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  • Young people are turning away from alcoholic beverages and seeking alternatives
  • ASX-listed Fiji Kava’s (FIJ) US arm has rebranded to become The Calmer Co, with a rollout into other markets coming soon
  • The new brand will focus on developing beverages and over-the-counter preparations of kava, possibly blended with other herbs
  • Facilitating growth, the company has acquired Danodan Hempworks in the US and entered into a strategic partnership with KaiMing in Fiji
  • Medicinal kava remains a focus, as evidenced by a significant upgrade to Fiji Kava’s medicinal extraction manufacturing base

Fiji Kava’s (FIJ) moves to grow its product range, expand its manufacturing and processing capabilities, and build a “House of Brands” have taken several giant steps forward in recent months.

The expansion strategy is primarily about capitalising on a growing market of young people who seek non-alcoholic alternatives for relaxation and socialising — with kava at the top of many buyers’ lists.

The multinational company’s strategic plans to take advantage of the booming functional beverage market, and to develop further products to target the sleep, stress, anxiety, pain relief and anti-inflammation markets, are well on track, according to Managing Director and CEO Anthony Noble.

“We’ve been very busy on the acquisition and expansion trail,” Dr Noble told The Market Herald.

“And with further advances on the horizon, we feel that 2022 will be our best and biggest year by a fair margin.”

The Calmer Co is open for business

Since January 2022, the company’s US subsidiary, FijiKava Inc, has been trading as The Calmer Co in line with the strategic growth and change in the company. The new brand rollout could include other markets, including Australia and New Zealand, in the near future.

The new brand will help to create a broader and more engaging identity for the company: one that remains focused on medicinal products while offering a wider range of beverages and consumables.

Dr Noble said that with the company’s recent purchase of Danodan Hempworks, which brings with it a patented glycerine extraction technology for cannabis and industrial hemp, the company is now well on its way to achieving its aim of making inroads into the massive international functional beverages market.

“We’re already in the US$100 billion per annum tea market,” Dr Noble said.

“And by using Danodan’s technology to refine and improve the taste of our kava-based beverages, as well as utilising Danodan’s strong brand presence in their markets, we’re making further progress in the enormous functional beverages space.

“Sales of the existing Instant Kava and TakiMai products — exclusively sold on Amazon prior to the launch of The Calmer Co — have already increased more than threefold since December 2021 and are continuing to see strong growth, especially since the launch of our teas in late April.”

Dr Noble noted that Danodan’s “artisanal” style brand and product range have carved out a substantial niche in the North American market, and adding kava-based products to the existing cannabis-based range can only strengthen the company’s sales.

“Selling the Danodan products alongside our existing products and our incoming products through The Calmer Co is all about targeting young consumers looking for non-alcohol stress relief alternatives,” he said.

Creating unique new blends

Fiji Kava has also entered into a strategic partnership with KaiMing Agro, a leading Fijian ginger, turmeric and kava company, which will add further impetus to the expansion of the product range. The MOU between the companies allows for the launch of a range of juice products to be sold through The Calmer Co in the United States.

“The processes and technology that KaiMing have in place for ginger and turmeric juices could work for kava, and the combinations of those juices could add additional benefits and exciting new taste profiles,” Dr Noble said.

“The well-known anti-inflammatory and pain relief actives present in curcumin, for example, pair very well with the analgesic properties of kava.”

He also said that based on current revenues, the partnership had the potential for the products the partners were building together to transform both companies.

Factory upgrade

The strategic partnership with KaiMing has also been instrumental in driving Fiji Kava’s recently-completed major upgrade to its medicinal kava extraction facility on Ovalau.

As the company now bases its drinking kava distribution out of the KaiMing centre in Navua, considerably shortening the supply chain, the newly expanded facility can focus on medicinal products.

“The medicinal product range is a key value driver for the recreational and lifestyle products,” Dr Noble said.

“The fact that our products are listed medicines in Australia with health claims around sleep, anxiety and muscle fatigue demonstrates efficacy to consumers.”

Dr Noble added that knowing they can trust the company’s medicinal products would strongly encourage our customers to try its lifestyle and recreational products, driving an expectation of excellent take-up of the new beverages and associated products.

Excitement amid the calm

While the first half of the calendar year has been somewhat frenetic, with a number of high-priority achievements ticked off and more to come in the second half, the Fiji Kava team is maintaining a sense of calm through all the excitement.

There’s a recognition that the company is on the cusp of some seismic changes, and that the profile of The Calmer Co is likely to jump in the near future, so the focus is on the work ahead.

“The Calmer Co brand is about putting our customers and their needs at the very centre of our business,” Dr Noble said.

“With our ever-expanding toolkit of ingredients — adding ginger and turmeric juices through our partnership with KaiMing, for example — and the rapid changes we are making in our US business, we have a lot of work to do. But one senses that our rewards are not far away.”

FIJ by the numbers

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