The UK CBD market is projected to generate over £690 million in annual sales in 2021, which is more than double the £314m sales from 2020. These projections were from the latest reports released by the Association for the Cannabinoid Industry (ACI) and Centre for Medicinal Cannabis (CMC).
The growth of the CBD market is predicted to go from strength to strength and reach a market value of £1bn by 2025, which is more than triple its current value of £300m. To put these staggering numbers into context, the 2020 sales of CBD products in the UK at £314m has already surpassed those of Vitamin C at £119m. Let’s take a look at the driving factors behind this extraordinary growth and also areas that are preventing the industry from further growth.
What are the driving factors behind this growth?
Firstly, the ACI report concludes that the UK now has the most evolved regulatory framework in the world for CBD. CBD was fully legalised in 2017 for purchase and sale, followed by the legalisation of medical cannabis in 2018. Also all UK CBD products as of March 2021, now must file for approval through the Foods Standards Agency (FSA) – the UK’s government authority for all foods and health supplements. This has ensured that the products are safe and contain tolerable and legal levels of THC (the intoxicating compound found in cannabis that gets you ‘high’) contained in products, which is helping to unlock the growth potential of the market as both consumers and stockists can take comfort from the tight standards imposed.
Secondly, the more recent uncertainties of the Covid 19 pandemic and resulting Global Lockdowns have shown a subsequent increase in peoples stress and anxiety levels resulting in increased demand in cannabinoid products with consumers seeking out natural remedies to reduce stress, relive pain and improve wellbeing. There has also been a general growing demand for health and wellbeing products and natural alternatives to pharmaceutical drugs in recent years which has also played a huge role in the growth of the CBD market.
Lastly, CBD is also becoming more widely available, both online and in retail stores. Although to date, 90% of sales have been purchased online, high street chains such as Holland & Barrett, Boots and Lloyds Pharmacy are all stocking CBD products as they provide the most accessible products for both producers and consumers. CBD is also now available in many different forms including CBD oils, creams, balms, vapes, CBD edibles and patches – giving the consumer a huge amount of choice.
What is holding growth back?
Firstly, one of the key areas holding back growth in the CBD industry is the lack of public awareness and education surrounding the legality and the benefits of CBD. The largest untapped market in the UK is the proportion of the public who do not know about CBD or do not understand it. Younger demographics between 18- and 30-year-olds have been more receptive to trying out CBD products in comparison to 40-year-olds and above. As this slowly starts to change for the better, and more consumers become educated with CBD, this will help drive further growth in this sector.
Secondly, the industry is still searching for medical verification for all the health claims that CBD suggests that it supports. As CBD was not legalised until 2017 and clinical trials take many years to complete, all evidence thus far has been from extensive scientific studies and pre-clinical trials. The first full clinical trial has begun in the UK named ‘Project 2021,’ which is aiming to enroll 20,000 people into the largest CBD clinical trial to date to create the UK’s largest body of evidence for the effectiveness and tolerability of medical cannabis. As medical validation through clinical trials takes place over the next few years, the industry is set for huge growth, as it will give both suppliers and consumers further confidence in the products.
Lastly, the majority of the profits generated by CBD products in the UK are going abroad. This is a huge problem that needs addressing quickly. The laws surrounding the cultivation of hemp plants (the source of CBD) are completely paradoxical in the UK. Whilst CBD was legalised in the UK in 2017, it is currently banned for UK farmers to extract CBD oil from hemp plants in the UK as they are only allowed to grow hemp for industrial and material use. Due to these restrictions the bulk of the profits for the UK CBD industry are actually going to hemp farmers overseas. If the UK Government were to back cultivation and distribution of the CBD market in the UK, the CBD economy could become an even more significant contributor to the UKs annual GDP, through the creation of new-high skilled jobs and a booming CBD scientific research and development sector.
Future of CBD industry in the UK
The CBD market has flourished over the last few years, propelled by a sophisticated regulatory framework in the UK, FSA regulations improving the standard and quality of CBD products across the industry, trends towards more health-conscious alternatives to pharmaceuticals, relieving stress post global lockdowns and the increased accessibility and choice of CBD products for consumers. The UK CBD market is fast becoming the next global leader and continued growth can be achieved if consumer awareness and education continues, medical verification of CBD health claims through clinical trials complete and there is a push for more progressive hemp cultivation laws in the UK.
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