EducationCBD industry growth in the UK

CBD industry growth in the UK

9 min read

Lydia Kariuki

CBD industry growth the stats
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is one of the predominant phytocannabinoids found in both cannabis and hemp plants. CBD does not produce a psychoactive effect like the compound Tetrahidrocannabinol-9 (THC), but it does seem to possibly offer a significant array of wellness benefits. 


What is CBD?

CBD (along with THC) is one of the two 'major' phytocannabinoids produced by cannabis plants, and the one found in the highest concentrations in most hemp varieties.

Research studies have indicated CBD has effective antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It is also been shown to produce marked antianxiety effects among a range of other health benefits. A range of CBD-infused products have been developed for diverse potential therapeutic applications.

A brief history of CBD in the UK

The UK’s history reflects a long tradition of hemp production and use. A 1683 mandate by King Henry VIII required that a farmer had to grow ¼ acre of hemp for every 60 acres, or pay a fine. For centuries, hemp was a constant crop and used for medicinal, fibre and other purposes.

However, the 1928 Dangerous Drugs Act categorized hemp with cannabis and this policy greatly constrained hemp production. Although CBD and its by-products contain significantly less or no THC and do not cause psychoactive compounds, this key piece of prohibition policy would hinder hemp production, and with it CBD production and access.

Public perception about hemp and cannabis has been conflicted throughout UK history, although the stigma has been weakened and more people are expressing support for the CBD industry. Three-quarters of respondents who completed a recent survey facilitated by YouGov indicated that many UK citizens believe that UK hemp farmers should be allowed to process hemp flowers and leaves.

The current state of the CBD industry in the UK

The demand for CBD increased during the early pandemic stage in the spring months of 2020 and steadily rose. Industry experts estimate the UK CBD market will be worth £1 billion in 2025. 11% of the UK population (around 6 million people) have tried a CBD product in the last year, so there is significant potential for this pre-existing consumer population to maintain or increase use. In addition, the CBD industry will attract new consumers.

Patient advocates, and CBD businesses and organizations, such as the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis, are calling for stricter and more comprehensive regulation. They want to ensure product quality meets or exceeds standards for sanitary and quality processes. Without this regulatory oversight, there will be differences in quality depending on the CBD supplier. 

Clarity regarding cannabinoid profile, potency, ingredients, and chemicals used during processing is critical. Some companies will emphasise their use of a third-party, independent testing lab.

Market size and growth

The UK CBD market is the second-largest market behind the USA CBD industry. UK CBD sales now outpace the vitamin D (£145M), and vitamin C (£119M) markets combined.

Growing and future projections estimate the compound annual growth rate will rise 29.6% from 2020 to 2025. The current estimate of CBD patients is 3.5 million people, with 3 million who have tried a CBD product in the past year, and experts predict the number of users will double by 2025.

Legal status of CBD in the UK

CBD is legal for sale and administration in the United Kingdom. Hemp cultivation was common throughout UK history until the 1928 Act prohibited hemp farming. This ban was amended in 1993, and since then many UK farmers have pursued hemp farming as an additional crop or main crop. Farmers are restricted to using only the seeds and stalks and must destroy hemp flowers and leaves. Hopefully, this will change soon enough.

Major players in the industry

There are several key stakeholders in the UK CBD industry. Holland and Barrett are one of the largest CBD companies; they have a presence in over 150 shops. British Cannabis is also one of the largest CBD companies, and Blessed CBD and Vibes are some well-respected industry names. NuLeaf is a Colorado-based company gaining strength in the UK.

Consumer trends

Some estimate that the current CBD industry is worth between 300,000 and 700 million pounds. The UK CBD industry is expected to be worth close to 1 billion pounds by 2025.

CBD industry growth

Adults over 55 are the most frequent users of CBD (roughly 31% of CBD users). They spend an average of £24 per month on CBD products. Over 70% of UK consumers use CBD tinctures/oils or capsules as the preferred mode of administration.

Factors driving the growth of the CBD industry in the UK

Some factors contributing to CBD industry growth include cannabinoid policy reform and global trends toward legalization. Emerging studies show that CBD is safe and well tolerated by most people, so people looking for therapeutic alternatives are becoming inquisitive about CBD’s potential benefits.

Increasing awareness of the potential health benefits of CBD

As more research studies point to the therapeutic potential of CBD to manage a variety of symptoms, more people are becoming interested in trying CBD products.

Public perception is that even if a person has not tried a CBD product, they are aware of research reports deeming CBD administration generally safe and effective for most patients.

Growing acceptance of cannabis and hemp-derived products

Even up until a decade ago, many people were sceptical about CBD. Now that research is highlighting an array of cannabinoids and their potential medical applications, the wider public perception is shifting, albeit slowly, and acceptance of CBD as a safe, natural option is growing.

Support from Healthcare Professionals and Organizations

Most prescribing physicians understand that CBD is largely safe, well tolerated and does not cause a psychoactive response. However, there is no clear consensus among healthcare professionals about advising patients on CBD administration and dosing, and GPs are advocating for more precise guidelines and dosing recommendations.

Regulatory developments and government support

Like many emerging markets, recent cannabis legislation touching on hemp-derived products has been experiencing advances as well as setbacks in the policy development arena. 

Since medical cannabis legalisation in 2018 and other CBD regulations, there have been events that highlight vague or undeveloped areas of policy. Many healthcare professionals have called for greater guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and the National Health Service (NHS).

Challenges facing the CBD industry in the UK

The UK faces the same challenges that have already been faced by many other countries that are legalising the CBD industry.

A lack of research, constraining policy, and unclear or uncoordinated regulatory frameworks hamper progress and growth. Despite these challenges, many consumers are seeking CBD as a wellness addition to current treatment plans that include harsh, ineffective pharmacological treatments. A slow cannabis legalisation process also negatively affects the CBD industry.

Lack of regulation and standardization

This new market struggles with unclear regulations or standardization. Many believe that more stringent production, testing, and marketing regulations are needed.

Confusion among consumers about the legality and efficacy of CBD products

Patients may assume lax standards at one company translates into practices at many other companies. This is not the case, but it does put the onus on the individual to search out options that have lab testing to back up the claims made on the packaging. 

Competition from the black market

Some products may be made and packaged by manufacturers who may not abide by GMP standards, but the black market offers products at a lower cost for the general population. There is also greater access to unregulated products (whether they are legal or illegal) in commercial sites like grocery stores.

High costs of production and distribution

Demand for goods and services can be disproportionate to supply and production, so this can make market prices fluctuate and cause a ripple effect throughout the industry.

Future prospects for the CBD industry in the UK

CBD is available in Europe. In the UK, consumers do not need a prescription and have retail access to CBD products in high street shops and other stores. The CBD must be under a 0.2% THC potency level.

There is great hope within the medicinal CBD industry that, soon, we will see greater oversight and regulation regarding all CBD products, and that this will result in a better overall market with higher quality products across the board. 

Projected growth and market opportunities

Several upcoming landmark clinical trials could pave the way for a new CBD-based medicine to be made available through the NHS for the treatment of peripheral Neuropathy (CIPN) and endometriosis. The trials are being conducted by University of Edinburgh researchers with the help of £1.55 million in grant funding. 

As more research points to the potential safe and effective application of CBD to manage various health conditions, more people will be reassured about trying CBD products.

Potential impacts of regulatory changes

Regulatory changes can make it difficult for some applicants to receive approval for a business, as regulation changes sometimes create barriers to entry for new hemp farmers and businesses.

Innovations in product development and delivery

Research is examining new ways to extract and refine CBD. Topical creams and patches will continue to reflect the latest advancements in design and delivery. Research studies have indicated that CBD-infused, external-use products have the potential to be effective for reducing muscle soreness and tension. Other special formula products include skin moisturizing balm and extended action transdermal patches.

Implications for related industries, such as pharmaceuticals and cosmetics

CBD topical creams and skin care products are in demand. Hemp fibers can be used in mascara and oils in topical creams for sports recovery and muscle relaxation. Cosmetic and pharmaceutical companies are investing in developing special formulations that could offer pain relief, anti-inflammation, and anti-ageing advantages.


CBD works differently for different people, but it is important to keep on top of trends and growth to understand this dynamic industry. Whether you are interested in focusing on the market trends for entrepreneurial reasons or learning about the newest product development as a patient and consumer, the CBD industry will continue to be dynamic and exciting.

Releaf understands that medical cannabis can be life-changing for many people. That's why we offer tailored monthly packages based on your cannabis prescription, specialist consultations for medical cannabis, and a unique medical cannabis card for protection. 

It is important to seek medical advice before starting any new treatments. The patient advisors at Releaf are available to provide expert advice and support. Alternatively, click here to book a consultation with one of our specialist doctors.

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Lydia Kariuki, a medical nurse and journalist with a diploma in clinical research, specialises in translating complex cannabis research into accessible content, fostering public understanding and awareness.

Our articles are written by experts and reviewed by medical professionals or compliance specialists. Adhering to stringent sourcing guidelines, we reference peer-reviewed studies and scholarly research. View our editorial policy.

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