Mapped: The European CBD Landscape in 2020
To say CBD has risen in popularity over the last decade is an understatement.
Not only have CBD consumer products rapidly infiltrated a long list of industries, new research discoveries continue to prove their therapeutic benefits. By 2023, the European CBD market is estimated to reach €1.4 billion.
However, a big problem remains—there is an incredible amount of uncertainty surrounding what is legal, and what isn’t. The above infographic from Elements of Green sheds some light on the innately complex legal status of CBD products in Europe.
The Great CBD Debate
CBD—short for cannabidiol—is a non-psychotropic compound produced by cannabis plants.
While most European countries have legalised it in some way, the caveat for many is that it must be extracted from industrial hemp, thus containing less than 0.2% THC—the intoxicating compound also found in cannabis. On the other hand, countries such as France and Norway only permit CBD isolate (the pure form of CBD) with no THC.
In 2019, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) designated CBD products as a novel food. This means that companies should seek authorisation to bring products to market, although it is not required by law.
However, the industry has now hit a fork in the road, as the European Commission (EC) recently announced it will be suspending applications for novel foods status while it determines whether or not certain CBD products should be labelled as narcotics instead.
The Legal Landscape in 2020
As the industry flip flops between regulations, consumers and investors need to understand that each country has its own laws surrounding the use of CBD.
|Country||CBD Legal Staus|
|🇦🇹 Austria||Legal grey area (legal lean)|
|🇧🇦 Bosnia and Herzegovina||Illegal|
|🇧🇪 Belgium||Legal grey area (restricted lean)|
|🇨🇿 Czech Republic||Legal grey area (legal lean)|
|🇭🇷 Croatia||Legal grey area (legal lean)|
|🇪🇪 Estonia||Legal grey area (legal lean)|
|🇫🇮 Finland||Legal grey area (restricted lean)|
|🇭🇺 Hungary||Legal grey area (legal lean)|
|🇮🇸 Iceland||Legal grey area (legal lean)|
|🇮🇪 Ireland||Legal grey area (restricted lean)|
|🇮🇹 Italy||Legal grey area (restricted lean/legal for medical use)|
|🇱🇻 Latvia||Legal grey area|
|🇱🇮Liechtenstein||Legal grey area|
|🇲🇹 Malta||Legal grey area/legal for medical use|
|🇲🇰 North Macedonia||Legal for medical use|
|🇳🇴 Norway||Legal for medical use|
|🇵🇹 Portugal||Legal for medical use|
|🇷🇸 Serbia||Legal grey area (restricted lean)|
|🇬🇧 United Kingdom||Unrestricted|
While a handful of European countries have made it illegal to import, buy, or possess CBD, the vast majority have legalised CBD products that either comply with the Novel Foods Act, or can be obtained from a licensed medical practitioner.
Of these countries, Germany and the UK lead the European CBD market, followed by Switzerland, Austria, Spain, and Greece.
A Call For Change
A progessive stance on cannabis legalisation combined with increasing consumer demand has led to several countries showing remarkable growth, such as Poland, Bulgaria, Netherlands, and Luxembourg.
Luxembourg in particular presents a compelling growth story, as it plans to fully legalise adult-use recreational cannabis in 2021, which would make it the first European country to do so.
Despite its small size, Luxembourg could in fact be instrumental in encouraging neighbouring countries to implement similar reforms, also known as the neighbour effect.
Growing Pains of a Nascent Industry
Considering each country has its own unique restrictions in place, CBD consumers should educate themselves on the regulations and laws relevant to them.
Despite these often confusing laws and restrictions, it is clear that demand for CBD products is growing exponentially. As a result, the continent may have the potential to overtake North America as the largest CBD market in the world.
CBD Oil vs. Hemp Oil: What’s the Difference?
CBD Oil vs. Hemp Oil: What’s the Difference?
For many consumers, cannabis plays a significant role in the treatment of medical conditions and managing general well-being. As a result, certain products have seen a rapid increase in popularity in recent years.
But while awareness of these products is at an all-time high, false or misleading information continues to cause confusion, and creates an unnecessary barrier for consumers who want to experiment with, or try different products.
For example, 69% of cannabidiol (CBD) products are reported to have inaccurate labeling, so it’s no surprise that some consumers are uncertain about the suitability of these products and are hesitant to invest.
Today’s graphic from Elements of Green dives into the differences between popular cannabis products, CBD oil and hemp seed oil—more commonly known as hemp oil— and the common misconceptions that are inhibiting consumers from entering the space en masse.
Same Plant, Difference Characteristics
Typically, both CBD oil and hemp oil originate from the hemp plant, a non-psychoactive cannabis plant. Therefore, it typically does not result in any intoxicating effects. However, many consumers mistakenly believe that CBD or hemp products will get them high, when in fact it is the marijuana plant—hemp’s psychoactive cousin—that can induce mind-altering effects.
Even though both oils are extracted from the same plant, they each have very different characteristics and uses that consumers should be aware of.
CBD oil is extracted from the flowers, leaves, stems, and stalks of hemp plants, and contains high levels of the naturally occurring CBD compound. Various CBD oil formats include tinctures, vape oil, and capsules, which are commonly used for their proven therapeutic benefits, such as:
- Pain management
- Stress relief
- Treatment of medical conditions such as epilepsy, schizophrenia, multiple sclerosis, and arthritis
- Reduction in anxiety
- Sleep aid
When it comes to product labeling, consumers should be aware that different types of CBD oils exist, depending on the chemical compounds—known as cannabinoids—they contain.
- CBD Isolate: Pure CBD, with no other cannabinoids such as THC
- Full-spectrum CBD oil: Contains CBD among other cannabinoids, including THC
- Broad-spectrum CBD oil: Contains CBD among other cannabinoids, with no THC
These oils are used in a wide variety of consumer products such as beverages, beauty products, and even pet food.
Hemp oil, on the other hand, is extracted from hemp seeds and contains no cannabinoids such as CBD and THC. It is used more like a traditional cooking oil, but can also be found in topical creams and lotions.
More recently, hemp oil is being hailed for its use in industrial products such as concrete, bio-plastics and fuel. While it has huge potential for use in both consumer and industrial products, its benefits differ slightly to CBD oil:
- Source of plant-based protein and rich in fatty acids and antioxidants
- Reduces inflammation
- Reduces severity of skin conditions such as acne, eczema, or psoriasis
- Anti-bacterial properties
- Could reduce PMS or menopause symptoms
Consumers should ensure that hemp oil is listed as the active ingredient on the product’s packaging, but it may also be listed as cannabis sativa seed oil.
Busting the Myths
While there is strong scientific evidence to support the efficacy of CBD oil and hemp oil, companies need to commit to both appropriate and safe labeling regarding dosage levels and ingredients.
Following that, previously held stigmas and misconceptions should slowly disintegrate as these products become more widely available and consumers increase their knowledge and understanding of their benefits.
Considering that the popularity of cannabis consumer products has only exploded over the last decade, initial confusion surrounding them is to be expected, and the true potential of these products is yet to be realised.
Consumer Archetypes Shaping the European CBD Industry
This infographic visualizes the non-consumer and consumer archetypes that could be position Europe as the leader in global cannabis consumption.
Consumer Archetypes Shaping the European CBD Industry
View the high-resolution of the infographic by clicking here.
With a colossal base of 500 million potential cannabis consumers, and laws that are loosening at a steady pace, Europe could soon emerge as the global cannabis leader.
Cannabidiol, better known as CBD, has become one of the most popular forms of cannabis in the European market, but little is known about the consumers who are reaching for it.
New Frontier Data identified a spectrum of archetypes in an effort to better understand their consumption patterns.
What Makes Europe Different?
Although Europe’s cannabis market is still in early stages, the proximity of countries could be instrumental in how quickly it grows. Widespread legalisation could be accelerated due to neighbouring countries lowering the barriers for others—also known as The Domino Effect.
A total of 22 countries have now legalised some form of medical cannabis, while other countries have decriminalised recreational cannabis or have pledged to fully legalise it in the coming years.
There is a 60% to 70% chance that cannabis will be legal across Europe within the next three years, but more research is key to unlocking growth in this market—and that includes gaining a full understanding of what consumers want.
CBD Consumer Archetypes
New Frontier Data identified five CBD consumer archetypes and four non-consumer archetypes, based on their attitudes, beliefs, and experiences. The CBD consumer archetypes are as follows:
- The Exuberant & Intense (11%): As advocates of the CBD movement, this group is devoted to trying different products and spends more than any other archetype in the process.
- The Integrative & Consistent (29%): CBD has become an essential component in achieving a healthy lifestyle for this group, resulting in them consuming it at least once a week and putting them in second place for highest overall spend.
- The Sceptical & Limited (20%): CBD products are used in moderate frequency, but have not been incorporated into this group’s lifestyle as they are generally wary of health claims. However, more information may soothe the concerns of this group over time.
- The Receptive & Reserved (23%): Consuming a narrow range of products in moderate frequency, this group are more comfortable trying products based on recommendations from friends and family. Over time, as more people in their inner circle try different products, they will also gain confidence to follow.
- The Ambivalent & Experimental (17%): This group will not consider purchasing CBD products themselves, but will consume products when they are shared by friends and family. While their beliefs are more conservative, new products could tempt them to make CBD part of their routine.
Interestingly, up to 98% of surveyed consumers claim that CBD has positively affected their quality of life in some way. In terms of product preferences, tinctures/oils are a consumer favourite, with a large portion of people using CBD to unwind.
Less than half of all non-consumers have heard of CBD. While some of them are not open to changing behaviors, others could soon convert to a consumer archetype, provided information and legalisation becomes more commonplace.
- Unaware & Uninterested (43%): Having never come across CBD products online or in store, this group is broadly uninterested in learning more, but may be open to experimenting as the market becomes more regulated.
- Knowledgeable & Primed (28%): This group expresses a strong belief in the benefits of CBD and their curiosity to learn more makes them the most likely group to become consumers in the next six months.
- Informed & Indifferent (19%): A wide exposure to CBD products does not translate to intent to purchase, potentially due to this group’s lack of awareness regarding CBD’s beneficial properties.
- Cautious & Curious (10%): Despite a strong curiosity towards CBD products, they remain apprehensive about the safety and legality of them.
Overall, 34% of non-consumers are curious about trying CBD products—which could yield significant growth for the cannabis industry in the coming years.
A New Successor to the Throne
The recent COVID-19 outbreak has also sparked major discussion around the use of cannabis. Some parts of the world have declared it as “essential”, as consumers use products to alleviate pandemic-fuelled anxiety, which has resulted in a huge sales boost for the industry.
This will likely translate to Europe, where almost half of CBD consumers claim its therapeutic benefits are their primary reason for use.
The reality is that the potential for European cannabis growth is significant, and to achieve this, both consumer and non-consumer motivations should be considered.
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