Former Swisse exec unveils cannabidiol expansion plan in new role at Bod Australia

By Cheryl Tay contact

- Last updated on GMT

Bod Australia wants to develop over-the-counter therapeutic products using GMP-certified CBD extracts. ©Getty Images
Bod Australia wants to develop over-the-counter therapeutic products using GMP-certified CBD extracts. ©Getty Images
Australian supplement firm Bod Australia will see George Livery — Swisse's former strategy and corporate director — join its ranks as executive chairman in September this year to drive the firm’s growth strategy in supplements and medical cannabis products.

He has nearly 30 years' experience in senior positions around the world, the most recent being his seven-year stint at Swisse.

Bod Australia's success so far is evident in its significant distribution across Australia, with a presence in over 900 pharmacies in the country.

High hopes

CEO Jo Patterson spoke to us in April about the firm's growing nootropic brand​, and is now looking to establish a 'sustainable cannabis business'.

Already, the company has a supply and collaboration agreement with Swiss botanical extract manufacturer Linnea Natural Pharma Solutions to help drive its cannabidiol (CBD) business, enabling Bod Australia to conduct clinical trials.

Eventually, the firm wants to develop over-the-counter therapeutic products using GMP-certified CBD extracts, and Livery is expected to lead the charge.

He told NutraIngredients-Asia​: "Jo and I are very much on the same page with regards to how we'd like to see the company run, especially in the preventative healthcare area.

"We're both very strong advocates of preventative healthcare, and while Bod Australia is a great company with many great products, it's the work she's doing on medical marijuana and CBD oil that to me is the most exciting."

The merits of marijuana

Livery espoused the multiple merits of medical marijuana, saying: "Medical marijuana has been around much longer than prescription drugs. Also, the cannabis plant uses a lot less water and irrigation than cotton — about 20% to 25% of what cotton uses.

"The entire plant can be used: from the roots, you can make topical balms, from the stalk, you can make clothing, and the seeds are full of protein. All the way through the product, you can extract hemp and CBD oil, and these are all non-psychoactive."

He added that both oils were high in omega-3, 6 and 9, making CBD a suitable plant-based substitute for marine-based omega fatty acids, which he claimed are not sustainable.

At the same time, he said CBD oil was not only good for pain management, but also a welcome alternative to morphine-based drugs, whose side effects "really affect your head and brain"​.

Perception and prohibition

While hemp oil is legal in Australia, CBD oil is a prohibited substance that can only be obtained through a doctor's prescription.

However, since it does not contain THC, Livery is confident it will become available in the same capacity as hemp oil, used as an ingredient to add to other natural products.

He said, "Apart from prescription-based medical marijuana, I believe the real opportunity is in ayurvedic products, to which we can add CBD oil to enhance them. CBD oil is already legal in the US in a wide range of products, including those for children.

"When you['re talking about a product that has so many benefits, it’s inevitable that eventually, regulators will catch up and we’ll find these products entering the mainstream. And as the clinical studies increase, I think we will all be happily surprised at their results."

Industry needs innovation

Livery believes that unlike the in the US and Europe, the industry in Australia has been slow to embrace medical marijuana, saying it is "a little bit asleep at the wheel at the moment when it comes to innovation in this area"​.

"Retailers and consumers are demanding more, and companies like Bod Australia will be flexible and have the ability to react, to move fast. These are the companies that will be the true innovators."

APAC appeal

In terms of overseas expansion, Livery said China was "very much on our radar"​. He plans to draw on the experience in the Chinese market he gained while at Swisse, in order to aid Bod Australia in this area.

Daigou ​shoppers are one of the main channels through which the firm is targeting different Asian markets, as cross-border e-commerce continues to thrive.

Livery said, "You can't be cynical when marketing to the Chinese. You don't make products just for the Chinese, you make them for everybody. But I've learnt that you don't preach to the Chinese consumer.

"You just give them the knowledge and information — they're the most astute consumers in the world. You don't tell them what to do, but instead, help them understand what you do."

While he declined to reveal specific details about Bod Australia's expansion plans, he said the firm's priority was to develop a strong cannabis business in Australia, before expanding to countries like New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

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