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CBD Products have many health benefits. Picture: SUPPLIED
CBD Products have many health benefits. Picture: SUPPLIED

SA consumers have shown an increased interest in cannabidiol (CBD) products, but misconceptions and stigmas surrounding CBD products and their benefits are hampering the market’s growth. 

For the past four years, there has been a growing demand in the CBD industry, fuelled by increasing global trends and the changes in local legislation. 

In 2018, SA legalised cannabis for personal consumption, while CBD products with a quantity less than 20mg for daily dose were legalised in 2019. These changes have opened the market and contributed towards international market growth, which is predicted to grow to $91.5bn by 2028. 

Since the legalisation, we’ve seen an emergence of CBD suppliers in SA in established retailers, niche specialist stores, as well as social media.

As a relatively new category and product, with a range of health and wellness benefits claimed, how do South Africans use and perceive CBD products, and what is their future potential? Beyond residual stigma-related perceptions, what are the key barriers to overcome?  

KLA, a diverse group of senior marketing, research and data specialists, investigated this with an online survey via the YourView online research panel in November 2021. 

The results made for interesting reading. This is what KLA found: 

Understanding has enabled high levels of trial

For most people, there is a general understanding as to what CBD is: 88% understand it to be a chemical that derives from cannabis or hemp that does not have any psychoactive effects.

The high rate of understanding is one of the factors that enable a willingness to try CBD products, with 71% having tried them at least once.

Overall, there is a considerable interest in trying CBD products, with 27% saying they would be interested in trying them in the future, having never tried them before. And only 12% said they have not tried them, and are not interested in trying them. 

The belief in CBD’s benefits has help enable trial

Seventy-six percent of the surveyed people feel CBD products are best suited to help with stress and anxiety.

In addition, 54% believe they improve sleep, 48% believe they relieve muscle pain and inflammation, and 45% feel they help with headaches and migraines.

Only 3% believe CBD products have no benefits and 27% feel they are mainly for recreational purposes.

Interestingly, among the more mature age groups, there is higher interest to try CBD products, with 37% of 45-50-year-olds and 48% of 55-year-olds interested in trying them. This is due to the belief that it’s effective in assisting with muscle pain, inflammation and joint pain. 

CBD products have a foot in the door. However, there are barriers to usage and regular usage is low.

Given that CBD products are relatively new to the market, there are price ceilings that restrict many South Africans from purchasing frequently.

It is still a relatively niche offering that is not always readily available to the mass market.

This is clearly indicated in the research, which says 29% are apprehensive about using CBD products based on affordability, and 15% feel the lack of availability prohibits them from using CBD products.

While the potential for misinformation presents itself as a minor barrier, 20% are apprehensive about using CBD due to the perceived legal implications.

While these barriers are not considerable, price and affordability would certainly play a key role, and may have something to do with the high trial but low regular usage.

Only 15% are using CBD products regularly, once a week, and 23% are using them once a month. 

Channels to purchase: retailers lead, but close contacts are trusted.

In-store retailers such as Clicks and Dis-Chem are the leading stores that sell CBD products (39%), while 34% of respondents purchased based on personal referral, 32% have purchased online, 29% from a friend, and 26% have purchased via social media.

This would indicate that respondents are more likely to purchase CBD products from a reliable and trusted source. When making a first-time purchase, it is likely to be through a recommendation from someone known and trusted. 

Specialist stores such as Goodleaf were reported as a route to purchase for 24% of respondents, which could correlate to affordability and availability. Respondents may have a more difficult time accessing speciality stores as these sell at a steeper prices, and at less convenient locations. 

Opportunities to grow the category

It is evident in the research that CBD products have managed to position themselves in this category as a viable option.

To enable regular usage, perceptions around benefits, affordability, accessibility and legalities would need to be adjusted.

Education is a fundamental step in shifting these perceptions, as lack of knowledge, mass misinformation and stigmatisation hinder growth of the industry.

The lack of education creates uncertainty around legalities. As it stands, CBD products with a daily 20mg dosage are considered legal, while higher doses require a prescription.

The Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill is being reviewed by parliament, which aims to further commercialise the industry. Due to limited information, there is also apprehension regarding the benefits and reliability of CBD products, which affects price perceptions.

To move forward, consumers would need more information to validate the price points. There are vast parts of the category that have been untapped due to this hindrance.

Shifting perceptions would enable further growth and with this growth, CBD products would become more accessible to the mass market. 

This article was paid for by KLA 

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