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As the American hemp market matures and stabilizes, all eyes are on emerging markets throughout the world that are finally starting to allow their populations access to CBD. In August of 2022, the esteemed hemp market research firm Brightfield Group released a new report¹ assessing the current status of the international CBD industry and its expected trajectory between now and 2024. Learn the most important details contained in the Brightfield report to better assess investment and entrepreneurship opportunities within the international hemp sector.
International CBD is on the rise
It’s well known in CBD right now that the biggest movement happening is in international markets. The Asia Pacific region, long resistant to the very mention of CBD or hemp, is gradually loosening up, and both Latin America and Europe are showing an increase in domestic use to offset their considerable hemp export potential.
In its report, Brightfield spends considerable time examining the miniature international CBD market that has just erupted in Israel. As of March 2022, CBD is now legal in Israel² for the first time, releasing massive pent-up demand for the cannabinoid.
The recent news out of Israel is just one facet of an emerging kaleidoscope of global cannabis reform. Those looking for the next great pivot point in the ever-evolving saga of industrial hemp would do best to address their attention overseas.
How fast is the international CBD industry growing?
Taken all together, the recent Brightfield report indicates that the total value of the international CBD market is set to double over the next two years. While this might be difficult to believe at face value, keep in mind that the industrial hemp cultivation boom in the United States took far less time to reach its peak.
Brightfield backs up this assessment with hard data. Latin America and Asia Pacific are set to grow at breakneck paces, but they won’t contribute much to the overall value of the international CBD industry. The biggest mover is set to be Europe, where CBD is expected to finally become nearly as plentiful and accessible as it is in the US over the next couple of years.
The new Brightfield international CBD report: Key highlights
What, exactly, does the new Brightfield report have to say about the international CBD industry? Let’s break it down by region — just as Brightfield did.
European CBD sales 2020-2024:
– 2020 total value: $800m
– 2022 total value: $1.5b
– 2024 projected value: $2.75b
– Largest contributors: UK, Germany, Austria, France, Spain
The UK has long been a major exporter of cannabis, and its domestic CBD market is finally picking up to match. With Germany and other European nations each contributing smaller portions of the overall CBD market pie, the UK leads an EU CBD market rife with conflicting regulations separated by borders average people cross every day for work and shopping.
With medical cannabis regulations lagging behind North America, the primary driver of CBD sales in Europe will continue to be sales of ingestible products like tinctures and capsules. An increasing number of European nations are adopting pro-CBD regulations, and the European Commission itself is moving forward with various “novel food” approvals³ for ingestible CBD products.
Asia Pacific & Middle East CBD sales 2020-2024:
– 2020 total value: $230m
– 2022 total value: $294m
– 2024 projected value: $670m
– Largest contributors: Japan, Australia, China, Thailand
The Asia Pacific region is led by Japan, which continues to adopt an increasingly pro-CBD stance. China, on the other hand, has recently cracked down on CBD use. Even though Chinese officials recognize CBD itself has no intoxicating properties, they fear use of the cannabinoid could lead to “lax drug attitudes among young Chinese consumers⁴.”
Recent moves in Thailand indicate that this market of nearly 70 million may soon open to CBD sales, and CBD markets in Australia and New Zealand continue to grow at a snail’s pace. Look to Japan, Australia, and — increasingly — Thailand as the biggest APAC movers in CBD over the next few years. Middle East markets show some signs of accepting CBD in the near future, but they won’t contribute much to the overall economic bloc’s CBD industry by 2024.
Israeli CBD sales 2020-2024:
– 2020 total value: $3m
– 2022 total value: $5m
– 2024 projected value: $28m
– Largest contributors: Flower, Tinctures, Topicals
It’s Brightfield’s current spotlight within the Middle East market, and the market researcher’s focus on Israel is shared by many international cannabis industry stakeholders. There’s a general belief that Israel is paving the way toward gradual acceptance of CBD in the region. In the end, Israel may even serve as a stepping-stone to the as-yet-unexplored North African CBD market.
For the moment, only CBD-rich flower and tinctures will be available in Israel with flower offered solely through the nation’s medical cannabis system. By 2024, however, the Israeli Ministry of Health expects to have properly regulated CBD in cosmetics and food products as well.
Latin American CBD sales 2020-2024:
– 2020 total value: $110m
– 2022 total value: $357m
– 2024 projected value: $620m
– Largest contributors: Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, Chile
CBD has been legal in Mexico since 2017⁵, and the Latin American nation is famous for its relatively lax CBD regulations. Mexican CBD products can contain up to 1% THC, and Mexico isn’t the only country in the region that has recently opened its doors to CBD.
Colombia, long an epicenter of the illicit drug trade, has now turned over a new leaf by focusing on producing legal cannabis and hemp for both export and domestic use. Brazil, Peru, Chile, and Uruguay are all also expected to contribute an increasing amount to the overall Latin American CBD economy over the next two years.
International CBD growth expectations 2020-2024:
– 2020 total value: $1.2b
– 2022 total value: $2.2b
– 2024 projected value: $4.1b
– Largest contributors: Europe, Latin America, Asia Pacific
Overall, Brightfield predicts that the international CBD industry (comprising everywhere except North America) will surpass $4 billion by 2024. Europe will comprise the largest segment of this international market at nearly $3 billion all by itself, and other regions will catch up more slowly.
The fact that areas outside the United States and Canada are accepting CBD at all, however, is major news. For years now, isolated pockets like Australia and the UK have led their regions toward CBD acceptance, and these efforts appear to have paid off.
Despite the unpredictable Chinese economy apparently closing its doors to CBD once and for all, other areas of the world nonetheless are becoming friendly with the cannabinoid for the first time. Of particular note are nations like Thailand and Colombia, which unlike most European countries are not closely tied to the Western economic bloc within which CBD has seen the majority of its spread so far.
How to prepare for CBD’s international acceptance
There’s always a new frontier to explore, and as the second decade of the third millennium heats up, it seems that frontier is shifting to the wider world once again — at least when it comes to CBD. Now that major (and mostly unaffiliated) economies like Japan, Israel, Thailand, and Mexico have gotten on the CBD bandwagon, it’s only a matter of time until this non-intoxicating cannabinoid reaches a level of general global acceptance.
Once that time comes, those still focusing exclusively on the North American market will be left behind. Without abandoning the markets from which it emerged, the CBD economy must now prepare itself to reach a much wider audience with an equally wide set of expectations from CBD products. CBD must now become something for everybody, a feat that shouldn’t prove too difficult given the cannabinoid’s universal appeal.
Summary: Does CBD have a future internationally?
From the crystalline peaks of the Himalayas to the alpine shores of Lake Titicaca, news of CBD has spread across the entire globe, and people everywhere are clamoring to experience the benefits of this latest natural health revolution. While cultural differences and economic hurdles have prevented the spread of international CBD so far, all that is set to change.
As Europe, Latin America, and even Asia and the Middle East gradually become more accepting of hemp, CBD will reach an exponentially wider audience than it has so far helped. The United States makes up less than 5% of the world’s population⁶, after all, leaving the rest of the world to catch up to the American standard of hemp consumption, which is currently estimated to sit at $7.8 billion per year⁷.
It’s a fact that much of the rest of the world lacks access to the standard of living enjoyed by Americans, but let’s run some quick numbers anyway. If a mere 5% of the world population is currently consuming nearly $8 billion in hemp products per year, the global CBD market could be conceived to have a cap at least as high as $160 billion.
To be sure, the CBD industry has an international future ahead of it. Just how effectively CBD spreads across the globe, though, will be determined by the level of success achieved by today’s international hemp entrepreneurs.
- 1. International CBD Report 2022. (n.d.). Retrieved October 12, 2022, from https://content.brightfieldgroup.com/international-cbd-report-2022-global-trends-projections
- 2. Efrati, I. (2022, March 1). Israel moves to decriminalize CBD, active cannabis ingredient, but only in two years – Israel News. Haaretz.com. Retrieved October 12, 2022, from https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/2022-03-01/ty-article/.premium/israel-moves-to-decriminalize-cbd-active-cannabis-ingredient-but-only-in-two-years/0000017f-db06-df9c-a17f-ff1eaa200000
- 3. European Commission Validates Five Natural Plant CBD Novel Food Applications In Milestone For Industry. (2022, February 21). BusinessCann. Retrieved October 12, 2022, from https://businesscann.com/european-commission-validates-first-natural-plant-cbd-novel-food-applications-in-milestone-for-industry/
- 4. Tan, S. (2021, June 4). China’s CBD crackdown deals blow to emerging market using cannabis-derivative in cosmetics. South China Morning Post. Retrieved October 12, 2022, from https://www.scmp.com/economy/china-economy/article/3136056/chinas-cbd-crackdown-deals-blow-emerging-market-using
- 5. Burns, J. (2018, July 9). Mexico Could Make History By Treating CBD Like A Supplement, As It Should Be. Forbes. Retrieved October 12, 2022, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/janetwburns/2018/07/09/mexico-could-make-history-by-treating-cbd-like-a-supplement-as-it-should-be/?sh=494b0354575d
- 6. United States Population (2022) – Worldometer. (n.d.). Retrieved October 12, 2022, from https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/us-population/
- 7. CBD Industry Predictions for 2022. (2022, September 26). The BigCommerce Blog. Retrieved October 12, 2022, from https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/cbd-industry-predictions-2022/