A Global Health Guru Sets His Sights on Cannabis and More

Neptune Wellness Solutions Inc. CEO Michael Cammarata By John Jannarone Before becoming CEO of integrate

Neptune Wellness Solutions Inc. CEO Michael Cammarata

By John Jannarone

Before becoming CEO of integrate health product company Neptune Wellness Solutions Inc., Michael Cammarata had overcome a few challenges. First, launched a web hosting company before he was even a teenager while suffering from dyslexia. He went on to become a major provider to online advertisers and later launched a successful deodorant company called Schmidt’s Naturals which he sold to Unilever PLC in just two years. He joined Unilever as a senior executive but last year left to lead Neptune Wellness, where he is focused on meeting demand for natural, plant-based, sustainable and purpose-driven lifestyle brands.

In an interview with CorpGov, Mr. Cammarata explained that cannabis is an important are of focus at Neptune Wellness, which aims to move the legal cannabis and hemp marketplace away from vices and into wellness. The company focuses on extraction rather than cultivation and aims to be recognized as the safest producer in the industry. The company recently was granted a license by Health Canada to sell cannabis products to provinces and territories, which clears the way for another stage of growth. When it comes to producing branded products or selling to giants such as Colgate-Palmolive Company or The Procter & Gamble Company, Mr. Cammarata believes he can do both. The full interview is below:

CorpGov: You had an unusually young debut in the business world. How did you get there and why?

Mr. Cammarata: I’ve always had an entrepreneurial mindset. As a kid, gaming was my passion. I got really into Starcraft, which led me to computer programming, and then to start my first web hosting company at 12 years old. By the time I was a teenager I had moved on to online advertising and my company became one of the largest providers to online advertisers at the time. I’ve always been driven by my passions, but also the challenge of learning new skillsets, and I love building something from the ground up.

I’m also dyslexic, which I believe has helped in my success. I can’t follow the same path as everyone else. I have to do things my own way and approach challenges differently, and that has served me well in business. I think I am able to view the world through a unique lens and that gives me a definite advantage in some areas.

CorpGov: How did you start getting involved in building brands?

Mr. Cammarata: I’ve been investing in brands for a long time. I like to invest in companies that are passionate about making the world a healthier and safer place for everyone – companies with a strong social mission. In 2015, I co-founded Schmidt’s Naturals – a natural deodorant company. I wanted to create a mission-driven brand of natural products that actually worked and were affordable – so that’s what we did. Over the next two years, we built Schmidt’s in the same way I did my first businesses, by focusing on the customers. Thanks to that hard work, by 2017, Schmidt’s Naturals was one of the world’s fastest-growing wellness brands and sold to Unilever which was looking to grow its natural products portfolio.

CorpGov: Can you tell me about your experience at Unilever?

Mr. Cammarata:  Unilever was a great experience and the perfect home for Schmidt’s. We leveraged Unilever’s platform and distribution network to lead Schmidt’s on to record-breaking growth and global distribution.

My experience at Schmidt’s and Unilever was a great foundation for what we’re building at Neptune – a diversified and fully integrated health and wellness company.  Our mission at Neptune is to redefine health and wellness, with a focus on building a broad portfolio of high quality, affordable consumer packaged goods (CPG) products in response to long-term secular trends and market demand for natural, plant-based, sustainable and purpose-driven lifestyle brands.

We utilize a highly flexible, cost-efficient manufacturing and supply chain infrastructure that can be scaled up and down or into adjacent product categories to identify new innovation opportunities, quickly adapt to consumer preferences and demand, and bring new products to market through our mass retail partners and e-commerce channels.

Neptune is also a leading provider of turnkey product development and supply chain solutions to business customers across several health and wellness verticals, including legal cannabis and hemp, nutraceuticals and white label consumer packaged goods.

We have a strong position in cannabis and hemp with research, development and commercialization focused on the use of cannabinoids in household products to make them safer, healthier and more effective.

Neptune’s New Natural, Plant-Based Hand Sanitizers to Launch in Club Store Channel (CNW Group/Neptune Wellness Solutions Inc.)

CorpGov: How did you decide to use hemp as an ingredient and did that lead you to Neptune?

Mr. Cammarata: I was searching for a new “super ingredient” and looked to hemp because it’s known to help with anxiety. Hemp also has a moisturizing effect that can work well with deodorant.

And that led me to Neptune which had an internal structure that looked like Unilever’s. Neptune had also bought Biodroga, a leading solution provider of omega-3s and other functional ingredients to branded marketers in the nutraceutical industry, primarily in North America. Neptune had all of the elements of an established CPG company, along with a low-cost structure so it was immediately appealing.

CorpGov: What did you think of Neptune when you studied the company more closely?

Mr. Cammarata: I looked back all the way to 1998 and the team had already overcome significant hurdles. I saw that the foundation was there to build a great health and wellness company and now we are in the early stages of leveraging that platform to accelerate our growth.  We have the science, low-cost infrastructure, manufacturing capabilities, and relationships to take Neptune to the next level and we are utilizing all our resources to grow the business and deliver shareholder value.

Neptune launches Neptune Air, a non-contact infrared thermometer, to rapidly increase North American supply of safe and effective thermometers in response to COVID-19. (CNW Group/Neptune Wellness Solutions Inc.)

CorpGov: How does Neptune look at cannabis now?

Mr. Cammarata: We look at cannabis simply as one element of our fully diversified health and wellness company. Our focus is on oil extraction for wellness products, rather than cultivation. We already have a superior extraction facility where we use “Good Manufacturing Practices” to produce high quality, certified products at a low cost, putting us in a great position.

Our goal is to be the safest brand in the cannabis and hemp marketplace and to move the industry away from vices and into wellness. Trust is imperative when it comes to products you put on, in and around your body – and we are determined to be the most trusted brand.

We recently announced authorization by Health Canada to sell cannabis products to provinces and territories. This sales license includes edibles, vapes, extracts, and topicals, including beverage products.

The receipt of our sales license is a major milestone for Neptune and significantly expands our cannabis revenue opportunities. We are already advanced in the development of our own brands and look forward to announcing new branded products. We also see the potential for future co-branded opportunities. Additionally, the license enhances our white label business, allowing us to ship directly to provincial customers on behalf of our partners. We plan to further enhance our production capabilities to expand both our branded and white label product solutions and product forms and capture incremental value within the growing Canadian cannabis market.

The sales license, along with our approval to begin operating our expanded space and cold storage, significantly increases our capabilities to support our customers, solve the storage limitation inherent among many current and potential cannabis customers and provide significantly higher value to our partners and customers, capturing incremental revenue and growth.

CorpGov: How do you look at brands versus providing ingredients to bigger players?

Mr. Cammarata: We want to do both. The goal is to be Switzerland vis-à-vis Procter & Gamble, Colgate, Unilever, etc., but also to create brands and IP.

Michael Cammarata is the President and CEO of Neptune Wellness Solutions (NEPT), the Canada-based natural wellness and cannabinoids extraction company. Michael has launched two consumer brands under Neptune Wellness Solutions: Forest Remedies, providing high-quality, plant-based wellness products including CBD oils, tinctures, and balms; and Ocean Remedies, providing sustainable, ocean-based health supplements and access to life-changing vitamins to people in need.

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