Are Holland and Barrett CBD products any good? Critical review
We live in an era of mass markets. It applies to fashion, beauty, food, homeware and even wellness products. There is hardly anyone who hasn’t heard of H&M, L’oreal, Nestle, IKEA or Holland and Barrett that take up the biggest shares of the markets they operate in. While mass production and mass markets have an undoubtable advantage of lower costs of production and hence lower prices for the end consumers, there are also a lot of challenges and questions that we, as consumers, need to ask ourselves more often. Do these companies work with compliance to corporate and environmental ethics? Can they really test every one of their products and guarantee that billions of positions are of high quality and not faulty? Do they have adequate customer service in case they don’t deliver the expected quality? These and many other issues arise when the production scale is measured in hundreds of thousands, if not billions, of goods.
On the contrary, more niche brands with fewer branches and smaller-scale production lines have challenges of their own. One of the most prevalent ones is, of course, higher costs of manufacture and, consequently, higher price tags. However, they do have a significant advantage over mass production, and that is the expertise of producing something specific to a given company and a more thorough and responsible approach to quality control and customer service. Niche companies cannot afford not to pay particular attention to the quality of their products because it is that much more difficult to compete with mass-market brands that offer their goods at lower price points due to lower costs of manufacture and ability to outsource a lot of their processes. For example, a niche designer brand that creates clothes in an East London based factory cannot compete with the production line of H&M in China. It is a simple economics principle that applies to any industry.
Health is the most important part of our lives that cannot be bought with any money and needs to be treated with extra care. When it comes to one’s health, a faulty T-shirt from Primark will most likely cause a disappointment, but it is highly unlikely to affect your body and physical health in any serious way. Food, food supplements and pharmaceuticals, on the other hand, can both disappoint you with ineffectiveness, but also give you food poisoning, allergic reactions, side effects, or even lead to a lethal outcome. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to purchase health and wellness products from trustworthy brands that are true experts in their niche markets, that conduct quality tests on every batch in order to ensure consistently high quality for the end consumer.
There has always been a conflict of interests between the producers and the consumers, whereby the businesses strive to make as much money as possible, and the customers want to pay as little as possible for their purchases. While it is possible to find a fine balance between the two parties and exchange high-quality goods for an adequate amount of money, many established businesses take advantage of their brand names to sell products of poor quality… Well, because they can.
In this article, we will take a close look at Holland and Barrett, one of the most dominating multibrand wellness stores in the UK. What we would really like to focus on is their selection of CBD infused products manufactured under their own brand name as well as other brands that are sold in stores and online on Holland and Barrett website.
Holland and Barrett
Found in 1870 as a grocery and clothing shop, nowadays, Holland and Barrett is one of the largest wellness products retail chains in the world. The chain has changed ownership multiple times, currently being owned by a Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman. Holland and Barrett is synonymous with vitamins, minerals, and health supplements. Their products are segmented into five substantial areas: VHMS (Vitamin, Herbal and Mineral Supplements), Active Nutrition, Ethical Beauty, Specialist Food & Drinks and FNSS (Fruit, Nuts, Seeds and Seasoning). Initially based in the UK, Holland and Barrett have expanded their reach into other markets such as the Netherlands, India and China. Holland and Barrett houses 7000 employees, and their store count has exceeded 1300 shops, 715 of which are based in the UK, and the rest are scattered around the world. They offer more than 9000 goods from a few hundred brands that range from more established ones to more niche producers. The company has faced avid criticism for its use of workfare before finally terminating those practices in 2012. They underwent loud protests for exploiting and otherwise mistreating the personnel and not paying out wages.
We have conducted research of our own and read various reviews of former employees of Holland and Barrett to see what is the current situation behind the shop windows and management offices walls of the company. Objectively speaking, there are a lot of positive reviews praising corporate practices and management of particular stores. Some people highlighted the fact that they found their work interesting and enjoyed the communications with both the management and the other co-workers. However, it is apparent that there is also a pattern of people leaving their jobs due to being underpaid and working long hours. Many of the former staff members, especially in-store consultants, expressed that they were not paid for having to undergo additional studying to understand the product assortment and to be well familiar with the ailments of consumers in order to be able to consult and recommend products. According to the reviews, many people share the same problem of being paid as ordinary product consultants, while being expected to have in-depth knowledge about physical and mental health to provide guidance and trigger the purchase. Some also shared that they were pressured by the management to sell as many products as possible while completely disregarding the needs of the consumers. One person compared Holland and Barrett to a “machine” that provides training for their staff, but due to the above-mentioned reasons, the staff turnover is very high.
What’s the hype around CBD about?
Irresponsible approach to quality control: what happens in H&B does not stay in H&B
The trend of CBD products is attracting a lot of health and wellness companies to enter the market and get on the CBD bandwagon to make some cash and be in trend. Not all producers, unfortunately, have the consumers’ interests in mind when producing supplements. Based on our research and a lot of experience of working closely with established and reputable CBD manufacturers, the product range of CBD supplements available at Holland and Barrett leaves a lot to be desired. There has been evidence that some of the products among the assortment by Jacob Hooy had illegal amounts of THC of 4mg per pack. However, the advertisement stated that it is ‘non-psychoactive, and the content of THC is tested on every batch to meet specification requirements of less than 0.05 per cent’. Another product of the same brand had 12 times more of the allowed THC amount in a CBD oil. If you aren’t shocked yet, there was one more product that contained 24mg of THC (let us remind you: the allowed amount used to be 1mg, and now it is 0.01%). This incident is very serious because products with such a high amount of THC can have a significant adverse effect on cognitive functions. Another research revealed that some of the products had a lot less amount of CBD compound than advertised on the label. This is less harmful for the consumer because it’s better not to have an advertised amount of CBD and be left disappointed due to inefficiency than consume an exceeded amount of THC and experience unwanted psychoactive effects, or even lose your job if you were tested during the CBD treatment. Both cases of exceeding THC and under-delivering CBD are disappointing.
The customer is always right: criticism of H&B
The customer reviews of CBD products that are available on Trustpilot are far from complimentary. While there is some positive feedback, and some people have expressed their appreciation of the effects experienced using some of the products, the majority of people seem unhappy with the outcome. One person actually shared that he had failed a drug test at work due to consuming a product with an exceeding level of THC that was not on the product label. Not to mention hundreds of reviews complaining about their shopping experience at Holland and Barrett. The most common complaints were about poor customer service, misleading information about the product range, inexperienced personnel in the stores that couldn’t adequately advise on the product choice, while “shoving products down customers’ throats” and the assortment being overpriced in comparison to other stores, including niche, specialised CBD brands.
Holland and Barrett also produces CBD products under their own brand name. Their assortment range is designed for topical application and includes balms, creams and serums. None of the CBD products of Holland and Barrett brand come with COA, which seems highly suspicious and leads to doubts about the product quality and genuineness of the product page content. Although topical application is unable to cause a “high” effect unlike sublingual or otherwise ingestible, it can still cause adverse reactions such as allergy. Given the uncomplimentary customer reviews on Trustpilot, former employees reviews, feedback about the experience of shopping in Holland and Barrett and their history, their products do not inspire confidence in the slightest.
Holland and Barrett is one of the most known chains in the health and wellness market in the UK and other countries. Their unethical corporate and environmental practices have damaged the reputation of the brand so much that they haven’t managed to get back on the horse and reconstruct their image. Stocking unreliable brands and creating their own products of dubious quality doesn’t help either; in fact, it is a recipe for disaster.
When it comes to your physical and mental health, make sure to research the products first and consult with a specialist to get adequate and professional advice. Self-diagnosis or consulting with sales associates that are paid for convincing you to buy as many products as possible while completely disregarding your interests is never a good idea. Instead, you would be better off consulting with a doctor who has a lot of experience with the ailments you are dealing with and purchasing products from specialised brands that put most or all of their resources into one particular area. Since we are on the topic of CBD, if you are thinking of starting your journey with CBD products, turn to brands that not only know everything there is to know about cannabidiols but those who also take their job of testings very seriously. Avoid brands that don’t provide COAs or those that have dubious product page information.
For further information about how to choose a reliable CBD brand, how to understand the content provided by COAs, or any general information about CBD, please refer to our research and articles on Alphagreen Academy and Medium blog.