Originally Appeared in Let’s Talk Hemp Newsletter, June 2019
By Steven Hoffman
As the hemp and CBD market continues to evolve at hyper-speed, the nation’s largest supermarket chain, Kroger, announced it is joining Walgreens, CVS, Vitamin Shoppe, GNC, Nieman Marcus and other major retailers that have all started carrying CBD products in their stores.
Kroger, which made a “meaningful investment” in Boulder, CO-based natural foods chain Lucky’s Market, which itself is a leading seller of CBD products, announced on June 11 that it will now sell hemp-derived CBD topical products, including creams, balms and oils, in 945 Kroger-owned stores across 17 states, reported CNBC News, which referred to CBD as “one of the hottest consumer trends.”
“Like many retailers, we are starting to offer our customers a highly-curated selection of topical products like lotions, balms, oils and creams that are infused with hemp-derived CBD,” said Kristal Howard, head of corporate communications and media relations at Kroger, in a statement. “CBD is a naturally occurring and non-intoxicating compound that has promising benefits and is permitted within federal and state regulations. Our limited selection of hemp-derived CBD topical products is from suppliers that have been reviewed for quality and safety,” she added.
Consumer interest in and demand for products made with cannabinoid compounds or CBD derived from hemp extract is at a fever pitch. Hemp Industry Daily projects hemp-derived CBD retail sales will surge to as much as $7.5 billion by 2023, up from about $1 billion in sales in 2019.
Yet, while CBD derived from hemp is now legal thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill passed by Congress late last year, the FDA maintains that companies still can’t add CBD to food or sell it as a dietary supplement. However, with so many CBD supplements and CBD-infused food and beverage products already on the market, the FDA on May 31 held a public hearing to learn more about the issue and hear from hemp industry representatives, manufacturers, advocates and others as it considers its position regarding sales of these products.
For major retailers, selling CBD-infused, topical beauty and skin-care products brings less legal risk, which may explain why retailers such as Kroger, Nieman Marcus and others are starting to offer those types of products first. Given the explosive growth of the market, big box retailers Walmart and Target are also reported to be exploring the potential for hemp and CBD-related products in their stores.
Kroger, headquartered in Cincinnati, OH, is the world’s largest grocery retailer, with fiscal 2018 sales of $121.2 billion, and operating stores under names including Kroger, King Soopers, Ralph’s, Dillon’s, City Market, Fry’s, QFC, Mariano’s, Fred Meyer, Harris Teeter and others. Kroger also is a leading seller of healthy lifestyles products – it’s sales of natural and organic products alone exceeded $16 billion in 2017. Kroger’s private label organic brand, Simple Truth, with sales exceeding $2 billion, is one of the largest natural and organic brands in the U.S.
Kroger says it will sell the CBD products in Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.