The market for cannabidiol (CBD) is growing fast across the world. By 2020 it is set to reach a turnover of £1.7 billion. In the UK it has already grown rapidly despite a lack of formal regulation. With vendors facing new challenges from UK and EU authorities what is the reality for them and their customers?
When CBD arrived on the UK scene, shops and websites stocked just one or two products. Now there are over seven hundred product varieties available including gummies, CBD infused water, capsules, vapes and tinctures.
Because the industry developed so quickly there are no specific regulations to restrain it. This is great for initial growth but it has resulted in a marketplace where top quality retailers have to battle for customers with companies who do not meet the same high standards.
The current industry is one where any new regulations could force retailers to stop selling CBD products. In the mean-time, companies have tried to create their own self-regulation; customers are beginning to find their feet in such a varied market and demand for CBD continues to grow.
Opportunities for new businesses
In 2017, a Cannabis Trades Association (CTA) study revealed that the number of UK CBD users increased from 125,000 to 250,000. Studies linking it to health benefits, its edgy origins and its versatility resulted in the CBD market being an area of nearly unparalleled growth.
The new industry moved away from its smoky origin in the illegal cannabis market and aims at a mainstream and often boutique health and wellness market. With a large consumer interest, it has become an ideal opportunity for new companies to get on board and create their own CBD brands.
As new businesses developed, the versatility of CBD prevented the market from stagnating. It allowed companies, both new and existing to expand their range and continually provide something of interest to consumers.
Recent developments in the UK CBD industry
“It’s growing so fast it’s all a bit confused” Johan Obel owner of the drug.store in London.
In a market that grows quickly there is the risk that it will come crashing down at any moment. CBD is a product that still has many grey areas. As regulation and policy gets worked out and adopted it could slow or even stop any market growth. However, by creating a more controlled market it may also create greater opportunities for those who are prepared to work within new guidelines.
In the last six months decisions have been made within the EU that will impact the sale of CBD across its member states. The UK has committed to continue to follow any EU guidance on this matter after Brexit. The UK Food Standards Agency can also implement their own interpretations of any EU rulings.
It was recently announced by the EU that CBD was to be classed as a novel food. They stated that it did not have a long enough history of use as a food to be classed as a traditional food. Novel foods are only allowed to be sold when they meet certain requirements.
Following this announcement an application has been made for CBD to be assessed as a novel food. However, the application relates to use that does not exceed 130mg daily. Therefore, if the application is successful there still maybe changes to be made by current retailers.
While the application is being considered CBD is still available for sale. Individual Food Standards Agencies may make their own decisions on how to address the outcome.
While this causes uncertainty for the growing industry it may ultimately offer a more regulated and secure market place. Peter Carroll, patient advocate of the End our Pain campaign said: “We agree that there is a need for more control in the CBD market to protect people from unscrupulous suppliers and to make sure that people understand what they are taking.”
Differences in quality
As with any new opportunity there have been many different approaches within the industry. Many companies have approached it with integrity and transparency and have aimed to craft a quality product for a discerning customer. However, there are also those who have gone for quick wins.
There have been reports of oils not containing the concentrations advertised on the label and products being sold without the required testing. Those seeking to make quick money have also made promises about the medical properties of CBD. This has meant that many vulnerable people have been left out of pocket from inferior products and false promises.
Best practice within the industry
Nutritional therapist Dr Sarah Brewer recommends: “With all the change taking place there is still a great deal of misunderstanding and misleading information about CBD Oil on the market. Make sure you buy CBD Oil from a reputable supplier who is a member of the Cannabis Trade Association”.
With a little research it is easy to find some excellent companies providing top quality products. The industry began without regulation, so genuine companies are working on building relationships with their customers and providing complete transparency on their methods and products.
Businesses like for the Ageless have set up their own means of self-regulation. They display assurances like third party lab tests and organic certifications as external measures of quality. These allow you to find the best possible CBD for your needs. For the Ageless is also a member of the Cannabis Trades Association which is seeking to engage with CBD suppliers to ensure that they meet a common standard. Across their website products are clearly labelled to show the amounts of Cannabidiol they contain too.
In a fast growing yet uncertain industry, there are many exciting possibilities. They exist for new, and established companies, who want to create trusted brands and for consumers who now have access to a range of new and exciting products.
While the future of the industry is uncertain, we do know that there are companies who have already made significant quality contributions to our understanding of CBD. They have also brought top quality practices and products to the customers’ attention. When looking for CBD products, remember to check out reviews on sites like trust pilot, find the third-party certificates of analysis and expect clear labels.