21 August 2022 |

The changing tide of cannabis consumers

By Kaitlin Domangue

“The most constant thing is change,” -several are quoted as saying, probably about the legal cannabis industry. 

New developments are happening in our industry all the time. A new way of doing business, a new M&A, a new state coming online. 

It’s a full time job to keep up with it – which is why my full-time job is to keep up with it so you don’t have to 🙂 

Consumers are also changing and businesses have to keep up with that to succeed & stay competitive in our growing space. Thankfully – I’ve got ya there, too. 

There are a mountain of reports on cannabis consumers. Who they are, why they consume cannabis, where they shop, and what they are buying, and more. 

And a lot of the reports conclude the same thing: consumers are in an experimental phase and want to try new products, brands, doses, dispensaries, etc. It’s a sentiment I’ve echoed in a lot of my pieces, too. 

But BDSA’s most recent report is one of the first I’ve seen that has found data about how the consumer’s habits are changing. 

Consumers are settling in

According to BDSA’s most recent data, there was a decline across all major form factors by recent consumers (within the last six months). 

Consumers could simply be settling into what works for them and purchasing less options, explaining the decline. 

Overall cannabis sales are down, too, but there are several circumstances at play. 

Here are the form factor numbers: 

  • 54% of consumers are sticking with flower
  • 42% go for edibles
  • 35% are choosing topicals (this def shocked me – I expected a smaller number) 
  • 31% of consumers purchase vape cartridges
  • 28% of consumers are grabbing pre-rolls 
  • 19% for beverages 
  • 18% are buying dabbable products 
  • And 11% for tinctures 

Gummies, vapes, and flower are losing steam quicker than other product categories.

Topicals, though, are rapidly gaining preference, despite losing market penetration at a greater rate (9.5%) than every other category. Consumers are finding what works for them and topicals serve a niche group: people with chronic pain. 

Consumers are also beginning to fall into brand loyalty – a concept that hasn’t really existed in the legal cannabis market yet. 

Several brands are entering the scene at once, consumers are excited about the options and try everything they can get their hands on – so widespread brand loyalty hasn’t developed, especially in new markets. 

As the legal market evens out, consumers are finding the brands that work for them and beginning to stick with them. 

I’m for sureee one of them 🙋‍♀️ (Shout out to Sinse and Good Day Farm – my two faves in Missouri rn) 

Cannabis rejectors are disappearing 

80% of adults in legal states are bought into legal cannabis – the number of those who aren’t is shrinking. 

Those who reject cannabis fell 15% to just 23% of adults from the Fall of 2021 to Spring 2022. This should energize us, y’all. It energizes me. This tells me: 

  1. Our efforts to change the stigma surrounding cannabis are working. 

Keep talking about it, but please exercise patience & kindness as you try to educate people about cannabis. 

Remember the issue isn’t with the person you’re talking to – it’s with the propaganda that has been spewed for decades. 

It can be hard for people to move past that, but studies show they are moving past it – so just keep working patiently! 

  1. People are seeing that introducing a legal cannabis market doesn’t mean “lazy, dopehead degenerates” take over the city. 

In fact – here’s your periodic reminder that legal markets have produced several positive benefits for communities including: 

Eventually, I envision any type of cannabis propaganda to be a distant memory, so long as we continue moving in the same direction we’re headed. 

It’s important to remember that some people aren’t necessarily against cannabis, it just doesn’t work for them & that’s totally fine. 

55% of cannabis rejectors in BDSA’s report said they “didn’t like how it made [them] feel” while 45% don’t consume because it “doesn’t fit [their] lifestyle.” 

However – 25% of those who are against it would consider it if a doctor recommended it and 20% would be open to consuming it if they got sick and cannabis relieved their symptoms. 

The most important thing is for people who reject cannabis to see the good it brings. 

I encourage cannabis operators to give back to their local communities as much as they can, as well as getting out there and meeting people – especially people who might disagree. Introduce yourself and tell your story. 

Especially if you’re a medical consumer, you can really serve that roughly 25% of people who would be open to consuming cannabis for medical reasons – just by listening to their hesitations and sharing your story. 

Listen when they tell you why they are against cannabis and understand that you might not change their opinion with one conversation. 

There are few things more powerful than civil, respectful discourse between two people who disagree. 

That is how seeds are sown and people’s minds change down the line. 

Cannabis brands: think long-term 

Many cannabis brands aren’t looking ahead and will be swallowed by brands that are. 

There’s a “get rich quick” mentality with many new cannabis brand executives who don’t know much about the industry. They are often the ones not thinking into the future. 

Which is laughable, because when you know much about the industry, you know that we’re the furthest people away from “getting rich quick.” 

Sure, there’s fantastic opportunities to make money in this space – but when people are waiting 2+ years to even be issued a license, getting rich quickly isn’t usually in the cards for cannabis operators.

Once you arrive, you’re now appealing to the cannabis consumer. And we’re not an easy demographic to please, rightfully so. AND – we’re in a transitional phase. Now is the time to cultivate brand loyalty because it’s beginning to take root in legal markets. 

It’s also time to get serious on your SKUs. If you’re offering multiple products in different form factors, understand that hitting the nail on the head with all of them will be challenging. 

Consumers are beginning to know their preferences and sticking to them. Niche brands who focus on one form factor can oftentimes zero in on their consumer’s pain points better than brands trying to do it all – capturing & retaining market share. 

Focus on your customer and what equals long-term profitability (meaning profit – not sales) for your brand. Get in front of your customer and deeply understand their needs and pain points. 

That’s how you get and stay ahead from where we stand right now.