As the UK makes moves to be the world’s first regulated CBD market, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has now published the anticipated list of credible CBD Novel Food applications.
The published list features a total of 3,500 CBD products for oral consumption that are considered to be attached to a credible Novel Foods application. The products included represent a variety of application types, including synthetic, isolate and full spectrum.
These products will be able to remain on the market as they progress towards final authorisation. The FSA has stated that although these products are classed as “credible”, it does not guarantee they will be authorised for sale.
With a lengthy process still to go, it is unlikely that any applications will be considered for authorisation before early to mid-2023. Any further authorisations may take another few years.
Emily Miles, Chief Executive of the FSA, commented: “The CBD market is growing rapidly. The FSA has been working to move the CBD industry into compliance. Today we have taken the next step in our pragmatic approach to making sure CBD products are safe and what they say they are.
“We have created the public list to help local authorities and retailers prioritise products to be removed from sale. If a product is not on the list, it should be removed from sale because it is not attached to a credible application to us for market authorisation.
“But being on the list means that the application is credible and the FSA has, or is shortly expecting to receive, significant scientific evidence from the applicant with which to judge safety.
“I want to emphasise that the FSA is not endorsing products on the public list, and inclusion on the list is no guarantee that they will be authorised as they have not yet been fully assessed for safety. But we have taken the step of publishing the list so that local authorities, retailers and consumers can make informed judgments about what they stock and buy, as we gradually bring this growing market into compliance with the law.”
Novel Foods application process
CBD products were classed as a ‘novel’ food product by the European Union (EU) in 2019, and now need to be assessed by the FSA for safety before being permitted for sale. CBD businesses were given a deadline of March 31 to submit any Novel Food application and since 1 January 2021, the FSA has reviewed over 900 applications. A total of 680 of those applications were rejected and a further 42 were withdrawn by the applicant.
The FSA has confirmed that there are currently 182 live applications, with 175 at the pre-validation stage, 7 at the risk assessment stage.
The 3,500 featured products are linked to 70 applications that have provided enough evidence or completed toxicological studies, 65 of which are in the “awaiting evidence” category and five are in the validated category. For those that remain in the awaiting evidence section, companies will be required to supply more information this year in order to be assessed for validation.
Validated applications will move on to a full risk assessment. Those that are shown to be of a low enough risk must also go through a risk management process before a recommendation can be made to Ministers on authorisation.
Products will be assessed for safety, which the FSA has stated could take up to nine months. However, if further information is needed, “the clock can be stopped” for this process. The organisation could not confirm a timeframe for the requirement to provide this extra information, but has said this will be done “in a timely manner”.
For those applications that did not make it through the checks, applicants may reapply if they can provide the additional information needed to pass validation.
This will be specified in the FSA’s feedback on original applications, but the orgainsation highlights that these products will not be added to the public list and could not be reintroduced into the market until an authorisation is granted.
To ensure consumer safety, the FSA has called on local UK authorities and retailers to help bring the market into compliance. Following today’s publication of the list, local authorities will be able to play a role by prioritising the removal of products from sale that are not included.
Miles commented: “If a product is not on the list, it should be removed from sale because it’s not attached to a credible application for market authorisation.
“I do want to emphasise that the FSA is not endorsing products on the public list, and inclusion on the list is no guarantee that those products will be authorised as they have not yet been fully assessed for safety.”
Local authorities, retailers and consumers can use the list to make informed judgments about what they stock and what they buy.
Miles continued: “We’ve been working with local authorities throughout this process to make sure that they’ve been fully informed about the approach that we’re taking. So the guidance that we’re issuing is going to help local authorities take a proportionate approach to their enforcement activity.
“We don’t expect enforcement to be a big bang so they will be considering these products alongside all of the other responsibilities that they have – we expect them to prioritise appropriately.
“They have been very close to the development of this policy, and we will be providing further guidance to them if needed. Our request is for retailers, in particular, to be responsible and make sure that they are not selling products that aren’t on the list.
“This is as much about voluntary compliance that we’re asking for as it is about enforcement.”
The FSA is advising local authorities which enforce the novel food legislation to encourage food businesses whose products are not included to voluntarily withdraw their products from the market.
The UK’s CBD sector trade body, The Association for the Cannabinoid Industry (ACI) has been working closely with the FSA for two years and with companies to help them meet the requirements for their Novel Foods applications.
ACI founder, Steve Moore, commented: “The FSA public list represents a major milestone for the UK’s CBD category.
“It demonstrates the progress the sector has made to meet compliance requirements and creates greater regulatory certainty which, in turn, will increase levels of consumer trust, encourage investment in the sector, and promote innovation.
“ACI is immensely grateful for the work that our members and the FSA have put in to take this momentous step.”
Jeremy Willcocks, partner at law firm Arnold & Porter, said: “The release by the Food Standards Agency of the list of cannabinoid (CBD) products permitted for sale to consumers in England and Wales is an important milestone for the CBD sector in the UK. We welcome the release.
“CBD foods on the list can now be sold legally in England and Wales. Other CBD foods products need to be removed from sale. Today’s announcement brings welcome legal certainty which will encourage investment in the CBD foods sector. The ACI has played an important role in this process and we congratulate the ACI for its terrific work.”
View the list here.
Cannaray to drive brand awareness following successful fundraise
Blue Array will be assisting the company in its digital campaigns.
UK CBD brand, Cannaray has appointed Blue Array to lead its PR strategy and activity for 2022.
The appointment follows the successful completion last month’s groundbreaking £10m funding round.
The round included major participants including the UK’s largest media-for-equity fund, Channel 4 Ventures – a first-of-its-kind backing in the European cannabis sector – as well as Three Bridges Private Capital and Alpha Blue Ocean.
Head of digital and communications at Cannaray, Jessica Mills, commented: “We are having a fantastic year of growth, bringing Cannaray’s CBD revolution to new consumers across the UK.
“Since appointing Blue Array to drive our SEO, they have proved to be a valuable agency partner and we are delighted to be deepening our partnership through Digital PR.
“The Blue Array team brings a huge amount of energy and passion to their approach, and we look forward to working with them moving forwards.”
Head of Digital PR at Blue Array, Jodie Harris, commented: “Cannaray CBD is an inspiring brand and has an ever-growing following.
“We are thrilled to be in partnership with Cannaray and to focus on delivering the brand’s core messaging whilst ensuring they dominate through organic search for the year ahead.
“We know this year is big for Cannaray and we are excited to be a part of the journey.”
Cannaray was the first CBD brand to invest in major brand advertising in the UK. In 2021 they began a national television and out of home campaign featuring brand ambassador and UK TV Presenter Claudia Winkleman.
Blue Array’s Digital PR arm which launched in August last year is tasked to drive awareness campaigns and educate the public about adopting CBD into their lifestyle as well as raise the brand’s visibility through media relations and product promotion.
New chief technology officer appointed at High Tide
Greg Fleury has joined the CBD company.
Greg Fleury has been appointed as chief technology officer (CFO) at High Tide.
Fleury will bring over 20 years experience to the role. Fleury will apply his knowledge of developing and managing digital operations teams, web platform design, analytics, search engine optimisation, and e-commerce in the retail, oil and gas, and utilities sectors.
President and CEOof High Tide, Raj Grover, commented: “It gives me great pleasure to announce the addition of Greg Fleury to High Tide’s executive team. Greg is an avid technological innovator with many years of experience and a track record of success.
“I plan on working closely with him over the coming months to take the digital and e-commerce components of High Tide’s integrated cannabis ecosystem to new heights.
“I would also like to thank Sean Geng for all of his efforts as High Tide’s Chief Technology Officer over the last year. Sean will remain on board with our company as a technology consultant, and I look forward to his continued contributions,” added Mr. Grover.
In Fleury’s prior role as vice president of digital and technology for Edo Japan, a Canadian fast food restaurant chain specialising in Japanese Teppan-style cooking, he led the development of that company’s ordering app, website, data warehouse, and analytics systems.
As CFO, Fleury will be responsible for leading High Tide’s global technology and digital operations, overseeing the development of digital platforms, digital commerce, security, and analytics, as well as managing High Tide’s IT infrastructure.
Fleury commented: ”I am excited to be joining a company that is as dynamic and fast-growing as High Tide is. Over the past year, High Tide has established itself as an e-commerce leader within the global cannabis space, and I was particularly drawn to the company because of this.
“I am eager to begin working to optimise High Tide’s digital platforms, building on our already-solid footing to keep us at the forefront of the cannabis sector’s technological evolution.”
The Canadian company announced in 2021 that it is making moves to enter the UK CBD market. In October, High Tide acquired Scotland-based Blessed CBD for £9.06m – a step towards solidifying itself as a major player within the global e-commerce marketplace for hemp-derived CBD products.
As part of the acquisition, Blessed’s founder and CEO, Vithurs Thiru joined the High Tide team as senior manager of research, helping grow High Tide’s CBD business globally.
Cellular Goods: Amazon’s CBD pilot is helping overcome ad restrictions
Cannabis Wealth speaks to Cellular Goods about advertising and sales restrictions and its appearance on Amazon’s new UK CBD product pilot.
Cellular Goods CEO, Anna Chokina, discusses how Amazon’s CBD pilot is helping the company overcome barriers from major online platforms when it comes to advertising and selling cannabinoid products.
The UK has a high demand for cannabinoid-based products. According to a report by the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis, the CBD market generated £690m in annual sales in 2021, and projects that it will reach nearly £1B by 2025.
Estimating the UK CBD market to be one of the largest in the world, the report notes that surveys from Dynata and YouGov indicate between 4 to 6 million UK adults have tried CBD.
CBD companies in the UK struggle to advertise products through usual marketing channels such as Google and other social media sites. This is a problem that does not seem to be moving, says Cellular Goods CEO, Anna Chokina, who suggests the platforms could play a more proactive role in the UK marketplace in their respective fields.
With the lack of marketing access to these platforms, Chokina highlights that the Amazon marketplace was a natural choice to host Cellular Goods’ products.
Chokina commented: “There is a considerable demand for products, yet somehow the information flow from the companies that play in this industry to the end customer is quite difficult.
“There is no lack of variety in terms of what’s available in the marketplace, but it’s very hard to understand what the products do and how they work. What is CBD, what is CBG, plant based, non-plant based, biosynthesised?
“It can be very hard to understand for the average consumer. It’s very hard as manufacturers and producers not only to sell our products but also to deliver truthful information to the customers about what the industry is and what the products do.”
Amazon approached Cellular Goods to take part in its new pilot trial of CBD products in the UK at the same time the company was discovering the limitations of Google and Meta. The eCommerce giant has already demonstrated that it is not shy about cannabis with its lobbying efforts for reform in the US having already removed cannabis testing from its pre-employment screenings, and now, its new CBD pilot is showing its support for the UK sector.
“We are quite happy to take part in this pilot because at least this way we have access to the Amazon consumer base that are searching for cannabinoid-based products,” said Chokina.
Cellular Goods will be featuring a number of its products on the platform, such as its cosmetic Look Better range which includes its new CBG face serum – the UK’s first CBG-based serum to prevent the signs of aging caused by UV light exposure and inflammation.
The company produced research on the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of cannabinoids CBG and CBD, which demonstrated the cannabinoids as contenders for other popular anti-inflammatory and anti-aging ingredients such as retinol and vitamin C serums, whilst also being much kinder for skin.
Chokina continued: “This was Cellular Goods way of ensuring that people who search for cannabinoid-based products were aware of our brand. As a startup, you have to look for ways to get your product out there, to get your name out.”
Many customers may not be aware of some of the cosmetic benefits of cannabinoids, and Chokina emphasises that customer education is key for the CBD market.
“I think consumer education is very important. I think one side effect from Meta and Google not taking a more proactive approach to allow companies to advertise freely or to trade freely on their platforms, is the fact that consumers are clueless,” said Chokina.
“They do not know the difference between CBD or CBG, they don’t know the amazing promises these ingredients can bring.
“So, we as the brand would like to become that voice that drives clarity, and hopefully, in time, the credibility will come with our name as well, that we’re only going to put the products in the market if they’re justified from the scientific standpoint.
“Science is very much who we are, so we want to make sure that what we bring is substantiated and it’s consistent as well.”
Chokina highlights that Cellular Goods has undertaken a 360-degree media campaign that includes billboards across London and Manchester, which will help drive customers to the Amazon platform as well as its own website marketplace.
Chokina said: “We have partnerships with Conde Nast with GQ with Vogue. So, there is a lot of influencer strategy involved as well.
“We’re working with bloggers and advertising, so, we have limitations on Meta and Google, but it doesn’t mean that the customers are not going to know about us. I don’t think one campaign is going to educate the market to get the customer base and get the sales growing. It’s just the start.
“We are pleased and humbled to be approached by Amazon because it’s also a sign that the industry is developing. It’s a sign that the wind is turning. So, it is definitely very positive for us. We are very much focused on our customers.
“If our customers prefer to shop, for instance, in some of the retail stores or in the pure play beauty stores, online that that’s where we would like to be because we are very much focused on making it easy for them to buy us.
“As part of our expansion to Europe and beyond, this is also going to be an integral part of our go-to market. What Amazon is doing is a sign of thriving, and I hope that the other big companies are going to follow suit and then we can advance and push the industry.”
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