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Consumers Trust CBD Manufacturers More Than Big Pharma

Key insights from GlobalWebIndex’s CBD survey
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Photograph: Shutterstock

One issue retailers considering carrying cannabidiol (CBD) products face is the lack of information about the CBD consumer. GlobalWebIndex recently released the results of two CBD consumer surveys. The market research company combined data from January and May online surveys to produce its Distilling the Rise of CBD report.

“Regulations haven’t stalled growth,” said Katie Gilsenan, senior trends analyst for London-based GlobalWebIndex, during a recent webinar. “Two in 3 U.S. internet users would use CBD-containing products. One U.S. manufacturer has even marketed CBD pillowcases.”

Here are four takeaways from the report:

1. Health and Wellness Trends Are Key to CBD’s Rise

Gilsenan described reasons behind CBD’s growth as “multifaceted,” but gave a large credit to increasing consumer interest in health and wellness. Between 2012 and 2017, the global wellness industry grew 12.8%, a market value of about $4 trillion, due in part to something Gilsenan and her colleagues describe as “the anxiety economy.”

“Anxiety rates in the U.S. are on the rise,” said Sandy Livingstone, head of consumer products for GlobalWebIndex. “A trend in self-diagnosis and self-medicating is also on the rise. The result is there’s a really big gap between supply and demand—CBD is prime to benefit.”

Of the consumers surveyed by GlobalWebIndex, stress relief and reducing anxiety played a big role in CBD usage. Fifty-five percent of respondents who would consider using CBD said they were motivated by a desire to relieve stress, while 84% viewed CBD as effective at relieving mental health issues.

2. Consumers Trust CBD Companies More Than Big Pharma

A strong interest in more natural, nonprescription solutions to stress and anxiety may be coming from an overall distrust in major pharmaceutical companies in the United States. The survey found 20% of consumers “strongly trust” the pharmaceutical industry, while 24% strongly trust CBD companies. Meanwhile 10% said they “strongly distrust” pharma, vs. 2% who strongly distrust CBD makers.

“Trust in traditional pharma is lower than trust in CBD companies in the U.S., which is really amazing,” said Livingstone. “Consumers are recognizing the potential of CBD and aren’t relying on pharmaceutical companies.”

3. Consumers Are Marketing CBD Themselves

The report acknowledged a number of legal challenges CBD manufacturers face in promoting products stateside. In addition to different media laws on a state-by-state basis, anything that could be perceived as a health claim made via TV broadcast would fall under the scrutiny of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

“The CBD industry is caught in both a place of big opportunity and risk—a problem for larger brands,” said Gilsenan. “This makes advertising CBD quite difficult.”

The good news is that consumers seem to be taking up the torch. Of survey respondents who have used CBD, 76% said they’d likely recommend it to friends and family.

This kind of person-to-person marketing and education seems to be working: Between the winter and spring iterations of the GlobalWebIndex survey, the number of respondents who said they felt knowledgeable about the differences between marijuana, CBD, THC and hemp grew from 57% to 65%.

4. Consumers are Willing to Pay

More than half the consumers surveyed said they’d be willing to pay a premium price for products containing CBD, with 25% strongly agreeing with the statement and 32% saying they “somewhat agreed.”

The report noted that beauty products were most poised to benefit from the premiumization of CBD, estimating that the segment is expected to grow to $1.6 billion by 2020.

“All the uncertainty around CBD isn’t stopping consumers from wanting more,” said Gilsenan.

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