Clearly labelled

21 July 2020

One trend that is crossing categories is the love for CBD. The non-high-inducing element of cannabis, CBD can be found in self-care products, food and drink, and even pet care. Yet the growth is confused by the lack of legal requirements for labelling products containing CBD. Though brands are keen to join, it’s not always clear how. Emma-Jane Batey speaks to Martyn Kilford,managing director at Handy Labels, and Richard Brooke, business partner and co-founder of DR CBD RX to find out more

A recent study into the surge of CBD usage predicts that a 39.19% growth between 2017–21 is expected, fuelled by the fact that CBD manages to be the central trend in the Venn diagram of well-being, mindfulness and authenticity. Yet the lack of official regulations regarding its usage can mean that brands wanting to get their CBD products out there are not entirely sure what information should go on their labels, with the expensive potential of enforced change an unappealing prospect. CBD, or cannabidiol, is the non-psychotic extract from the cannabis plant with its legal usage only granted recently – even though it has been around for many years with its medicinal benefits well- known in some circles and considered a little ‘way out’ in others. Since 2017, CBD has been legally cleared for use in some personal care applications, and food and drink products, with the main condition for sale being that the level of the ‘active’ element tetrahydrocannabidiol (THC) – the ‘high’ ingredient – must not go above 0.3%.

But beyond this THC rule, there is little to officially define how CBD products should be labelled, so it is currently up to brands and their packaging partners to create and use labels that best support their products for their customers.

For Bristol-based Handy Labels, its sales and design team are pleased to offer hand-holding for brands of various sizes in their CBD labelling journey, with its managing director, Martyn Kilford, sharing his knowledge of the labelling market.

“It’s important to consider the type of product you’re creating a label for and the conditions in which it will be kept; labels are a shop window for the product long after the customer bought it,” Kilford says. “There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution for labels, even though it’s not always the first element of packaging that brands consider; the function of a label touches the legal element, the branding, the practical aspect of the product usage – plus, it needs to be suitable for conditions in which the product is kept.”

“Since CBD is not soluble in water, most products containing CBD will be oil-based or an emulsion, so a permanent or extra-strong adhesive is recommended. This is also why a laminated vinyl product medium is advised to keep designs safe,” continues Kilford. “For CBD products that are beauty and self-care-related, consumers often keep them in the bathroom, so humidity is a consideration. They can also be kept in handbags, so they can get knocked about quite a lot. “It doesn’t reflect well on a product if the label starts peeling off before they’ve finished the product inside, so we need to know how the product will be used and stored in order to properly advise on the label,” says Kilford

“This is why we like to communicate closely with our customers as early as possible in the process, so we know more about the product and can get the best result from the label.” So, while there is very little regulation on the written content of labels for CBD products, unofficial guidelines have popped up throughout the industry to advise CBD-containing brands on how best to protect themselves regarding labelling. From a practical perspective, the labels should show the net contents, the name and location of the business, ingredients, and a warning or caution statement.

For fast-growing CBD Cloud Spray brand DR CBD Rx, its clever marriage of medical expertise and wellness understanding means its ‘food supplement’ product is gaining fans on both sides of the trend. Developed and co-founded by celebrated pharmaceutical expert Tom Chapman and his business partner Richard Brooke, DR CBD Rx is sold worldwide, with its spray delivering a specific and measurable dose when sprayed under the tongue.

Self-regulated guidelines

Available in 10ml and 30ml glass bottles, DR CBD RX Cloud Spray comes in Citrus, Mint and Wild Berries varieties, with various CBD strengths ranging from 500mg/5% to 2500mg/25%. Brooke talks about the brand and how its labelling decisions have impacted its journey. “The label is a critical area for conveying important information about the ingredients, directions for use and warnings. The CBD market is not currently regulated, which means there are no specific standards for labelling to adhere to,” says Brooke. “That said, as a food supplement, there are criteria that must be followed. Our brand and product philosophy have been to offer customers the highest-quality ingredients, formulations and effective systems on the market. We have taken the same approach to our labelling and we are trying to set the standard.”

Brooke explains how, even though there are no clear guidelines, the industry is “self-regulating” in some ways with the desire to be transparent, especially as the CBD sector could be subject to unwanted “dodgy” connotations that it has worked hard to avoid. “We have consulted with the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis, who are in turn consulting with regulators to ensure that the future of the industry will have labelling standards that allow consumers to make informed choices,” he continues. “The packaging provides a very useful vehicle for delivering these important messages.”

Brooke shares how packaging has played a major role in DR CBD Rx’s brand differentiation, particularly in terms of the premium position of the range. “Consumers’ buying decisions are influenced by many factors and sensory experiences are crucial. How the packaging presents the brand on the shelf and once it is picked up and touched, it reinforces what the brand stands for,” he says. “The packaging we use is noticeably different to many of the other CBD products on the market; we chose a black and white theme to make the packaging easy to read, but also to stand out against the often-muted greens and browns associated with wellness products. “In order to ensure the premium look, we chose a metallic film laminate to deliver a metallic effect through the black. We wanted to avoid a gloss finish, as it doesn’t have the same premium feel as the matt finish, and through the combination of best materials with a metallic effect, deliver the premium look we were trying to achieve. In addition, it enables the silver leaf to have more punch and stand out from the remainder of the label.” DR CBD Rx sources its labels from CS Labels, which worked closely with the team to help decide the best combination of materials and finishes to deliver the brand experience it wanted to offer consumers. The initial design was based on the thinking at the time as to what directions and warnings were required, and what could be foreseen at this stage of first production.

Right to buy?

The lack of regulation also means that buying CBD products can be fraught. With many well-known high-street retailers like Holland & Barrett welcoming forward-thinking CBD brands and selling them across their official channels, consumers are so used to e-commerce that it can be an after- thought to check the authenticity of the site they’re purchasing from. “Our packaging and labelling is what makes us different from nearly all competitors.

The main risks associated with CBD are to do with traceability and unclear labelling because the market is largely unregulated,” notes Brooke. “So, rather than the CBD itself causing the problem, being unsure of the product strength and any other ingredients is more of an issue for consumers. That’s why it’s important to thoroughly research a CBD supplier before purchasing.”

A step forward in the regulation of the CBD industry is the landmark report, ‘CBD in the UK’, by the industry body, the Centre for Medical Cannabis, as well as the unveiling of its new trade association, the Association for the Cannabinoid Industry (ACI), which promotes the existing Home Office guidelines. DR CBD RX is actively involved in ACI and welcomes its official influence. “We already adhere to the quality charter set out by ACI, and we continue to pledge alongside fellow leading CBD businesses and experts to foster a legally compliant, socially responsible and innovative CBD industry, which puts customers’ safety first,” continues Brooke. DR CBD RX also took the step to future proof its products by containing 0% THC – the UK limit of THC is 0.2% – and being fully compliant with recent Home Office guidelines. All laboratory testing confirms these criteria have been adhered to and the products always comply. It is anticipated that these regulations will soon change to enforce a 0% rule.


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