Daniel Pérez Vidal, founder of the online CBD retail platform For the Ageless, has been tracking consumer insights via his site for over five years, with more than 20,000 customers regularly providing feedback on the products they order.
He says the feedback reveals that 70% of his customers favour full-spectrum products over other types of cannabinoid profiles.
A full-spectrum CBD product contains multiple cannabis plant extracts, including essential oils, terpenes, and other cannabinoids, such as cannabinol and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the cannabinoid in the cannabis plant that produces the 'high' feeling. The full-spectrum extracts being sold today do not make you ‘high’ as they contain less then 1mg of THC per container.
Research suggests that CBD's health benefits may be more prominent when multiple compounds from the cannabis plant are present, and this has been dubbed the 'entourage effect'.
However, with the novel foods regulations currently working to weed out products containing THC, Vidal says this will inevitably remove full spectrum products from the market. In fact, the FSA has so far only validated three companies since the novel food applications deadline passed at the end of March and those all sell isolate products.
Vidal says: “We are concerned that the market runs the risk of becoming over-regulated, to the point of neutering itself in what it can offer.
“In particular, the drive towards an environment where artificial isolates become the norm. The natural and organic extracts that we have seen a great many benefiting from for years may be on the brink of disappearing.
“Making isolates the norm replaces a natural ingredient with a synthetic replacement that provides only a portion of the current benefits.”
Phil Culbertson, MD at Love CBD and a director at the Cannabis Trade Association (CTA), explains that the CTA historically took the position that there are two types of CBD products which should be regulated differently; isolates which should fall under novel foods regulations as they were not in existence prior to 1997 (the cut off year for when a product counts as a novel food), and full spectrum extracts containing naturally occurring levels of cannabinoids which shouldn’t be categorised as novel as there is significant proof of consumption in the EU prior to 1997.
“However, given that CBD products which contain more than 1mg of THC are considered to be a controlled substance and not a food by the FSA, it Is therefore currently unlikely that that any true full spectrum products will be able to achieve novel food validation and subsequent authorisation any time soon.
"It is also the case that the process of removing THC required to achieve products with less than 1mg of THC will likely render CBD products novel even if they are not novel before."
He agrees with Vidal that his customers have voiced their preference for full spectrum products.
“Most of the market wants full spectrum products and there are many consumers who have been buying full spectrum products for a number of years who suddenly will be finding themselves in a position where they can’t buy the products that have been working for them.
“Many of these consumers have spent a lot of time finding the exact format, brand and the exact dose that works best for them and the changes in the market are causing anxiety to these consumers.
“Full spectrum products also generally require the consumer to take a lower dosage in order to feel the benefits. It’s also much easier to build up a tolerance to isolate products.
The closest customers will be able to get to full spectrum now is broad spectrum – containing a range of naturally occurring compounds from the cannabis plant, but no tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) - which is all Love CBD sells.
A fast-changing market
As well as his dismay at the loss of full spectrum product, Culbertson says he can see the market losing the many legitimate small and independent companies which simply can’t afford to get through the novel foods authorisation process.
“What is bound to happen to the market is a consolidation to fewer brands which had the funds available to get through the novel foods process. So essentially the market will be built upon lots of big companies with big budgets selling lots of isolate products, which is a real shame considering what a diverse market it has been.
“Companies in this space will also need to become more competitive as they enter more retailer and supermarket shelves. This will put them in competition with vitamins and supplements and prices will need to come down.”
Vidal, who retails oils from a dozen CBD suppliers, has also seen the impact on producers.
“The process of aligning themselves with the new legislation has been crushing, lengthy and difficult for them, pushing truly wonderful, high-quality producers, the Château Lafite of the CBD world, out of business," he says.
"Their biggest concern is that they will be unable to use source material that has historically proven safe and effective all over Europe from natural, organic, and local suppliers. Seeing this happen in the UK would be a catastrophe for the industry and end-users.”
The tea entourage
Vidal adds that the feedback his customers have provided for hemp tea has been ‘extraordinary’.
“When recommending it to a CBD oil customer, many are not attracted to taking tea because they don’t generally like herbal teas and they don’t perceive it as something that can make a difference.
“However, of those who tried taking it, over 80% continue to use it and report much better results when taking CBD oil and hemp tea together.”
Dr Arno Hazekamp, who’s looked into this topic extensively, points out that there is a different set of cannabinoids released when brewing tea, especially CBDa.
“Hemp teas are inexpensive and not highly publicised products and this may be the reason why the general public hasn’t discovered yet that they can be as great of an asset as CBD oil,” says Vidal.
Novel foods process
Companies in England and Wales had to submit their novel foods dossiers to the FSA by March 31st if they wanted their CBD products to be able to legally remain on the market.
The FSA promised that it would provide the industry with a list of products this month, associated with applications which either: have been validated in the initial stage of the process before going on to the safety assessment; or are ‘on hold’, with applicants having set out robust plans to complete the risk assessment but yet to supply all the information needed to continue on in the process.
Local authorities will need to use the lists in order to enforce the law and ensure only legal products are being sold.
Emily Miles, Chief Executive of the Food Standards Agency, says companies who didn't submit a dossier to the FSA by March 31st should remove their products from the market, adding: "Products on the list that have been linked to a validated or on hold application will now undergo a full safety assessment so that a final decision can be made.
"When complete, the list can be used by suppliers and retailers to confirm the status of particular products and to help local authorities inform their enforcement decisions.
"The FSA is not endorsing the sale of any of these products, regardless of whether they are on the list or not and inclusion on the list is no guarantee of eventual authorisation; that will be determined on the strength of evidence of safety submitted by the companies."