GNC Latest National Retailer to Go All-In on CBD

GNC selling CBD products.

GNC will launch an in-house line of CBD products. Image Credit: By Kit Leong on shutterstock.

The health food and supplement industry is becoming an increasingly competitive space, and few companies have felt the effects like GNC. In a bid to keep up with more successful brands, the retail giant is the latest company to jump on the CBD bandwagon. But will this be enough to make up for several tough years for the once-powerful brand?

According to a recent statement, GNC will be offering a line of exclusive CBD topical products “in select retail locations and online in 23 states and the District of Columbia.” The company didn’t specify which states would be included in the move, nor how many of the chain’s 6,000 U.S. locations would carry CBD products.

GNC storefronts have been a fixture in strip malls and shopping centers for over 80 years, but the brand has struggled to keep up with the swiftly-evolving world of wellness. In 2016 it temporarily closed shop for the launch of an ambitious rebrand as CEO Robert Moran tried to inject new life into “a badly broken business model in need of change.” Stil, it wasn’t enough. The company’s total revenue continued to fall from $2.6 billion in 2015 to $2.4 billion in 2017, and by 2018 it was listed as one of the national companies most at risk of bankruptcy, according to Retail Dive.

The problem, according to industry experts, is that GNC has missed the boat on a number of important trends — which may explain why it’s pinning its hopes on CBD, as analysts expect the market could be worth up to $22 billion by 2022. As Neil Saunders, the retail managing director at GlobalData, told Racked, “The way in which GNC retails is out of step with what modern consumers want. The stores themselves do not fit with the wellness trend. They don’t feel calm or relaxing but rather are a bit overwhelming.”

While there’s no panacea for such a problem, GNC seems to be hoping that a line of anxiety-busting CBD products could help entice shoppers into coming back.

Which CBD Products Does GNC Plan to Sell?

To avoid running afoul of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) crackdown on CBD “dietary supplements,” GNC will be limiting its infused product line to CBD topicals. The company plans to offer a total of 12 exclusive products from two different companies, Physician’s Grade and Myaderm.

Here’s a quick rundown of what you’ll find from each of them:

Physician’s Grade

GNC has acquired a reputation as a hypermasculine hangout for bodybuilders and hardcore weight lifters, but its new skin care products from Physician’s Grade — like the Advanced Renewal Neck and Décolleté Restorative Cream, the Apple Stem Cell Rejuvenating CBD Facial Cream, and the Ultra Hydrating Luxe Lotion with Pure CBD Isolate — are an attempt to broaden its appeal to female consumers. Other products will include CBD shampoos and scalp treatments.

While many similar CBD skin care products are widely regarded as a scam, Physician’s Grade does provide more transparency than most brands: each product is labeled with a lot/batch number, which can be entered on the company’s website to display its third-party laboratory test results.


This product line, on the other hand, is aimed more toward athletes and those with active lifestyles. GNC plans to carry four types of the brand’s CBD body creams, each of which is primarily intended for the relief of aches and pains.

Those who have a deeper familiarity with CBD products may be somewhat skeptical of this, as there’s little evidence that CBD creams actually work for such purposes. Studies suggest that most products are unable to reach deep enough to be effective. However, the company claims to use “transdermal technology” that “penetrates through the skin to reach deeper tissues,” so it’s possible that these creams may be effective for fitness-minded folks who are curious about CBD.

Sarah Tyrrell
Sarah Tyrrell
Sarah Tyrrell is a health, wellness, and lifestyle writer based in Ireland whose work has appeared in The Irish Times and The Independent, among others. In 2017, she founded the lifestyle brand “Self Love and Sarah” to promote healthy self image and body positivity for women.

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