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Natural Selection

Inspired By the Healing Powers of Nature, Ned & Co. Founders Travel the World In Search of the Best Ingredients

Article by Linden Butrym

Photography by Courtesy Ned & Co.

Originally published in Boulder Lifestyle

For Ret Taylor and Adriaan Zimmerman, co-founders of Boulder-based wellness company Ned & Co., the process of creating their hemp and CBD products doesn’t involve putting their label on something they know little about—it involves total immersion. From cultivating relationships with organic farmers across the country to traveling to the far reaches of the globe to discover the origins of certain ingredients, Ret and Adriaan are incredibly passionate about learning, exploration and transparency.

“We love the journey and the people we work with,” Ret says. “We wanted to create a business that would be much more about quality and storytelling. The reason why we source the way we do is so we can share the stories behind the products with our customers."

Ned launched in 2017 as Ret’s mother was battling breast cancer. He searched for alternatives to pharmaceuticals but couldn’t find a CBD company that was candid about where its hemp was grown. Ned’s offering began with a line of small-batch CBD products and has since expanded into a well-rounded wellness collection (think therapeutic drink blends, hemp oils, capsules and more) designed to help people cure ailments naturally.

On Ned’s website, customers can read thorough descriptions of botanicals. Lavender oil from Orcas Island, passionflower from Martha’s Vineyard, hemp from Paonia, Colorado, ashwagandha from Oregon and lemon balm from Maine are merely a few that Ned proudly sources. The company’s desire for the freshest ingredients eventually led to the formation of Farm-to-Ned, a network of farmers Ned employs—most of whom are women-owned—that continues to grow.

“It’s been awesome to see what it does for farmers,” Ret says. “There’s so much out of their control, from bugs to weather. We give great farmers a measure of confidence that there’s a market for their crop. In return, they let us peek under the hood and show our customers their farms, which is also a good thing for them.”

While creating their newest product Shuteye Chai—an extension of their Mellö magnesium collection that helps with metabolism, immunity and relaxation—Ret and Adriaan did much more than peek under the hood. They jetted off to Nepal and India on a quest to examine the rich history of masala chai (translation: spiced tea). For two weeks, the duo traveled to six cities, visiting the spice markets of Old Delhi and Kathmandu and interviewing dozens of chai vendors. They learned that masala chai traces its roots to the ancient Indian home remedy kadha, a concoction of ginger, cardamon and cinnamon that’s part of the Ayurvedic holistic healing practice that focuses on herbal remedies. Kadha was, and still is, commonly used to treat coughs, colds and fever.

Although Shuteye Chai doesn’t contain tea, the caffeine-free, dairy-free latte is made with magnesium and adaptogens (ashwagandha, dandelion root), functional mushrooms (chaga, reishi) and Ayurvedic spices (black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, ginger, licorice, nutmeg) inspired by the masala chai story. The ingredients work together to relieve anxiety, stress and poor sleep quality, problems that the Ned founders realized are not limited to American culture.

“India is the second most sleep-deprived country in the world,” Adriaan says. “These vendors are up at 4:30 a.m. slinging tea until 11:30 p.m., seven days a week. India was a really good place to do some thinking around why people have such big sleep issues.”

At the heart of Ned is the mission to encourage natural wellness with high-quality products whose ingredients aren’t a mystery. Fostering a community of engaged customers is also a top priority.

“Our product development is driven by our customers,” Adriaan says. “We have a customer happiness team that connects with them about what they’re going through, be it stress, pain, inflammation, focus or vitality.”

And when it comes to the natural world itself, Ret and Adriaan’s dedication to improving the planet is evident in their sustainable pursuits. Ned is a 1% For the Planet company, donating 1% of annual revenue to local environmental causes: Colorado Outward Bound School, Wild Bear Nature Center and Veterans’ Outdoor Advocacy Group. Plus, nearly all Ned packaging is recyclable.

Following the success of Shuteye Chai, Ret and Adriaan aren’t slowing down with their product innovations or their travels.

“We’ve got a number of different things in the works,” Ret says. “We're looking at botanicals, fungi, algae and minerals, and different ways of delivering them. I think we’re going to Guatemala soon to visit this magical cardamom farm surrounded by jungle and waterfalls. We're always looking for products that deepen our connection with nature to help us feel better and live better.”

“Our product development is driven by our customers,” Adriaan says. “We have a customer happiness team that connects with them about what they’re going through, be it stress, pain, inflammation, focus or vitality.”

  • Adriaan (left) and Ret (right) touring Delhi, India
  • View near Dharamshala, India
  • Ned & Co. Founders Adriaan Zimmerman and Ret Taylor
  • Visiting a temple in Kathmandu, Nepal
  • Adriaan sets up for an interview in Mangalore
  • A farmer from Oshala Farm, a member of the Farm-to-Ned alliance
  • Ret with a chaiwallah (a tea seller)
  • Ret with monkeys atop a temple in Nepal
  • Shuteye Chai
  • Shuteye Chai