Focus: CBD holds key potential for confectionery markets, according to latest UK industry study

Cannabis chocolate edibles infused with CBD

The Association for the Cannabinoid Industry (ACI) and Centre for Medicinal Cannabis (CMC) has launch a report report Green Shoots – Sowing The Seeds Of The New UK Cannabis Industry with a new assessment of the CBD market within Britain. Confectionery is increasingly seen as having potential within the growing segment, as we examine.

According to figures from the ACI, the cannabinoid (CBD) sector is now estimated to generate £690 million in annual sales for 2021. This figure surpasses predictions made in the seminal market sizing study undertaken by the CMC in 2019 which estimated the market would be worth £526 million in 2021.

As the organisation’s  report concludes, the UK now has the most evolved regulatory framework in the world for CBD, and other consumer cannabis extracts, citing recent interventions by the Foods Standards Agency – to regulate products as dietary supplements, and by the Home Office – to consider what are safe and tolerable levels of THC contained in products. However, the report calls for more government intervention and investment to ensure that the UK optimises what it describes as ‘Britain’s quiet cannabis revolution’.

Clearly, there is potential within many markets around the world, as Confectionery Production has previously reported, the US in particular has become noted for exploring the CBD in confectionery – though regulatory issues remain a challenge.

Regarding the British study, it claims that due to domestic restrictions on hemp cultivation and processing in the UK, the bulk of the profits for this industry are going overseas. This is because UK farmers must destroy the parts of the hemp crop which lucrative CBD is extracted from. The report also argues that the market represents a key growth sector for the UK and it is time for the government to adopt a proactive strategy to seize opportunities in the cannabinoids sector.

As part of the study, recommendations drawing on a submission recently made to a new governmental Taskforce on Innovation, Growth and Regulatory Reform, established by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in February, to stimulate post-COVID economic growth.

In terms of the entirely legal CBD’s potential applications, sweets manufacturers are increasingly examining its potential, including A.L. Simpkin & Co with its honey and hemp varieties, as well as a number of businesses exploring potential for gummies, and even chocolate.

According to Shomi Malik, the ACI’s external affairs director, believed there would be notable potential within the segment for confectionery, with its potential disruption factor.

He said: “The  UK is home to the most developed policy environment for consumer cannabinoids and the second largest market outside of the US. There isn’t a category that isn’t set to be disrupted by CBD, and cannabinoids at large, including confectionery; traditional form-factors
such as oil drops, capsules will make way for more accessible offerings as regulatory confusion makes way for innovation in NPD.

“Gummy sweets are already one of the most popular ways to take CBD, and a recent crowdfunding round for a healthy snack bar was oversubscribed by 175%, showing the appetite is not just at the consumer level. Investors are looking to take advantage of the advances in policy to tap into the market. After all, this is the fastest growing category within the food space, with the CBD market in the UK already bigger than the vitamin C and D market combined – this was before we had clarity around novel foods! Imagine the success that can be achieved now that organisations can enter the market on a solid regulatory footing.”

He added that organisations such as the ACI were helping suppliers overcome the regulatory hurdles, meaning that traditional confectionery manufacturers have a great opportunity to partner with best-in-class CBD suppliers before the market gets too crowded, adding that the challenge was to work in finding the best materials for innovative product offerings.

As part of the report, its authors have called for a dedicated agency to licence and oversee the industry, as well as a new centre of excellence to fund, synthesise and promulgate the best new clinical evidence to boost the UK’s nascent medicinal cannabis market.

In addition, they also believed urgent reform of licensing policy to steer and harness the emerging scientific evidence across the whole spectrum: from agri-science and plant genetics, to novel synthetics, new therapies and clinical trials.

“With new government support the accidental consumer cannabis revolution that has allowed CBD to become available on every high street in the UK could become permanent, nurturing hundreds of new businesses, thousands of jobs and billions of pounds in exports. It’s hard to imagine there many more industries that could benefit almost immediately from the proposals set out in our report,” notes Steve Moore – Co-Founder and Strategic Counsel to the CMC and ACI.

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