Examining European CBD Patterns and Preferences Per Regional Markets

By New Frontier Data

Cannabidiol (CBD) is undergoing exponential growth in awareness, popularity, and use. Nowhere else is that much more evident than in the European Union (EU), home to 512 million potential consumers across 28 countries, and the world’s second-largest CBD market after the United States.

That noted, it would be a mistake to envision Europe as a monolith – consumers across the continent have widely different levels of exposure, familiarity, and sentiment about CBD. In New Frontier Data’s forthcoming EU CBD Consumer Report: 2019 Overview (due out this month), regional differences are examined in detail. By providing data-driven insights into both high-performing nascent markets as well as those still developing, the report identifies opportunities both for growth and expansion while drawing attention to gaps in the market that CBD companies must address to maximize their potential.

For example, 78% of consumers in the United Kingdom and Ireland reported familiarity with the chemical compound, versus 36% of those in France. Correspondingly, nearly 5x more surveyed respondents in Switzerland and Austria (33%) had used it, compared to 7% in France. There exists similar variance in views about CBD’s medical properties, and the impact of CBD on the consumer’s life. Such broad differences in attitudes across the regions indicates that a one-size-fits-all approach may be less effective than a strategy which accounts for inter-market differences.

Switzerland & Austria

Switzerland and Austria have the highest rates of CBD consumption and purchasing among any of the regions profiled. Consumers are familiar with CBD, and tend to share positive word of mouth, increasing interest and comfort about CBD. Such general confidence promoted throughout interpersonal networks has led to a broad range of use and behaviors. Most of those inclined to purchase or consume CBD already have, though there remains a segment of potential consumers who are holding out for more information before trying it.

Benelux (Belgium, The Netherlands, and Luxembourg)

The Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg (Benelux) region together sees high rates of CBD use and purchasing, as well as broad, positive exposure to the cannabinoid. While respondents from Benelux know CBD consumers and socially share information and experiences, the general buzz about it does not match that in Switzerland/Austria.

In the survey, Beneluxers reportedly found that CBD (when used regularly) promotes general health by managing ongoing symptoms and preventing disease. CBD is seen as a nutritional supplement rather than a miracle cure. CBD consumers in Benelux use somewhat frequently at a wide range of doses, and are concerned about contaminants and quality. Purchasers in the region are the most likely among any region to have purchased CBD for family and for pets instead of only for personal use. Benelux’s consumer market seems largely saturated, with many of those not having tried it expressing little interest in ever doing so.

Sweden and Denmark

Despite slightly above-average rates of CBD use and purchasing in the region, Sweden/Denmark’s is a less mature consumer market than in Switzerland/Austria or Benelux. Respondents there reported some exposure to CBD, and though they tended to think it poses no safety risk, they were nevertheless less confident about CBD’s medical benefits, with some avoiding it due to uncertainty about its legal status.

Sweden/Denmark’s CBD consumers reported being more likely to use it weekly rather than daily, and expressed both fewer motives for use and a higher degree of concern about contaminants. Many seem yet to be settling into their consumption patterns, with most consumers reportedly expecting to increase their consumption in the following six months.

The United Kingdom (UK) and Ireland

While rates of CBD use and purchasing in the UK/Ireland scored marginally below average compared to the rest of Europe, exposure to CBD was significantly higher. By far, the region reported the highest degree of awareness about CBD, with exposure to positive buzz from all sides, but its respondents were less likely than in other mature markets to have been directly exposed to CBD products — suggesting slower market penetration in the UK/Ireland market.

The region is also characterized by strong support for the medical benefits of CBD, with a relative preoccupation with safety, regulation, and testing. CBD consumers in the UK/Ireland were reportedly the most frequent users among Europeans, and the most likely to cite using CBD to manage anxiety and stress. The region reported widespread curiosity about potential consumers’ trying CBD, though a significant offset reported either too much uncertainty or too many safety concerns to try it.


Germany mirrors regional average rates of CBD consumption and purchasing, with interest in the cannabinoid mostly limited to current consumers. The German public is slightly less aware of and exposed to CBD than the European average, and do not seem to feel a sense of personal relevancy. While Germans are reportedly confident about CBD’s medical applications, their feelings skew more neutrally than overwhelmingly positive.

German CBD consumers seem generally to be learning about CBD products and deciding about what works for them; few have used products other than oil/tinctures, and many are uncertain about brands or dosing, though with familiarity will likely come higher rates of use.


A relative lack of awareness, exposure, and general interest about CBD has limited Italians’ consumption and purchasing to a small but highly satisfied cohort.

Italians largely reported neutral impressions about CBD and policy, if uncertainty about its uses. Italian consumers reportedly use it less than daily, but credit CBD with improvements in quality of life. Most consumers obtained oil and pills online, as the local market is relatively immature. Potential consumers expressed a lack of interest in CBD, but curiosity about infused beverages.

Spain & Portugal

Like Italy, Spain/Portugal reported low rates of CBD use and purchasing. The general public demonstrated both interest and unfamiliarity about it, with uncertainty about its benefits or government’s policy. Consumers in Spain/Portugal reportedly use CBD less frequently and in smaller doses than the European average, yet noted very positive effects.

The market for consumers in Spain/Portugal seems characteristically informal (with most consumers having sourced it from friends), while purchasers spend more monthly on CBD than the European average. Though brand loyalty has been relatively low, it will likely increase in Spain/Portugal as the market matures and consumers’ preferred brands become regularly available.


France’s is among the least CBD-friendly markets in the continent; it has the lowest rates of CBD use and purchasing, with the least public awareness and exposure to CBD. In general, the French are not only uninterested in CBD, but are the least accepting of its medical applications and availability to consumers. France reported the most negative attitudes toward CBD among any region in Europe.

As such, the market for consumers in France is immature, with many consumers sourcing from friends and switching brands based on price and convenience. While lack of interest and curiosity make it unlikely in the near term that CBD use will expand significantly beyond current consumers, the consumption and purchasing behaviors of those French who do consume CBD — including many recent adopters — should continue to evolve.