About Importing CBD to Europe

By New Frontier Data Europe

In New Frontier Data’s recent Global State of Hemp: 2019 Industry Outlook, staff analysts took a meticulous view at how the future CBD market in Europe was being readied for launch. While much attention in the report was dedicated to how the United States was preparing to ride a wave in the wake of its 2018 Farm Bill to legalize the crop in America for the first time in decades, Europe was given credit for having jumped out to a lead in cultivation.

Indeed, Europe was reportedly producing nearly 1/4 of the world’s hemp crop. France alone accounted for 40% of the European acreage, with at least another 20 countries contributing to the European Union’s total. In the previous several years, along with its tremendous increase in overall cultivation, the European market had seen a great surge in its use of seeds and flowers, and the associated applications of those hemp components.

After a couple of decades of cultivation averaging out to around 15,000 hectares annually, European hemp cultivation has been on a major upswing for the last several years, as producers and consumers have become increasingly inspired about new usage and marketing opportunities.

The Hemp Business Journal estimated that global hemp sales reached $3.74 billion in 2018, with such sales to expand and reach $5.73 billion by 2020. It is a nascent market compared to many other global industries, but individuals and corporations across the globe are excited about the fast future potential. While the U.S. led global markets across hemp-derived CBD, food, supplement and personal care products, Europe led the global market with $424 million in industrial product sales (meantime, China led global markets in textiles with $854 million in sales).

Suffice it to say, global CBD manufacturers and suppliers are fixing their sights on the lucrative European market. Of course, Europe’s can be a complex market to navigate, and selling CBD offers no exception.

The EU (including the UK) is made up of 28 member states speaking 24 separate languages. Beyond the EU are another 50 countries in the continent, featuring 25 different currencies. There are common laws at a European level, but each member state maintains its own individualized regulations. When it comes to CBD and hemp products, such laws can differ from country to country on matters such as importing, exporting, processing and distribution.

EFSA Classifies CBD as a Novel Food.

Perhaps the primary difficulty to selling CBD in Europe is that it has been defined as a “novel foods ingredient” by the European Foods Safety Authority (EFSA). So deemed by regulators, a specific novel food license is required of anyone selling it (since EFSA has an advisory role but no enforcement authority, some member states have blocked the sale of CBD products while citing the agency’s position). Currently, EFSA is reportedly processing seven applications, but none has yet been issued.

Different European countries have different rules.

As local laws may differ from country to country, stakeholders will need a lawyer on the ground who is familiar with the local legalities, labeling requirements, etc., to help explain the rules for operating in each jurisdiction.

Different countries have different languages.

What might seem an obvious fact requires careful attention to detail in marketing. Any packaging requires translation for the local language and regulations of a target market, and some countries feature multiple official languages. Belgium, for example, has 10 million residents, and three official languages (French, Dutch and German). Conversely, while many Europeans speak English, only Ireland and the UK use it officially, and legal obligations may otherwise apply.

What is the local supply chain?

Stakeholders should identify any needed suppliers beforehand, and plan accordingly for how best to manage the relationship, including whether to hire a local liaison.

Reach out to New Frontier Data Europe.

With a network of consultants working across Europe who have the experience and expertise to navigate the respective cultural topographies, New Frontier Data Europe can help stakeholders both to identify key questions and ascertain the best answers for success. To being a conversation, contact Martin Valentine, Director of European Operations, at mvalentine@newfrontierdata.com.