There is as yet a lack of scientific evidence linking CBD with improved health. According to the Harvard Medical School in the US, for example, CBD may prove to be an option for managing anxiety, insomnia, and chronic pain, although it says more research is still needed.
Alphagreen has, however, noted a spike in its SEO traffic since the onset of COVID-19. The company said searches were related to sleep issues and mental health issues and included "insomnia cure", "anxiety relief", "mood booster" and other terms and phrases surrounding "feeling relaxed" and "sleeping better".
Alphagreen was founded in 2019 and has quickly become a leading D2C and B2B marketplace for CBD and alternative healthcare products, all of which are lab-certified.
It currently lists 879 products from 80 brands including hemp seed seller Erbology and CBD drink brands Trip Drinks and Pollen. Around 15% of its products are edible.
“We’re on a mission to deliver plant-based and innovative remedies to our customers for their daily health and wellbeing concerns, with the primary goal being to create a community centred around the de-stigmatisation and education of these products and their benefits,” Alphagreen’s spokesperson Swezel Rodrigues told FoodNavigator.
Based on its survey of 5,000 British consumers back in May, Alphagreen claimed as many as 7.8 million UK adults have bought CBD products this year. Of those using it, 42% said they were using ot for pain relief. Over 20% were using it to treat insomnia, while 19% said it provided stress relief.
CBD spending exceeded £150 million in the first four months of 2020 alone putting the market on target to achieve revenues of £450 million over the year as a whole, which would represent 50% growth compared to 2019.
Alphagreen said the findings of its survey indicated that the “number of future CBD users looks set to dramatically increase given how early the CBD industry is in the diffusion of innovation model”. It added that nearly 16 million UK adults suffer from sleepless nights, while 28 million are affected by some form of chronic pain.
Surprisingly, only 41% of respondents were able to distinguish between illegal recreational cannabis, legal medical cannabis and CBD – which is extracted from the cannabis plant and contains little or no THC, the other key compound in cannabis and which causes users to get high.
Alphagreen said this fact presented an opportunity for brands. “Over time, companies investing in consumer education will gain access to an additional 59% of all UK customers. Newly acquired customers via educational channels are likely to be long-term customers with high repeat purchase rates.”
Rodrigues added: "Our survey found there was huge demand in the UK. I don’t think anyone would have predicted how big it was.
“There's definitely a lot of education required around the product, but what was also interesting was the fact that there was so much usage in the UK despite the awareness being so low. There's definitely a lot of people interested in trying the product even though they might be a bit confused and not sure where to go for reliable information. This is something we're also focusing on and we try to educate customers with our blogs and social media posts.”
Masking the CBD flavour
A challenge for food brands seeking to work with CBD is masking its taste, often described as nutty, earthy or grassy.
Rodrigues noted a trend of food companies looking to incorporate CBD into trendy spices, such as turmeric and ashwagandha, and condiments like honey both to mask the flavour of CBD and capitise on its superfood associations.
"It will be a normal additive used by a lot of big brands in the future,” she said. “I feel like it will be included in a lot of products as a superfood."