannabis-infused product that you’d be willing to share?  

 You have to be nimble, open-minded, and willing to change. All of this needs to be done for the betterment of your product and the betterment of the category. I’ve learned a lot from the successes and failures of the businesses I’ve been a part of, and I take those lessons with me as I move forward with this Lei Back.  

lei back drink pouring

Where do you see your company and brand a year from now? Any plans for new products/flavors in the coming months? 

We have plans for expanding the Lei Back line, in beverage and beyond.  We’re really excited about our growth, but you’ll have to wait to hear the specific details!