A Problem Looming Over the Cannabis Edibles Market
The boom in legal cannabis has been absolutely historic.
According to ArcView Research, it’s already a multi-billion dollar industry – and by 2022, the legal market could be worth $32 billion globally.
As in any nascent industry, the early days of cannabis have been exciting and formative. As it begins to mature, it’ll become clearer what products will drive future growth.
In this context, cannabis edibles and beverages have taken center stage – and today’s infographic from Trait Biosciences outlines the magnitude of this opportunity, along with some of the challenges the market faces going forward.
The Rise of Edibles
From dark chocolate to CBD-infused beverages, the cannabis edibles market is one of the most diverse and exciting markets for both consumers and businesses.
Edibles and beverages have already more than doubled in their share of the overall cannabis market since 2011, and the market is expected to grow in size from $1 billion to $4.1 billion between the years 2017 and 2022.
This year, the Specialty Food Association even named cannabis edibles and beverages as a “Food Trend of the Year” – a nod to the fact that edibles are going mainstream, even within the scope of the much larger food and beverages industry.
Not surprisingly, as this category emerges, there are many big brands exploring options in the edibles market, including Constellation Brands, Molson Coors, Mondelez, Carl’s Jr, Anheuser Busch, Neal Brothers, and Coca-Cola. In particular, the beverages space seems to be hot: Constellation shelled out $4 billion for a stake in the largest cannabis company globally (Canopy Growth), and beer-maker Anheuser Busch partnered with Tilray to research THC and CBD drinks.
There are four major sources of risk that could impact future growth potential for companies in the fast-moving cannabis edibles market:
- Regulatory risks:
Regulators are becoming increasingly concerned about the dosage, packaging, and labeling of edibles products
- Stiff competition:
Mega brands are entering the edibles space at a blistering pace, and could dominate market share from newer entrants
Complex layers of taxation could decrease demand for edibles, such as in California, while also pushing consumers towards the black market
- Consumer concerns:
Unpredictable dosage amounts, taste, and even toxins have surfaced as issues with the media, as consumers voice their concerns with edible products
But above and beyond these known risks, there is another potential hindrance to the edibles and beverages market that flies under the radar: how cannabinoids are absorbed into the bloodstream when ingested.
The Journey Into the Bloodstream
Unlike substances like sugar or alcohol, cannabinoids are not soluble in water. Instead, they are soluble in fats.
A substance such as sugar can enter the bloodstream within 10-15 minutes of ingesting. On the other hand, fat soluble substances such as cannabinoids have to wait – which is why sometimes edibles take hours to kick in.
Ultimately, cannabinoids are absorbed through the body’s fat. This happens in the small intestines, which help distribute them to the rest of the body.
Implications for Edibles and Beverages
For some cannabis producers, fat-solubility just means slow onset times and a generally undesirable taste. For other products, like CBD beverages, it creates bigger problems. Water and oil simply don’t mix.
To get around this, producers are using special emulsion techniques to make oil particles smaller, so that they mix with water better, increase bioavailability, and speed up onset times.
Think of this as mixing oil and vinegar. It’s your common emulsion that will separate over time, since oil and water don’t mix
Stable but thermodynamically unstable. Uses surfactants to keep water/oil binded
Stable, but uses a higher concentration of surfactants (which lower the surface tension between two liquids)
While these techniques are seeing increased usage by producers of cannabis products, they do have their own set of limitations.
Oil and water solutions still unbind over time, and products may only have a limited shelflife. Reporting by WSJ has found that these beverages also have a questionable aftertaste for many consumers, and onset times of these products are still not as fast as smoking or vaping.
It’s also worth noting that various health regulators, scientific journals, and international organizations have raised concerns about using nano-sized particles in food and beverages.
For example, the Canadian government warns that there is a “causal relationship between nanoparticle exposure and adverse health effects”, while the respected scientific journal Nature warns that nanoparticles “may behave differently within the human body”, and that “safety of nanoparticles should be judged on a case-by-case basis”.
The cannabis edibles market is poised to be the next big thing – but when it comes to how these cannabinoids get absorbed by the body, there is still much work to be done.
How will the industry and consumers move forward to capitalize on growing opportunities in the edibles and beverages market?
9 Things Investors Should Know About the Cannabis Industry in 2021
This graphic provides an overview of 9 key developments in the cannabis industry that investors should be aware of going into 2021.
9 Things Cannabis Investors Should Know in 2021
Unlike dozens of other industries across the globe, cannabis experienced significant growth as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In fact, with consumption for both medical and recreational products on the rise, 2020 was a record-breaking year for the industry. After years of investor uncertainty, analysts are predicting a continued bull market in 2021, with several new and exciting developments on the horizon.
Here are nine things cannabis investors need to know.
1. Cannabis Stocks on the Rise
While asset prices took a dip during the initial stage of the COVID-19 outbreak in March, the cannabis sector recovered swiftly after reporting impressive numbers.
Even though cannabis investors have experienced some ups and downs in the last several years, 2021 looks more hopeful.
2. COVID-19 and Cannabis
Cannabis has become an attractive option for people spending more time at home, both as a means of entertainment, and to reduce stress and anxiety associated with the pandemic.
As a result, cannabis sales are soaring. In Canada, monthly sales reached an all-time high of $270 million (CAD) in October 2020, a dramatic increase from $180 million just six months earlier.
3. Cannabis Black Market No More?
For millions of U.S. citizens who live in states where the sale of cannabis is still restricted, the illicit market continues to be their only option.
But with loosening restrictions and legal cannabis becoming more widely available, legal sales are predicted to reach $50 billion by 2026 while illegal sales will plummet to less than $1 billion by the same year.
|Year||U.S. Legal Cannabis Sales||U.S. Illegal Cannabis Sales|
|2016||$6 billion||$25 billion|
|2026||$50 billion||<$1 billion|
4. Political Change Driving Market Growth
Almost 70% of Americans now support the full legalization of cannabis—the highest figure ever recorded.
States where cannabis is legal are now paving the way for cannabis sales, with California expected to pull in over $6 billion by 2021 alone. If federal legalization comes to fruition over the next several years, the already booming U.S. market could see further growth.
5. All Eyes on the European Cannabis Market
The European cannabis market has been on investors’ radar for several years, and with good reason—it is one of the largest cannabis markets in the world.
Driven primarily by medicinal products, the market will be valued at over $39 billion by 2024, with countries like Germany—Europe’s largest economy—leading the way.
In late 2020, the market experienced its biggest breakthrough yet, with the European Union ruling that products containing CBD (one of the most active ingredients in cannabis) are no longer listed as narcotics.
6. Making History in Mexico
Mexico is another market that is piquing the interest of investors and cannabis companies the world over. That’s because it could soon be the third country in the world to legalize recreational cannabis by court order.
With a total addressable market of $2 billion and the potential to support up to 75,000 jobs, these new regulations could change the dynamic of the global market for the better.
7. Most Popular Cannabis Products
Given the flurry of product innovation in the market, consumption of cannabis is quickly changing.
Relatively new products such as edibles and oils are gaining traction, while consumption of flower appears to be declining. This could be due in part to oral products being perceived as a healthier alternative to smoking.
8. CBD Products are Moving into the Mainstream
Although CBD was once considered a niche product that could only be found in dispensaries, growing awareness of the benefits and safety of these products are causing companies operating in the consumer packaged goods industry to take notice.
The cannabis compound is a new addition to a wide range of products such as skincare, makeup, and supplements that can now be purchased almost anywhere—from ecommerce sites to local grocery stores.
9. The New Cannabinoids on the Block
Beyond CBD, scientists have discovered over 100 rare, or minor cannabinoids such as CBG and CBN, that could have even more significant benefits than their major cannabinoid counterparts.
For example, preliminary research shows that CBG could inhibit cancer growth, help treat glaucoma, bladder dysfunction, and kill drug-resistant bacteria.
These discoveries are not only attracting huge attention from the cannabis industry, but from the pharmaceutical industry as well.
Milestones in the Making
With all of these exciting developments coming to the fore, it’s safe to say 2021 could be one of the cannabis industry’s most transformative years to date.
Mapped: The European CBD Landscape in 2020
This graphic explains the innately complex legal status of CBD products in Europe and highlights the countries leading the CBD charge.
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.
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