The latest edition of the World Food Innovation Awards showcased a number of fascinating products, with the ceremony at the beginning of the month celebrating innovations in categories from butter to snacking.
Interestingly, a UK-based company won the best artisan food award with a CBD-infused product, despite the recent uncertainty over regulations in the UK threatening to destabilise the burgeoning health category.
Olives Et Al, who lay claim to have invented the category of extra virgin olive with olives back in 1993, came away with the top prize for their three-strong range of culinary CBD olive oils, which launched at the tail end of 2019.
A collaboration between the Dorset-based speciality food company and leading independent CBD manufacturer Goodbody Botanicals, Olive Et Al’s range can be used for ‘drizzling’ on salad, meat and fish, or as a dipping oil and has a ‘rich and fruity’ flavour.
Despite the big win, the growth of the CBD arena is still in question following last month’s announcement from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) that CBD suppliers must prove by March 2021 that their products are not only correctly labelled in terms of health claims, but are actually safe for human consumption.
So why have Olives Et Al decided to approach such an uneasy niche category now, how do they see the situation with the FSA and what does their award-winning CBD olive oil product bring to the table?
Olive Et Al products - with include a range of different packaged olives, dressings and sauces - are stocked in almost every sector of the food industry, from caterers to delis, farm shops to restaurant operators. They also produce own-label products for Marks and Spencer, with founder Giles Henschel telling Food Spark that CBD has been on his radar for many years.
“I’ve always been interested in CBD, but it seemed a journey too far because it was so overly regulated in the UK,” Henschel says. “But recently, there’s been a plethora of CBD products launched in the UK, so we started to look closer at it from last May.
“I got in touch with [the medicinal cannabis wellness business] Sativa who own a number of companies, including Goodbody Botanicals and PhytoVista, who have one of the few independent labs in the country that can test for CBD and all the various subsets properly.
“We came up with the idea of blending CBD into olive oil, which would create a completely different method and option for consuming CBD, namely by having it in regular food and on a regular basis.”
Henschel explains that CBD oil, as taken via a tincture, provides a “musty, vile taste”, with a 10ml tincture containing between 5%-10% of CBD.
“By blending the same amount of CBD with 250ml of olive oil, you dilute that flavour so you can’t taste it at all, but you’re still getting that same dose of CBD.”
Olive Et Al’s culinary CBD olive oil comes in three strengths, Active (10mg of CBD per 20ml serving), Elevate (30mg per serving) and Levitate (100mg per serving).
And, says Henschel, consumers get the synergistic benefits of extra virgin olive oil as well as the perceived health benefits of CBD.
“If you take 20ml of olive oil, then you're getting a number of proven health benefits, which include reduced threat of coronary heart disease, reducing the amount of cholesterol that you have in your bloodstream and it's very good for blood pressure,” continues Henschel.
“Olive oil actually reduces the incidence of coronary heart disease and coronary heart disease markers in a way that no other oil anywhere on the planet does.”
Sitting on the fence
Despite his product ticking a number of relevant health trend boxes, Henschel has yet to see a boom in sales.
“Sales and take-up have been quite slow because the FSA and the home office are sending out confused messages,” says Henschel.
“Retailers are sitting on the fence and don’t want to stock something that might get taken off the shelves. Not until the regularity framework has really been established by the FSA.”
“Anything that is not covered and is not properly founded, and all making spurious claims by March 2021, will be taken off the shelves, which will be beneficial as it will clear up all the cavalier outfits who are making really ridiculous health claims.”
Olive Et Al’s range is verified and tested by PhytoVista laboratories, with Henschel explaining that their alignment will bode well in terms of uncertainty with CBD regulations.
“By forging a strategic alliance with Sativa, who are probably the best founded and the best backed business city for investments, we have the protection of all of their regulatory framework, all of their testing facilities, and all of the lobbying of the novel food applications that they're placing with the home office.
“And they are one of the few that's recently been given a licence to grow medicinal cannabis. And it is a military grade security growth facility down in Somerset.”
According to a survey conducted by Streetbees last year, 45% of UK consumers said they have a good idea about what CBD actually is, while 12% said they don’t know anything at all.
However, two in three said they would be willing to try products containing CBD oil, with Henschel banking on the discerning customer to start to ask questions of the products they're buying.
“I think consumers will become more sceptical and more questioning which, in my book, is only a good thing,” he says. “The well-educated consumer wants to know that the brand they are buying from is well founded and run with a certain degree of knowledge. They want to know you know what you’re talking about.
“Consumer confidence will need to be regained, because I do think it will be damaged by the ongoing FSA investigations. But I also think discerning consumers will start to ask more questions of their suppliers and if their suppliers are found wanting, they’ll make their decisions with their wallets.”