What consumers want from CBD products

Are CBD products now firmly in the mainstream? Or is there work to do for brands to make CBD products appeal to the masses? Here's our investigation...

Welcome to Attest Investigates! This is a series where we use the Attest platform to test your burning questions and explore literally any topic.

As a scientist, I am obsessed with experimentation, empiricism and using data to make decisions. We’ll delve into all things consumer research to lift the lid on the most important unknowns for brands, as requested by you!


There’s been a noticeable increase in recent years of CBD products on the shelves. I’m curious to find out why people do or don’t buy CBD products.  

To find out, we’ve run identical surveys in the US and the UK to get to the core of what consumers think about these products, and about what might compel them to purchase in the future. Each market is at a different stage of CBD evolution and maturity, and it’s always fascinating to understand what matters most in the minds of real consumers.

I’ll summarise my findings below, but make sure to check out our public dashboards where you can see the data in full, drill down into demographics and run statistical significance tests to interrogate the numbers ✨

Top 3 takeaways from the research

  1. CBD products see fundamentally no difference in consumer behaviour vs. many products and sectors: awareness and education are essential for tapping into new markets – this emerged as the top reason consumers gave for not having tried CBD products at all. 
  2. Young Brits appear to be a much more receptive audience to CBD products than Millennials and older groups (not a trend we see replicated in the US, where receptiveness comes from all age groups), so definitely an exciting UK growth opportunity for brands there. 
  3. Ignore price sensitivity at your peril – it’s one of the main reasons people choose not to buy CBD products. Most consumers have no idea how to think about CBD product pricing, and that’s both a big opportunity, and a significant barrier to overcome.  


Little difference in awareness

In a first surprise, we’ve found that there’s only a small difference in awareness between the US and UK markets. In the US, 83% of respondents know a little or a lot about CBD products, compared to 79% in the UK. Personally, I’m surprised to see awareness so high in the UK, as subjectively I thought that the US was even further ahead on CBD market development… but awareness is still just the top of the funnel.

Another surprise emerged, this time between the genders in the UK. For whatever reason, I’d expected males to be more aware of CBD products, but we actually find that it’s females who are more in the know, and by quite a margin – 87% of females say they know a little or a lot, compared to just 70% of males.

Disparity in usage across the pond

Where we start to see some juicy differences between the US and UK markets is when we drill into CBD product usage. Overall, 57% of Americans have tried the products, while just 31% of Brits said the same.

There also appear to be some significant transatlantic generational differences. When we filter to see how under 30s responded, we see that there’s a negligible difference in usage for this group in the US, when you compare with the overall results. But in the UK the split between the have-trieds and the haven’t-trieds narrows significantly for under 30s: 

  • Under 30s in the UK: 49% have tried CBD products
  • 30 and overs in the UK: 24.5% have tried CBD products

I find this generational difference fascinating, particularly when you see that there’s no such difference in the US. 

We asked those who haven’t tried CBD products why that was, and we find no explanation as to why there’s such a stark British generational divide that’s absent in the US. Among all UK age groups, the standout reason is that they don’t know enough about CBD products and their effects. 

Here’s the full breakdown of the reasons Brits haven’t tried CBD products (we asked people to select all reasons that apply to them):

  • I don’t know enough about CBD products and their effects – 60.6%
  • I don’t like the idea of CBD products – 31%
  • I’ve heard negative stories about CBD products – 7.7%
  • Products are too expensive – 5.6%
  • I haven’t been able to find CBD products available to buy – 4.9%

And here are the reasons Americans gave:

  • I don’t know enough about CBD products and their effects – 55.3%
  • I don’t like the idea of CBD products – 28.2%
  • Products are too expensive – 13.6%
  • I’ve heard negative stories about CBD products – 8.7%
  • I haven’t been able to find CBD products available to buy – 5.8%

As we can see, awareness and lack of understanding is the most powerful force in both markets among consumers who are new to CBD products. It’s clear there’s work for brands to do to raise the profile of products and let potential customers know about their safety and benefits. 

Educating a market is expensive and there is some ‘first-mover disadvantage’ here, so watch out for both (a) anyone underwriting huge and expensive campaigns to try to become the trusted voice and purpose brand for CBD products, and (b) fast followers, who play against the larger players and surf the wave of growing awareness and comfort, without the paying the wider market-building price.

Price seems to be a deterrent

Another nugget from above to emphasise is that 13.6% of people in the US think CBD products are too expensive – this is more than twice the amount of Brits who think the same. This shows some price sensitivity that brands should absolutely be aware of when launching in the US.

We see this price sensitivity even more emphatically expressed among those who’ve tried CBD products but don’t plan to again. In the US, 30.6% said this was a reason they don’t want to buy again, while 27.3% in the UK said the same. 

There are interesting analogues and potential solutions to draw from other industries here: beauty products finding ways to justify a premium price point for a specific core ingredient, and laddering of brands to offer a wider range of pricing choices to consumers. CBD can repeat all of the tried-and-tested formulas, and while the CBD market is still maturing, there is all to play for!

This has been my whirlwind recap of this brand new research into the CBD market. Remember that the full data is available to see and drill into over on the Attest platform:

Jeremy King


Jeremy founded Attest in mid-2015, following 9 years leading global teams across industries at McKinsey & Company. He holds an MBA from Harvard Business School, originally trained as a scientist with a focus on genetics, ecology and animal behaviour, and also helps to improve state primary schools with his charity work.

See all articles by Jeremy