“My default behavior wherever I am in the world is to put my running shoes on and get outside.” For Tom Grass, one half of Grass & Co., being active in nature is the key to a calm and centred mind. “Nature feels like the best antidote to urban, digital life.”
Growing up in a remote village in the Chiltern Hills, he and his brother Ben spent much of their childhood making camps in the woods, climbing ancient beech trees and roaming around on bikes. “That kind of simple, more active way of life worked like a spell on me,” he says.
It’s a similar story for Ben, who recalls a childhood spent enjoying the great outdoors. “My dad built a great big tree house and Tom and I spent a lot of time down there and in the woods at the bottom of the garden,” he says. “I remember going on big family walks most Sundays after lunch. I’m sure that has all filtered through to our love of outdoor adventure now – whether trekking across Nepal or the Alps or rambling around in the Cotswolds.”
Tom agrees there has been a knock-on effect right into adulthood. “Getting outside has been my preferred method of escape ever since those early days,” he says. “I let my legs carry me to a place where the worries of the human world can’t reach me."
Those worries came out in force at university, when Tom found himself suffering from insomnia, plagued with middle-of-the-night anxiety and desperate for a natural solution. “I’d always been interested in alternative remedies,” he explains, “and at university, I became famous for ditching coffee and taking Siberian ginseng instead.” Friends might have poked fun, but it did the trick when it came to improving concentration and relieving anxiety. Little did he know it back then, but the seeds of Grass & Co. were being sown.
It was around the same time that cannabidiol (or CBD) also came onto his radar. “I was talking with another student one night about the anxiety that lots of people get from smoking cannabis,” he says. “And he explained that there was this part of cannabis called CBD which chills you out and counteracts the psychoactive part, called THC” It struck a chord – but wouldn’t come back onto his radar for another decade. After university (the brothers both studied history at Oxford) the pair parted ways, with their careers often taking them to opposite sides of the world.
It was in California that Ben, on one of his frequent business trips to the States, had his first encounter with CBD and spotted an emerging trend. “California had been on a liberalising path for some time,” he says. “When I would meet up with friends in Los Angeles, I found I was hearing more and more about their experiences with CBD. I was intrigued.” As a squash player who frequently suffered from hamstring injuries, he started to use it as a natural remedy for muscle pain, and quickly realized that his friends were onto something.
Tom, meanwhile, living and working in Kenya and still suffering from sleepless nights, was simultaneously discovering the benefits of CBD. “A decade or more after I had first heard about it, I decided to give it a try,” he says. The effects were remarkable. “If I woke up in the night, I was able to go back to sleep, which I was never able to before. It made an enormous difference to my life.” When the brothers finally found themselves living back in the UK, they decided to put their heads together and create something from what turned out to be a joint discovery – albeit halfway across the world from each other. “We realised we had this shared interest for the plant and its properties,” says Ben. “And obviously, our family name makes it feel as though it is written in the stars!” Grass & Co. was born.
“Both of us have had some of our most nurturing times in the great outdoors so we wanted to infuse that ethos into this company and create natural products which are good for people and which help them live more fulfilled lives,” explains Ben. They took CBD as they knew it and decided to go one step further, combining it with complementary and great-tasting botanicals and vitamins.
Today, Grass & Co. sources CBD from industrial hemp grown under licence in the EU and US.“There are strict requirements about the limits of THC that you can have in CBD. We wanted to make sure we were very belt and braces in terms of the processes we had in place,” says Ben. For the botanicals element, the pair joined forces with a team of expert food scientists who help with sourcing and ensuring the right balance of ingredients.
“The end result is hopefully a selection of products that help people to live better lives, inspired by nature and the environment,” says Tom.
Grass by name, Grass by nature.