A fresh look at CBD: what food retailers need to know

07 May 2021, 08:32 AM
  • With brand new CBD regulations coming into force this year and an array of products hitting the market, we put CBD food and drink under the microscope
A fresh look at CBD: what food retailers need to know

When it first launched on the food and drink scene, fine food retailers would be forgiven for thinking CBD, a naturally occurring, non-psychoactive chemical in the cannabis plant, would be a short-lived trend destined to fade from the market or to be hit with cumbersome regulations.

But the UK’s market for CBD products has thrived and is now estimated to reach £690m in annual sales for 2021, according to new research from the Association for the Cannabinoid Industry (ACI) and Centre for Medicinal Cannabis (CMC).

Alongside the growing trend for functional health foods, a deluge of CBD food and drink products touting calming benefits have hit the market. With demand growing for food and drink that caters to health and wellness, it may be time for retailers to take a fresh look at CBD.

How do you sell CBD in your store?

While CBD is said to help address issues like anxiety, insomnia and chronic pain, studies are still being conducted to substantiate these claims. But while it is not a cure-all, many consumers are keen to explore its benefits.

For instance, Lauren Lovatt, founder of the Plant Academy and Feed Your Mind Candy champions ‘mind food’, and encourages people to change the way they look at food to feed their minds as well as their bodies. “Food to me is a form of art; something you can delve deep into, as you start to understand the ingredients and techniques and uncover new ways of bringing things together. Appreciating this can help us look at food in a different way – not just something we are detached from on a plate – but a carefully selected group of ingredients that make sense together, that can change how we feel, physically and emotionally. Food has the power to do that,” Lauren says.

In its 2030 Global Food and Drink Trends report, Mintel predicts that with more consumers considering their mental health alongside diet and exercise, they will be seeking out products that can improve mood and boost brain health.

While the CBD market may have once appeared to be a murky area (one survey by the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis found that more than half of the most popular CBD oils sold in Britain don’t contain the level of CBD promised), it is fast changing. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) this year introduced new rules to classify CBD products as novel foods. “This is about bringing the CBD industry into compliance with the law. Consumers need to be able to trust that these products are safe and are what they say they are,” said Emily Miles, chief executive of the FSA.

The ACI also outlined plans last year for a new CBD safety initiative, which would give retailers and consumers reassurance regarding the safety of CBD products on UK shelves.

Thanks to these changes, the ACI and CMC’s report claims that the UK has the most evolved regulatory framework in the world for CBD. Even so, its authors call for more government intervention and investment to ensure the UK optimises on what it calls “Britain’s quiet cannabis revolution”.

“The size of this cannabinoid sector is now impossible to ignore,” said Paul Birch, co-founder of the CMC and ACI. “Almost without notice, and certainly by accident rather than design, the UK has improbably become the world’s second-largest consumer cannabinoids market.”

More and more food brands are using the momentum of the CBD market to launch new products, and the mainstreaming of CBD means that is no longer in the domain of health food shops alone. From CBD-infused drinks from the likes of Bumblezest to functional snack bars from Nooro and CBD chocolate from Themptation, CBD is now even available in ice cream. This summer, Oppo Brothers Ice Cream will launch what it says is the UK’s first CBD ice cream, Choc ‘n Chill.

CBD is now an area ripe for exploration for fine food businesses. By educating themselves on the ins and outs of cannabidiol, shop owners can avoid the pitfalls of over-promising products and stock the food and drink that make the most of this ever-growing functional food.

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