Looking to break into the cannabis business? New research points to the hot areas of growth.
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Just six years ago, all legal cannabis sales in the United States took place in medical dispensaries, where flower and pre-rolled joints ruled the register. Today, cannabis products include micro-dosed lozenges, high-CBD vape pens, beverages crafted from water-soluble powders, and pain-soothing salves.
Cannabis is not only the fastest-growing industry in the United States; it’s also the most dynamic. It is far from a staid industry, trudging through incremental adjustment every year. In the cannabis business, trends and change strike fast and reverberate across the industry.
So, what’s coming next?
1. Convenience is king.
The initial phases of legal cannabis revolved around flower and concentrates, like shatter and wax, all of which had to be added to vessels and either smoked or vaporized. Were they effective? Absolutely. But not always convenient for the consumer.
The dramatic rise of the disposable cartridge vapes — which simplifies the consumption process to pressing a button and inhaling — illustrates the importance of new, convenient form factors. In the same vein, consumers also like single-serve edibles and increasingly prefer cannabis-infused beverages that come in shots rather than entire bottles.
Our research shows that half of the cannabis consumers* say they are “largely” influenced by the convenience of the consumption method. But it’s not just the way they consume that matters to them, it’s also ease of purchase. Delivery services are on the rise, just as they are for every other consumer industry. The proximity of the dispensary location has also proven to be vital — 67 percent of consumers identify “location is convenient” as a top consideration for where to shop.
2. Consistency, low-dose, and effects options are on the rise.
For more and more consumers, the days of just eating a cookie infused with (presumably) 10 milligrams of THC and hoping for the best are over. They want reliable doses and consistent cannabis experiences. They desire servings with smaller doses than the standard 10 milligrams, giving them the ability to craft bespoke experiences. For example, instead of breaking a cookie in half in a futile attempt to ingest 5 milligrams of THC, they would likely rather eat a pair of precisely dosed 2.5-milligram mints.
Our research also shows that 33 percent of cannabis consumers today prefer low-dose products (less than 10 mg of THC per serving). In addition, 41 percent of these consumers wish products offered more in the way of targeting specific effects, such as relaxation and energy. In short, what do consumers want? Personalization.
3. Drinkable cannabis is chugging along.
First, international alcohol conglomerate Constellation Brands invested in Canada’s Canopy Growth. Then, Molson Coors partnered with another Canadian cannabis company to create non-boozy cannabis beverages. And Diageo, the parent company of brands like Ketel One vodka and Bailey’s Irish Cream, has said it wants to get in on the action.
These enormous corporations are on to something — cannabis-infused beverages have an effervescent future. Products as diverse as kombucha, tea bags, and coffee now comes infused with THC. Our research shows that by 2022, cannabis beverage sales will grow in excess of 10-fold compared to last year’s $30 million in sales.
4. There’s more demand for social consumption.
For now, legal consumption of cannabis in most places demands private spaces — mainly in people’s homes. But as legal marijuana becomes more normalized in municipalities across the nation, some areas are approving public spaces for cannabis consumption. This tracks well with consumer preferences, as 71 percent say they engage with cannabis for social and/or recreational purposes, according to our research. Additionally, we find that a third of cannabis users specifically consume prior to meeting others, and 41 percent include consumption as part of a date night.
Contrary to the stereotype of withdrawn loners, cannabis consumers have proven to be largely social and active. This reality has already started to shape the cannabis businesses and will likely do so even more in the coming years.
5. Grey is the new black.
It’s a popular belief that younger consumers utilize cannabis to have fun, while older consumers use it to aches and pains and improve sleep. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
When we study Baby Boomers, for example, we do find that 67 percent of those who consume cannabis do so to deal with medical issues. But at the same time, 60 percent identify unwinding and having a good time as reasons to consume. We anticipate marketers will catch wind to this trend and adjust, offering products that deliver the full range of cannabis experiences.
For additional cannabis retail sales data, consumer insights and industry intelligence, please visit www.bdsanalytics.com.
*According to BDS Analytics research, Public Attitudes and Actions Toward Cannabis in the US, Q3 2018 (in states with adult recreational and/or medical consumption approved and available), Consumers “have consumed cannabis or cannabis products within the past 6-months,” Acceptors “would consider consuming cannabis or cannabis products in the future,” and Rejecters “would not consider consuming cannabis or cannabis products in the future”