Britain’s cannabidiol (CBD) market has accelerated at a remarkable pace. Starting from standstill three years ago when regulators reclassified CBD as a medicine, it is now worth £300m a year according to research from Savills, and sales are on target to hit £1bn by 2025. The decision by high street stores such as Holland & Barrett, Boots and Lloyds Pharmacy to stock a range of CBD products has helped the industry shed much of the stigma still attached to the broader cannabis market for many consumers, and user numbers have been doubling every year.
Enter Infused Amphora, led by the serial entrepreneur Angus Taylor, who built one of the most successful retail brands following legalisation of cannabis in Canada two years ago. The company launches its CBD wellness venture in the UK today in what it hopes will be a bridgehead towards building a global brand in an industry that remains highly fragmented.
Infused Amphora’s CBD products come in the form of vape cartridges, with a choice of four different flavours that users can choose from according to their needs and moods. The venture is a collaboration with Californian vape hardware company Vessel Brand, which has designed a distinctive cartridge that the company hopes will set its brand apart from other vaping products in the UK.
“Customers in the UK seem to be approaching CBD products in the same way as they’re looking for other types of wellness products,” says Taylor, pointing to the increasing number of users who praise CBD for perceived benefits such as pain relief and reduced anxiety. “British consumers get CBD and that it works, but they have often been unsure about which products will help them meet their needs.”
Health shops typically stock CBD products in the form of oils, capsules and flavoured gums, but these can be slow for the body to digest and break down, Taylor points out. Vaping, by contrast, delivers the active ingredients into the blood stream more quickly and effectively, enabling users to assess the effects more accurately and to manage how much they are consuming.
Crucially, Infused Amphora is in control of its entire supply chain, managing cultivation and extraction of CBD in the Caribbean. This should help it address concerns about some CBD products in the UK, with some consumer groups expressing concern about the testing and quality of imports.
The company has also established manufacturing and distribution partnerships in the UK. It will initially focus on e-commerce but is pursuing deals for retail distribution in high street stores.
Taylor expects demand for CBD products to increase quickly in the UK and worldwide, as more people embrace the wellness benefits CBD offers – and as understanding of the market grows. “We want to stand apart on quality, but also educate the consumer on what the healthy choice is,” he says.
Crucially, CBD, the compound in cannabis that many believe is the source of wellness benefits, does not produce any psychoactive effects; rather, these come from THC, another compound present in the drug. So, while many jurisdictions are following the example of Canada and moving towards legalisation of cannabis, this isn’t necessary for further growth of the CBD market – and better recognition of the difference between CBD and THC may encourage take-up among customers who might otherwise feel uncomfortable with the product.
Taylor believes this is a market in its infancy. “We see the legality and acceptance of CBD increasing globally,” he says. “There is a huge opportunity to build a globally recognisable brand.” In this regard, the UK is very much a launch pad for the company, which already has plans to launch into Brazil and India in 2021.
In the UK itself, Infused Amphora will face competition from rivals already offering CBD-base vape products. But while sales of such products now total around £40m, no single brand has managed to take control of the market or establish significant brand recognition with customers.
In that sense, Taylor believes an entrepreneurial approach to the market with a premium product will be a microcosm of what the company can eventually achieve globally. The World Health Organization’s recommendation that CBD is dropped from international drug control conventions next year has the potential to give the global market a major boost – and Taylor wants his brand to be in prime position to take advantage.