At the intersection of a booming wellness industry, an anxiety epidemic, and expanding cannabis legalisation, sits the CBD trend. CBD is the non-psychoactive cannabinoid cousin to THC. While they both occur naturally in cannabis plants, CBD reportedly offers relief from a growing list of ailments, from seizures to insomnia and from acne to menstrual cramps, without the high typical of THC. Currently the United States is the biggest market for CBD.
The Brightfield Group, whose research is specific to the cannabis economy, assessed the US CBD market to be worth $590 million in 2018, and predict that it will be worth $5.7 billion by the end of this year—nearly a ten-fold increase. They also predict the European market for CBD, which had an estimated value of $318 million in 2018, will grow by a staggering 400% by 2023. This assumes that the laws and regulations continue to swing in favour of CBD. In 2017, the World Health Organisation officially found no public health risk or adverse health outcomes associated with the use of CBD. Earlier this year, the WHO published a recommendation for the UN to reclassify all cannabis to a less restrictive category of drugs, reiterating that CBD not be subject in international controls. This summer, Teagasc held the premier Irish Industrial Hemp Conference to educate farmers about this profitable new crop.
Alongside this, CBD products have become wildly popular. Today, you can find the trend making an appearance in nearly every category with a wellness connection. While the most common application of CBD is tinctures and gummies, the explosion of the industry has stretched innovations into unexpected territories such as CBD-infused bed linens, fortune cookies and even pet products. Many are premium offerings. Fleur Marché is a luxury lifestyle brand and ‘CBD apothecary’ created by two former Goop directors. They sell sophisticated CBD skincare and edibles targeted at affluent, CBD-curious women. Top Beverages is a CBD craft spirits brand with the mission to help people ‘live well AND drink well.’ Still, CBD’s mainstream presence is also growing. Kim Kardashian famously hosted a ‘CBD-themed’ baby shower this year. Vita Coco recently launched a range of CBD-infused coconut water. In Ireland, you’ll now see CBD products lining the shelves of your local Boots.
The most effective branding strategy for CBD seems to be keeping healthy distance from any mention of cannabis and its controversial legacy. Trendy brands like Recess, Feals and Beam use sleek design and sell a future-of-wellness style image—no ‘hippy language’, no images of pot leaves, and an outright reassurance that there is no high from their products. Accessibility is key.
While the health claims of CBD are outpacing scientific research on the subject, there are important learnings behind the consumer desire for it. Even if only for the Placebo Effect, people today desperately want to achieve a greater sense of calm. And since uprooting the fundamental causes of our stress is not always viable, a few drops of a natural tonic become hugely appealing. People want CBD to be the miracle it is promised to be. As life in 2019 continues to be hectic, they are willing to experiment with new ingredients for the prospect of stress-relief. Even if CBD itself is not the next new direction for your brand, it is well worth considering what you can do to soothe your customers.