It feels like everyone is talking about CBD these days. Perhaps it’s the hype around pending legalization of hemp via the 2018 Farm Bill (CBD is derived from industrial hemp), or it’s the rapid expansion of health and wellness that has brought CBD to our attention. One thing is clear though, while CBD is getting a lot of coverage, it’s in need of an awareness campaign. Mintel’s latest data on CBD reports that when asked about their perception of CBD, 35% of respondents answered, “none of the above” from a list of multiple options, pointing to a lack of awareness about the product and its benefits.
CBD, or cannabidiol, is the non-intoxicating and non-psychoactive primary chemical of the cannabis plant, which claims to have therapeutic benefits. CBD can come from both hemp and marijuana, though CBD from hemp cannot contain more than 0.3 percent THC (THC is the psychoactive component found in marijuana that gets one "high"). Marijuana-derived CBD does contain THC, and those amounts of THC vary from product to product (any product will explicitly say what percentage of THC it has). Moreover, because industrial hemp was banned federally under the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 (which also banned marijuana) people mistakenly believe hemp and marijuana both have THC. In fact, 43 states have since legalized industrial hemp and hemp-based CBD been available for (legal) purchase.
Over the next few years CBD is expected to grow to a $2 billion market as more people discover the benefits of CBD, which include pain and insomnia relief, and anti-inflammatory and anti-anxiety affects – depending on what you take/use and how much of it. To that point, hemp-based CBD can be thought of on a spectrum, starting on the low side with hemp seed oil. Hemp Seed Oil: Found in most grocery stores, physical effects are minimum, due to mere traces of CBD. Most people use hemp seed oil for its Omega 3 and 6 benefits, adding them to salad dressings, smoothies, etc. Full Spectrum Hemp Oil: This segment is where we’ll begin to see a lot of innovation and change, and is what most people are referring to when talking about CBD broadly. It comes in a range of strengths, which depending on the person and how much they are taking will have different effects. From what we’ve seen, dosing ranges from 5mg to 50mg per serving in a bottle. At the 5-15mg/serving range, a relaxed, calming sensation is typical, but at 30-50mg CBD helps with insomnia and chronic pain. This is also available at most co-ops and select health/vitamin stores. CBD Distillate: The next level above mainstream CBD is CBD Distillate and this is medicinal strength, used to treat existing conditions (anti-anxiety, pain relief). This would be sourced directly from producers like CV Sciences. CBD Isolate: At the highest strength or potency is CBD Isolate which is also used to treat existing medical conditions, but typically of much more consequence, like Epilepsy. This past June, the FDA approved Epidolex, a CBD treatment for epilepsy which would be available through a healthcare provider.
Of these four, full spectrum hemp oil CBD has the most opportunity in mainstream culture, and we can expect to see innovation in food and beverage, education and awareness, and modern branding. The latter brings up an interesting trend in cannabis design as marijuana is slowly legalized state by state. The stereotypical stoner design cues – the giant leaf, Rastafarian iconography, heavy color palettes and counter-culture attitude – is moving decisively to a more sophisticated and refined look, speaking to leisure, wellness, and beauty-counter culture. With regard to branded marijuana products, you’ll see this in Beboe, Marley Natural, Defonce, and Ritual. For CBD brands, we’re already seeing these updated and upscale visuals in the Charlotte’s Web redesign, Recess, Lord Jones and Herb Essntls.
As both markets seek similar (female) targets and employ a high-end design that dabbles in wellness culture, it will be important for brands to carve out a point-of-difference in a very confusing category, because the majority of the population will still view this category broadly and dismiss it as “drugs” or “weed.” Certainly this new aesthetic and increased awareness will draw in new users, but the opportunity lies within differentiating between and communicating the benefits of hemp-based CBD versus marijuana (broadly) and marijuana-based CBD with THC.