May 3, 2023
Consumer interest in cannabidiol (CBD) has risen rapidly and is growing fast. The UK’s market for consumer CBD products was worth £690 million in 2021, according to most recent market sizing estimate by the Association for the Cannabinoid Industry – more than double the level of sales recorded in 2019, when the market was valued at £314 million. The UK is now the world’s second largest market for consumer CBD, behind only the US.
CBD is a non-intoxicating compound found in the cannabis plant and has been known to have various health benefits. Consumer CBD products encompass nutraceuticals, food supplements, cosmetics and vaping products. The largest category is consumer health and wellness products containing CBD, which are regulated in the UK under food law as a ‘Novel Food’. The UK has become the first country in the world to regulate the market for safe, orally consumed legal cannabis extracts, following the release in March last year of the Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) public list of CBD products permitted for sale to consumers.
Nearly 12,000 products are now on the public list – a key stage on the path to full authorisation, expected this year. Only those CBD products featured on the list can now stay on the market, in line with the UK’s Novel Food requirements.
Products designed to be inhaled, such as vapes, or applied to the skin, including cosmetics and massage oils, however, do not fall under the FSA’s remit. These were not assessed and will not appear on the list, but CBD vape products, if containing nicotine, are governed by the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations, like other nicotine vape products.
A review led by Oxford University’s Professor Christopher Hodges on behalf of The Centre for Medicinal Cannabis (CMC) last year called for clarity on the legal status of CBD vaping products and a guidance on the permitted ingredients in a vaporiser used for cannabinoids, either as a consumer CBD or CBPM (cannabis based products for medicinal use) delivery device. It also recommended additional research on the long-term health impact of vaping, and the safe ingredients for e-liquids.
Meanwhile, a consumer survey last year by the Product of the Year has found that nearly three out of ten Brits (29%) have tried a CBD product, with CBD oil and vapes ranking top of the products tried, polling 19 per cent of the votes.
Pain relief, stress/anxiety relief and sleep issues all ranked equally with a third of the votes each (33%) when asked about the main reason for using CBD products in the August 2022 survey.
“While CBD usage in the UK is steadily rising, there are still a significant number of people who haven’t tried it yet,” Helga Slater, managing director of Product of the Year commented at the time. “We don’t have to look further than it’s success in the US where CBD products have won Product of the Year awards three consecutive years in a row, to see the direction we’re likely to be headed in. This is a category that is rich in innovation and we’re excited to see where it goes.”
A public attitudes survey published along with the Hodges Review also showed that the motivating factors for CBD purchasing for many consumers are tied to perceived health benefits (58%).
The survey has found that almost two-thirds of people were aware of CBD products before taking the poll, with the highest levels of awareness among 25-34 year olds (80%) and 35-44 year olds (77%), which is a very high level of consumer market penetration.
However, the polling showed the dominance of online channels in the sector, with 38 per cent of respondents saying they buy their consumer CBD products online. But, high street shops are catching up, as 30 per cent depend them for their purchases.
A sunrise industry
Vaping is one of the most popular ways to consume CBD, as it is a quick and easy way to deliver the compound into the body, and the CBD vape category accounts for a significant portion of the UK consumer CBD market.
CBD vape products come in a variety of forms, including pre-filled cartridges, e-liquids, and disposable vape pens. Some companies also offer CBD additives that can be added to traditional e-liquids. In addition to traditional vape pens and e-liquids, new delivery methods such as inhalers and patches are also gaining momentum, offering more discreet and convenient ways to consume CBD.
As in the case of the larger vape sector, new flavors and formulations play a major role in the CBD vape scene also, as the brands try to meet the changing needs and preferences of consumers. Increased focus on terpenes, the aromatic compounds found in cannabis plants that are responsible for their distinct flavors and aromas, is a notable trend. CBD vape brands are increasingly focusing on terpene profiles and their potential therapeutic benefits to create more targeted and effective products.
One of the most important things independent retailers can do to boost sales of CBD vape products is to educate customers about the benefits of CBD and how it can be used. Many people are still unfamiliar with CBD and its potential health benefits, so providing information in-store or on social media channels can be very helpful. Consider creating signage, brochures, or other marketing materials that explain the benefits of CBD vape products and how they work. Additionally, consider offering staff training to ensure that they are knowledgeable about CBD vape products and can answer customer questions.