Germany identified as future pacesetter in buoyant European CBD market

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

©Getty Images/Sinhyu
©Getty Images/Sinhyu
The European cannabidol (CBD) market is set to blossom over the next four years, according to a market intelligence firm, who also predict that Germany’s growth will outpace that of other EU countries.

These predictions, made by the Brightfield Group​ also include a headline grabbing 400% growth to 2023 of a European market estimated at €282m ($318m) in 2018.

“CBD is just starting to take hold in Europe, with both product availability and consumer awareness still quite limited,”​ said Bethany Gomez, Brightfield’s managing director.

“This is a great opportunity for developed brands to enter and expand through Europe with far less competition than we're seeing in the US.

“With the Novel Foods Act, it is a challenging legal environment to operate in, but impending regulatory changes are likely to smooth the way for significant mid-term growth." 

Germany’s emergence as a CBD frontrunner is subject to strict regulatory approval according to Berta Camps, legal analyst at CBD-Intel, a European-based regulatory and market intelligence firm for the sector.

“Germany has again effectively imposed a zero tolerance policy on THC in CBD food items,”​ she said. “Beyond that we also believe Germany will subject CBD products to the EU novel food guidance in the near future.”​

The UK and Austria

The report also identifies the UK as remaining the market leader over the medium-term. The country, along with Austria, together make up an estimated €80m ($80m) market in 2018.

The UK remains a complex area for CBD as a supplement with a borderline area exists between supplements and medicines.

It has a zero tolerance for traces of THC in supplements comments Pablo Cano Trilla, head of legal analysis at CBD-Intel, as he points out The Food Standards Agency advises companies to contact the Borderline Section for advice on the issue.

The European Commission’s recent reclassification of CBD as a Novel Food​ ​creates a few scenarios for Freddie Dawson, head of content at CBD-Intel, who predicts, “The most likely is that little changes.”​

“Larger chains may choose to drop CBD food/food supplement lines until there is approval but it is likely CBD will still be available on the market.” ​

If CBD in food and supplements are removed from the market for an extended period, CBD-Intel expects to see a scenario similar to what was seen with nicotine in certain situations post EU Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) implementation.

Here CBD users may well migrate to other products with the likelihood of e-liquid adoption in the UK.

Key growth driver

Brightfield Group’s report also identifies one key growth driver that sees countries such as Switzerland and Spain building and improving regulations surrounding product quality - both in the cannabis and CBD markets.

However, the CBD gloss was taken off earlier this month as a Swiss court ruled the sale of cannabis flowers would be taxed at 25% - the same rate that currently applies to tobacco.

The Swiss Federal Administrative Court ruled the drug’s floral buds was smoked in a similar way to cigarettes.

Current legislation in Switzerland permits the sale of cannabis with less than 1% Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

THC, the psychoactive chemical has been sold in tobacco outlets in Switzerland since 2017. Possession approaching 10 grams of the more potent type results in a €89 (CHF100) penalty.

Meanwhile the situation in Spain is unpredictable with forthcoming general elections on 28 April.

Whatever the outcome, cannabis and CBD has received support from both the left and right and could well be subject to future legislative debate.

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