How the UK CBD industry is thriving in uncertain times


This year covid-19 has hit hard with far-reaching economic implications for countries around the world. The United Kingdom is no exception as the economy has taken the brunt of the pandemic’s negative effects.

However certain markets continue to flourish despite all odds. One such market is the cannabidiol (CBD) industry that appears to thrive on the particular constraints that come with a global pandemic.

The UK CBD industry success relies largely on the increasing demand for CBD oil and other CBD products. According to a 2019 survey, more than 6 million brits have tried a CBD product, representing approximately 11% of the UK adult population. A significant number of these consumers take CBD oil for its therapeutic benefits in managing stress, anxiety, insomnia, and overall well-being.

Recent reports reveal that demand for CBD products has skyrocketed since the onset of covid-19. This surge should come as no surprise because the pandemic has only aggravated the symptoms that CBD users are looking to treat. Stress from coping with lockdown measures, financial struggles, job losses, and general uncertainty about the future has left residents more wound up and anxious than ever. Now, UK CBD consumers seek out the relief of CBD products to help bring some normalcy to their daily lives.

The upsurge in consumer demand is a welcome positive for the UK CBD industry. Experts now put the CBD market value at over £1 billion by 2025 – a sharp growth spike from £300M in 2019.

UK Regulators Kick Against Treating CBD as a Narcotic

From the onset, CBD has always stirred a fair bit of controversy due to its close association with cannabis. The problem lies in the fact that cannabis is a controlled substance in the UK; but it is also the source from which commercial CBD is extracted. Even though most CBD products on the shelf come from hemp plants certified by the Home Office, the tussle to fully legalise CBD remains ongoing.

Earlier in the year, the European Commission (EC) announced its preliminary decision to treat CBD as a narcotic. If the EC’s view becomes official, all CBD products in the European Union will effectively get tagged as illegal. Such a move would be devastating and cripple industry growth that’s expected to surge to 400% by 2025.

On this vein, the UK CBD industry won a major battle when food regulators kicked against the European Commission’s (EC) decision to label CBD as a narcotic. The UK’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) made its statement in September, where the regulatory body announced that the UK Home Office does not share the EC’s view on making CBD a narcotic. This means that manufacturers don’t have to worry about CBD products becoming illegal across the continent.

CBD Gets a Novel Food Status

Another emerging hurdle for the UK CBD industry came when the FSA announced plans to follow the EU’s footsteps and treat CBD as a novel food. New foods that haven’t been consumed to an appreciable degree before May 15, 1997, are considered as Novel Foods.

According to the stipulations, UK CBD manufacturers are now required to go through a rigorous and lengthy process of vetting their products to FSA’s standards. Producers that fail to obtain the necessary authorisation will have their products pulled from shelves and further banned from selling in the UK. This development has received a mixed reception as stakeholders are divided on the market implications of the new regulation.

On the one hand, many UK CBD companies share the opinion that the change in regulation could stifle business operations. Small-sized businesses are particularly at risk of being shut out of the market, owing to the high cost of obtaining a Novel Food authorisation. Additionally, the sheer amount of technical information required for a novel food application could also become a limiting factor for most companies.

On the other side, established manufacturers are applauding the move as a positive development for the CBD industry. The FSA claims that its actions are a pragmatic step aimed at marrying the protection of public health with consumer choice. Nonetheless, health authorities are in full support as the new regulations will help make CBD products safer for consumers and garner trust with the public.

A Peek into the Future of CBD in the UK

Although the British CBD industry remains shrouded in uncertainty and other legal challenges, consumer demand has continued to soar. And, as CBD oil gains ground as a fan favourite, producers have continued to supply users with other interesting product forms.

CBD manufactures are paving the way with innovative wholesale CBD products that range from CBD gummies such as ZenBears to drinks, topicals, capsules and much more. CBD users are now spoiled for choice as there’s a product to cater to every imagined need.

The world’s CBD industry will no doubt benefit from more effective regulations that target product quality and consumer trust. However, the UK’s recent efforts to bring structure to the wildly underregulated market hints that more positive progress is in store for the fledgeling industry.