NRF 2020: Growing Interest In Healthy Lifestyles Drove 700% Spike In CBD Demand

CBD is no longer a niche product: 32 million U.S. consumers (representing 13% of all adults) have used a CBD product in the past month, and 86% believe that it has been beneficial to their health, according to data from MRI-Simmons, a division of GfK. The CBD industry saw a 700% increase in demand during 2019, according to Stephanie Wissink, Managing Director of Consumer Research at Jefferies, during the “Disruption: Rapid Growth of CBD Products Impacting Big Box, Digital, Specialty and Department Stores” session at NRF 2020.

The benefits of CBD are still being explored and verified,  but there already are more than 250 clinical trials being conducted on its health benefits of CBD, with more than half completed, according to Wissink. Additionally, Rachel Bonsignore, Senior Consultant at GfK Consumer Life, identified out some of the healthcare-focused trends behind CBD’s popularity:

  • An increased emphasis on health and wellness: Health is a bigger part of shoppers’ overall lives both at work and at home, and they’re looking for way to promote their own wellness;
  • Rising healthcare costs: The rise of traditional healthcare costs means many Americans are looking for alternative options to limit their visits to the doctor; and
  • An aging population: By2050, the world’s population aged 60 years and older is expected to total 2 billion, up from 900 million in 2015 — and older consumers are actively looking for ways to stay healthy.

“When it comes to the CBD users that GfK tracks, we see they’re actually a little more likely than the average cannabis user to use it for medical reasons,” said Bonsignore. “As cannabis gets more mainstream, a number of these kind of factors are contributing to the rise of CBD.”

One of the retail pioneers in mainstreaming CBD is The Vitamin Shoppe; it was one of the first large retailers to start stocking edible CBD products in its stores. The retailer had been watching the space since 2015, but the 2018 passage of that year’s Farm Bill, which legalized CBD on a national level, contributed to an uptick in interest.


“When I joined the organization in 2018, one of the things that I heard loud and clear when I went and spent time with our field teams is that our customers keep asking us about CBD,” said Sharon Leite, CEO of The Vitamin Shoppe. “It kept on coming. Sometimes you hear about trends from your associates, and that’s where you get your best information because [they are the ones] your customers are speaking to.”

The Vitamin Shoppe is well aware of the health halo driving CBD’s growth, and has positioned itself to educate curious customers through its knowledgeable associates. Workers don’t just list the benefits shoppers could read off the packaging themselves — they help customers find the right CBD product to help with whatever specific health problem they’re facing.

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