Growing rapidly in popularity, cannabidiol (CBD) possesses a high percentage of the phytocannabinoid CBD and a very low concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and a growing body of evidence suggests that CBD has properties that can improve overall health and manage specific conditions. During an NACDS TSE Insight Session presented on Monday, August 26, Sean Ryan, BA, MA, MBA, Partner, Strategy and Top-Line Practice, A. T. Kearney, highlighted key elements that retailers should consider as they continue down the CBD path.

The question surrounding CBD now is, Will consumer sentiment, currently quite accepting of CBD, remain highly favorable? And will CBD have staying power as a critical component of retailers’ health and wellness agenda and product offering?

To address these key questions, Ryan cited recent data concerning health and wellness. “Americans are increasingly healthy. Fifty-four percent of Americans surveyed by Pugh Research last year identified health and wellness as a significantly more important topic than it was twenty years ago,” he noted. “Seventy-three percent of those Americans surveyed indicated that they want to live a more healthy and wellness-oriented lifestyle, and they perceive CBD as an important element in that journey.”  

What are CBD companies doing about this? Ryan pointed out that in the absence of history when it comes to CBD, companies should be flexible as the CBD story plays out. “There is quite a bit of forward thinking,” he said. “Do I do a lot? Do I do a little? Companies should imagine multiple futures and make choices now in the present so that when the future does arrive, they are positioned to take advantage of it.”
The current regulatory framework surrounding CBD is a key factor, according to Ryan. He stated that the “governing regulatory looking at the [CBD] product is no longer the DEA, and it is not a scheduled product anymore,” adding, “therefore, in the absence of a regulatory environment, there are a lot of players out there. Some of them are bad actors and some are good actors, and until this situation stabilizes there is some risk, obviously.” Ryan said that the “role of brands and the goal of retailers, therefore, is to be sure that what they are putting on the shelf is not going to compromise your own brand.”

Ryan also pointed out that topical formulations are not subject to premarket FDA approval, so that is the form that many CBD companies are offering in their product lines. No cannabis-derived product, he said, is prohibited in topical products.

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