24 February 2020, 12:55 PM
  • Sally-Jayne Wright investigates CBD food and drink
The Rise of CBD

CBD stands for cannabidiol, an ingredient made from hemp plant extract – and public interest is growing fast. It’s estimated that the number of British consumers using CBD products has quadrupled over a two-year period to half a million (Cannabis Trades Association). Gummy sweets, gin, honey sticks, hummus, chocolate spread and ice cream are just a few CBD-infused foods we’ve spotted.

WHO STOCKS THEM?
Independents. Health food shops, smaller grocery stores, cafés, vape shops, pharmacies and online retailers. Planet Organic first sold CBD oil in 2016 and now carries 120 CBD food and drink lines. In Dorset, Joe Drennan of Spill the Beans has been selling CBD tea, chocolate and apple juice for a year and oils for two years.

I’VE SEEN THE CBD OIL DROPPERS…
The most popular way to take CBD is as a food supplement, a few drops under the tongue each morning. This is how cafés offer a CBD shot in your drink – perhaps CBD-infused tea at James’ Café Bistro, Leicester or a CBD shake at White Wolf Yoga Kitchen, Liverpool.

IT’S CANNABIS, RIGHT? SO IT GETS ME HIGH?
No. Marijuana gets you high because it contains high levels of the psychoactive ingredient THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). Think of CBD as marijuana’s well-behaved cousin; CBD-infused products contain only trace amounts of THC, the legal limit being 0.2%. While CBD is not ‘psychotropic’, it does affect cognitive functions. There’s anecdotal evidence it alleviates anxiety, lifts mood, relieves chronic pain and reduces insomnia.

YOU CAN GET CANNABIS ON THE NHS. TRUE OR FALSE?
True. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has approved a small number of products (CBD and THC) classified as medicines. There is also a minute number of unlicensed ‘specials’ which a GP may prescribe at their discretion for anything from chronic pain to epilepsy.

WHAT ARE THE MAIN BARRIERS TO CBD SALES?
Fear and lack of knowledge (yours and the customer’s), confusing regulation and the high cost of good products. Quality varies enormously. A survey by the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis found more than half of the most popular CBD oils sold in Britain don’t contain the level of CBD promised, and one contained none at all.

WHAT ABOUT THE LEGAL SIDE?
You may not give out medical advice or advertise CBD edibles on social media. They are classed as novel foods and makers need a novel food authorisation.

£30 FOR A SMALL TIN OF CBD MINTS. £2.95 FOR AN OAT BAR. £15 FOR SIX MARSHMALLOWS! WHY SO EXPENSIVE?
It costs a lot to bring a product to market because makers have to prove products have been tested by an independent, accredited lab. Scan the QR code on the packaging with your phone to see the makers’ certificate of analysis (COA) on their website. Cannabis growing must be secure and the CBD has to be extracted, making sure there’s no THC. Bona fide manufacturers also pay for organic and novel food certification.

WHEN A TEAM FROM THE GUARDIAN WEEKEND NEWSPAPER TRIED A RANGE OF PRODUCTS, THEY MENTIONED ‘AFTERTASTE’ A LOT. JUST HOW PALATABLE IS CBD?
It’s naturally bitter but if you overrefine oils to improve taste, you can lose efficacy and health benefits. Trend Watch enjoyed the grassy back-note in The London Botanists chocolate, but some may not.

I POLLED MY CUSTOMERS ON SOCIAL MEDIA AND THEY WANT CBD. HOW CAN I MAKE THE MOST OF THIS TREND?
Educate yourself – no mean task. You’ll learn about broad spectrum oils, terpenes, phytocannabinoids and isolates. Most manufacturers provide leaflets but as Joe Drennan warns, “Everyone says their product is best.” Insist on quality and purity. Does their supplier use one of only three European labs accredited and certified for cannabinoid detection and quantification and can they verify results?

WHOSE PRODUCTS SHOULD I BUY?
CBD edibles make fabulous gifts for wellness-focused customers. Spill the Beans found The London Botanists chocolate bars sold well. The Naturalis teas, The Marshmallowist’s grapefruit treats, OTO bitters for drinks and cocktails and Nooro CBD oat bars are also worth a go. Olives Et Al and Goodbody Botanicals have launched the first UK range of culinary CBD extra virgin oils, £20 for 250ml. CBD is tailor-made for functional sparkling drinks with sexy, illicit-sounding names and psychedelic packaging. Look out for Green Monkey, 420 and Leaf Life.

WILL THE TREND LAST?
Yes, because it isn’t just middle class, trend-setting millennials with anxiety who’re consuming, but also working class baby-boomers with arthritis. Most buy online and could welcome a knowledgeable local source. The best evidence now available confirms that pure CBD is not addictive and presents no health risks from sustained use. But there’s regulation to sort out and much more research to be done. While the supermarkets await more clarity, there’s a golden window of opportunity for indies to supply this niche product.

Planet Organic buying director, Al Overton, says, “As a supplement, CBD is probably here to stay, but it’s early days for edibles. Let’s see how the market settles down.”

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