Functional Mushroom Brands Say Meta Is Barring Their Accounts And Instagram Shop Participation
Mushroom-infused beauty and wellness brands report that Instagram, Facebook and Threads parent company Meta is removing their accounts, content and access to shopping features.
Confronting advertising and verbiage constraints, social media has been a perennially hostile environment for brands in categories long considered taboo like cannabis and related cannabidiol (CBD), sexual wellness and psilocybin mushrooms. But beauty and wellness brands such as Alice Mushrooms, Neon Hippie, Micropause and Mush More Co. selling products containing so-called functional mushrooms without psychoactive ingredients didn’t foresee encountering similar challenges.
“We came to the conclusion Meta was mining for mushrooms and looking for companies selling psychedelics,” says Catherine Anise, founder of Mush More Co., maker of four Mushie mushroom gummy supplements. “This is so unfortunate because functional mushrooms are helping the masses. These inexplicable e-commerce violations for Mushie and other companies in this space only hinders potential consumers who miss out on reaping these benefits.”
Exasperated by Instagram deactivating its account for weeks, Alice Mushrooms, which has two mushroom-infused chocolate products, focus-fostering Brainstorm and sleep-supporting Nightcap, sold at Urban Outfitters and Pop Up Grocer, took to the platform to call out Meta for its practices. The brand wrote, “mushrooms are not dangerous. mushrooms are not illegal and they don’t violate ‘community guidelines.’” Since its post critical of Meta, Alice Mushrooms’ Instagram account has been taken down again.
Alice Mushrooms co-founder Charlotte Cruze says, “We’ve been taken down more times than we can count, but my best guess is upwards of 10 times. In the past couple of months, it has become more and more of an issue. We get zero warning or notification prior. All of a sudden the account is just gone.”
Cruze blasts Instagram’s actions as unwarranted because, in addition to its products not having psilocybin, the psychoactive ingredient in “magic mushrooms,” the brand has never used the words “psychedelic,” “psilocybin” or “trip” in its social media content. Meta informed Alice Mushrooms that it deleted the brand’s Instagram account as a result of violations of community guidelines involving “guns, drugs and other restricted goods.”
Cruze says, “Policing us for talking about mushrooms would be like policing a restaurant for saying they have a portobello mushroom special available that evening.”
Cruze, a graduate of the University of Virginia, has friends from college working at Meta, and they’ve been able to help Alice Mushrooms with its Instagram difficulties. Most brands find it’s impossible to reach a person at Meta. Meta didn’t respond to Beauty Independent’s request for comment.
Cruze says, “If your account gets disabled, and you don’t have connections to someone who works there, I would consider the account gone. Their support is nonexistent.”
For small, independent brands like Alice Mushrooms, not fully employing Meta’s tools can have severe business consequences. Cruze estimates Alice Mushrooms has lost revenues amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars due to Instagram machinations. Referring to Meta, she says, “They have all e-commerce businesses by the throat.” Outside of Meta, mushroom beauty and wellness brands haven’t encountered suppression of their accounts and content.
Several mushroom brands singled out Instagram Shop as a source of constant frustration. Meta has provided them little to no clarity about how they can fix the issues preventing their products from being eligible for sale on the shopping feature. For example, while Micropause, a mushroom-powered menopause symptom relief supplement brand, hasn’t had its Instagram account removed, its run into trouble trying to sell its supplements on Instagram Shop.
Emily Wagner, founder of Micropause, appealed Instagram’s decision not to allow her brand on Instagram Shop and received a message that said, “As per our Specialist team, the product is correctly rejected for violating Commerce Healthcare policy. Listings may not promote buying or selling of ingestible supplements, weight loss products and services, medical devices, clinics, and medical procedures. The decision has been finalized and was made based on variety of signals, and behaviors.”
The explanation surprised Wagner as countless brands sell ingestible supplements on Instagram. Brands without mushrooms, however, don’t seem to be facing the problems that brands with mushrooms face on the platform. “I spent three weeks on the phone trying to get to the bottom of it,” recounts Wagner. “I showed them over 600 other brands selling protein powders, metabolism products, all of it.”
Following the initial explanation, different representatives from Meta suggested an array of reasons why Micropause has been prevented from selling on Instagram Shop. One suggested the brand’s violation could’ve been triggered by the words “menopause,” “die” in the phrase “ride or die” or “heroine.” Another offered that Micropause’s product photography should be blurrier so its bottles aren’t easily seen. Wagner laments, “No one at Meta knows what they’re doing.”
In an effort to bring Micropause into compliance, Wagner changed copy on its e-commerce website. Instagram Shop pulls information from the site. “I even removed ‘mushrooms’ from my Instagram bio,” says Wagner.
Mush More Co. has a similar tale of Instagram woe. “We’ve tried to check all of the boxes to make a superior product that can truly help people,” says Anise. “So, when Meta tells us we are violating their commerce policies by selling a medical and healthcare product that may contain nicotine, my team and I become increasingly frustrated.”
She continues, “There were days only one product was approved, but the other three were in violation of their policies. None of this made sense because our four SKUs have the same ingredients, but each feature a different mushroom like lion’s mane or cordyceps. Appeal after appeal, nothing worked even after we attempted to dilute our product descriptions via Shopify multiple times. We ended up changing our product descriptions back to original because transparency and authenticity are of utmost importance to us.”
At the moment, Mush More Co.’s four Mushie products are approved and on sale via Instagram, but Anise says she’s taking it day by day because “things can change in an instant.”
Meta is leaving money on the table by blocking mushroom beauty and wellness brands from its platform. Cruze says that, when Alice Mushrooms’ account is operational, it dedicates a large portion of its marketing budget to the technology giant. She expounds, “In the times that our account has been down over the past six weeks, we’ve been taken off four times since the beginning of June, we would have spent enough money in advertising to pay for a Meta employee’s annual salary.”