Whole Foods Market co-founder John Mackey recently told an audience that “chances were good” that the Austin, Texas-based chain would sell cannabis in its stores located in states where the sale of the substance was legal. “You just never know what happens over time with markets,” he said. “They change and evolve.”
Mackey would be ahead of the pack on that decision — mainstream supermarkets aren’t likely to sell cannabis anytime soon. But there has been a surge of interest among retailers in products that contain cannabidiol (CBD), a naturally occurring cannabinoid compound found in marijuana and hemp plants that is non-psychoactive.
The U.S. federal government continues to classify marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance; however, the 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp and hemp-derived CBD from this restriction, formally making it an agricultural commodity, which enables major U.S. retailers to start selling some CBD products from hemp, with no legal risk. Cannabis industry analysts at The Brightfield Group, based in Chicago, predict that the U.S. hemp-derived CBD market will reach $591 million this year and $22 billion by 2022.
CBD for Health
More CBD-infused products are entering the market, particularly in health-and-wellness product categories. Consumers are increasingly looking for natural alternatives to traditional OTC/HBC products, and CBD-infused products could answer that need: The “Cannabis Study,” from New York-based MRI-Simmons, found that 43 percent of people surveyed said that they prefer alternative medicine to traditional medical practices.
Further, a recent study from The Hartman Group, in Bellevue, Wash., suggests that with less stigma than THC and a wide variety of calming and anti-inflammatory benefits, CBD has significant potential to go mainstream as a natural remedy for a variety of common health-and-wellness issues.
“This year, for the first time in our health-and-wellness study, the No. 1 condition that people were managing was not weight, but stress and anxiety,” says Laurie Demeritt, CEO of The Hartman Group. “For day-to-day anxiety, many people don’t want to take a script, and there’s no OTC option to treat that. CBD could fill that gap.”
Nationwide drug store chains CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens all recently revealed that they would begin selling various hemp-derived CBD health products, including creams, patches and sprays, at a collective total of more than 2,500 stores. Currently, 33 states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for medical use, and among those states, 10 have legalized recreational use. Under the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s regulations, CBD is still prohibited within food products, but the FDA is exploring how it can best regulate the compound and hemp in food and dietary supplements.
Opportunities at Grocery
“It’s inevitable that grocery will carry products infused with CBD,” says Jessica Lukas, VP of consumer insights for Boulder, Colo.-based BDS Analytics, a provider of cannabis industry market trends reports and analyses, and cannabis consumer research. “They have to keep up with their competitors.”
According to experts, topicals will likely be the first CBD-infused product category to attract major supermarket interest. “Until the FDA decides how it will regulate the products, topicals are less risky for retailers than ingestibles,” notes Dylan Summers, director of government affairs at Seattle-based Lazarus Naturals, which produces a line of CBD topicals, capsules and tinctures.
“There’s a big opportunity to reach people with topical applications who might not be willing to walk into a dispensary store,” says Lukas. “You’re not ingesting it, and there’s no concern about a psychoactive or intoxicating effect.” Lukas adds that she expects mainstream topical pain-management brands could eventually add CBD SKUs to their product lines.
Dr. Kerklaan Therapeutics, a six-SKU line of CBD topical products for pain, PMS, sleep and skin, is currently on shelves at Market of Choice, a 12-unit chain based in Eugene, Ore. The line will expand to 30 SKUs in the next few months, and has been presented to national supermarket chains. “The consumer is ready and searching for the products,” asserts Dr. Andrew Kerklaan, founder of the Berkeley, Calif.-based brand. “Now that the Farm Bill is passed, it’s full speed ahead.”
Topical CBD products are also carried at New Seasons Market, a 21-unit chain based in Portland, Ore., and New York-based Fairway Market recently launched Fairway Essential Wellness Full Spectrum Hemp Products, a line of CBD-containing items that includes balms and lotions for topical relief, as well as capsules and oils that can be ingested. Lazarus Naturals’ Summers believes that CBD tinctures, gummies and capsules will become more common in supermarkets once the FDA provides guidance on the ingredient.
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