Inside a CBD tale that’s not so new | Analysis and Features
The nascent market for CBD foods and beverages is changing. A new food approval process underway by the Food Standards Agency since 2020 was complicated in early April when a list of CBD products that could continue to be marketed mistakenly omitted hundreds of rows, with an update in late April adding 2,500 more products to the list. Another list update is expected before July.
But what has also caused confusion is that there is a class of CBD foods and beverages that are actually completely exempt from the Novel Foods process: products that use hemp as a source of CBD.
With hemp, CBD occurs naturally, rather than being extracted. And since cold-pressed hemp oils were sold and consumed before 1997, when the Novel Foods legislation came into effect, they are not subject to the authorization process.
That’s what drew Michael Fitzgerald to hemp when he started Body & Mind Botanicals. And it has grown in popularity since its launch in 2018, winning listings in over 600 stores, including Partridges of London, Daylesford Organic, Planet Organic and Amazon, as well as on specialist websites and its own DTC site.
So how was Body & Mind born? How did he achieve growth? And what are his plans for the future?
Fitzgerald’s initial interest was piqued as he researched alternative treatments to help a close relative with multiple sclerosis. Spurred by reports from the World Health Organization at the time describing a host of conditions that CBD could treat – from its own insomnia to stress, depression, chronic pain, arthritis and inflammation – and aware of the growing interest and process in new foods, Fitzgerald thought there was an opportunity in hemp-based CBD to steal a step.
But in seeking to create a white label brand, he was also struck by the poor quality, consistency and taste of the oils he sampled. “I felt like you were buying products on the dark web. I didn’t feel sure there was anything to put my name behind, even from the United States.
The only option, he decided, was to set up a supply chain from seed to sale. Along with business partner Martin Kaprockyj, an organic farmer in Lithuania has been found to grow the seeds, while manufacturing and distribution facilities have been established near Northampton.
The first product, launched in November 2018, was a cold-pressed oil (rsp: £6.99/250ml), but after extensive trials using different varieties and processes, hemp is also ground or used raw in products ranging CBD chocolates (rsp: £3.99/15g), cannabis seasoning and even dog treats, plus capsules (rsp: £13.99/90), bath bombs and a roll-on applicator CBD.
But the best-selling line is the award-winning Great Taste range of teas (from £9.99/10). B&MB has developed a patent-pending process for the CBD tea line to ensure that the qualities of CBD are not lost during the brewing process, but Fitzgerald also attributes its success to the occasion of use.
“Customers are not used to taking an oil. It’s still pretty foreign, but drinking a cup of herbal tea has been done for years with peppermint and chamomile.
Talks with major pre-Covid multiples – “to bring our high-quality organic tea to market at a price where it almost becomes a basket staple” – have only just resumed after the pandemic, but returns, says Fitzgerald, is “absolutely fantastic”.
He is also confident that, despite the confusion caused by the initial FSA guidelines, Body & Mind Botanicals will continue to grow, with the support of its wholesalers (CLF, Tree of Life and Falcon Fine Foods) and resellers as CBD awareness is growing.
“Misunderstanding of regulations continues to hamper the industry, but Body & Mind Botanicals is at the forefront of producing the most compliant CBD products on the market. We were the first CBD manufacturer to be certified Organic by the Soil Association, the first and only SALSA certified food, and the first to form a Primary Authority partnership with Trading Standards. Every step of the way, we’ve done it the right way. It’s been difficult and costly. But we will overcome.