CBD products had such an impact in the UK that the industry initially struggled to keep up with demand. This left lots of space for hundreds of new companies and innovative product lines.
However, in the last few years, the market has changed rapidly; tighter regulations are imminent and consumers have a better understanding of the benefits of cannabinoids.
To gain some insight into what’s popular and what changes may affect businesses, we spoke to key figures in the industry. Herbert Maxwell from CBD blog Herb Reviews told us: “Now, there is less emphasis on novelty items such as sweets and beverages. Instead, the majority of customers look for well-made oils from brands that are upfront with their manufacturing methods and can provide copies of lab tests.” He also talked us through several product types and gave us his prediction of what to look for in the future.
The UK CBD industry
For UK consumers, one of the major barriers to purchasing CBD was the quality of the oil. Since the first products hit the shelves, a minority of unscrupulous retailers have attempted to use them to their advantage. Although it was possible to find high-quality items, there were also many scams. Now, consumers are more aware of these and look for simple natural products with detailed third-party lab reports from brands that are open and honest about their practices.
The popularity of main CBD product types
Although the CBD market is broad, most items fall into these categories.
Oil/drops – CBD oil continues to be the most in-demand product and has seen the largest increase in the number of brands offering it to their customers.
Capsules – Demand for CBD capsules remains steady. 17% of CBD consumers choose capsules, although they’re often used in combination with other products.
Gummies – These have shown a steady increase in popularity. In the last two years, the use of the search term ‘CBD gummies’ has increased by 47% and shows no sign of slowing.
CBD edibles – Generic edibles and sweets have seen a decline in requests from customers. However, CBD chocolate and CBD beer have bucked this trend and are gaining traction in the market.
E-liquids – CBD e-liquids that can be used in vaporisers have shown the biggest downturn and are significantly less popular in the Autumn of 2020 than they were at the beginning of the year.
Topicals – This is an area that’s showing consistent growth and according to DBMR (DataBridgeMarket Research) it’s likely to continue this trend for the next few years.
CBD flower and pet products – Interest in both of these areas continues to increase, but neither are legal in the UK.
Broad trends in the UK market
Let’s take a broader look at what’s on the way up and what’s on the way out:
More popular – Herbert Maxwell told us, “Speaking to readers, we find oils are most popular because they offer them good value and accuracy when dosing.” Google data shows that as of October 2020, the keyword ‘CBD oil’ is on a slight upward trajectory in the UK. The same trend is true for gummies and topical products like skin creams, balms and lotions.
These are products that have been available for a while, but new innovations and product lines have boosted their popularity with customers. The interest in gummies will likely level off, but oils and topicals will keep attracting new customers. For example, DBMR’s forecast for the global skincare market shows a compound annual growth rate of 32.95% during the period 2019-2026.
Holding steady – Capsules make up about 17% of UK CBD sales. While demand for them may not increase, Herbert believes that they’ll remain steady as we go into 2021: “Customers tell us that they love the convenience and discretion of capsules. However, because they’re not as versatile or as potent as oils, they’ll never match them for popularity.”
Less in demand – Products that have lost ground this year, like e-liquids, CBD infused edibles and beverages, may have lost out as the pricing for oils becomes more competitive. At Herb Reviews, they’ve noticed that: “customers would rather buy an oil and add drops to their favourite food themselves than pay high prices for CBD cakes and coffees.” They also spotted a drop in enquiries about e-liquids following several cases in the US of health conditions arising from poor-quality products.
Products to look out for in the future
Although some current products remain firm, there is still space for innovation. Here are a few that we may see become commonplace over the next few years:
Water soluble or nano CBD
This is a form of CBD that has been treated to absorb quickly through the gut wall. Some studies show that this results in better bioavailability and more potent effects. It’s been around in various forms for the last couple of years. Still, there has been very little verifiable information to explain how it works or to prove that it’s a competitive alternative to standard oils.
Now, more studies have been conducted and brands can provide more information about their products. This means that it’s likely to experience a surge in demand soon.
A transdermal patch allows you to absorb CBD through your skin as you would with a nicotine patch. There are a few of these currently available, but as they become more publicised, they will likely become more popular.
They offer excellent bioavailability and you don’t need to taste any bitter hemp flavours. Also, they can be applied to your skin discreetly under clothing to steadily release cannabinoids into your bloodstream throughout the day.
Organic certifications are awarded to brands if they can demonstrate that their production and manufacturing processes meet strict standards. Currently, there are few CBD companies with a genuine organic certification. However, you’re likely to see many more in the future. This is because it offers a great way to demonstrate the safety of the product and show that it’s created with attention to detail.
Products containing high concentrations of other cannabinoids such as CBG could be the breakout trend of the next decade. As science reveals more and more about the cannabis plant, we’ve already discovered that CBD is not the only beneficial cannabinoid. Already, several brands have begun to release products containing high-levels of other cannabinoids. As more is learnt about their specific benefits, some are likely to become as popular as CBD.
Customised products – If more governments accept the medicinal properties of cannabis and further research is commissioned, scientists will have a better understanding of the varied plant substances it contains. When this happens, it will allow manufacturers to be much more precise when designing products. As a result, we may see more products with blends of cannabinoids specifically chosen to treat certain conditions or customised for individuals.
CBD was once added to anything and everything, but now demand has become much more specific to a few simple products including oils. Customers now prioritise quality, and the willingness of the brand to provide evidence for their claims. CBD oils continue to be the most common choice because they are the most accessible and versatile option.