Legal cannabis sales are still dominated by flower in 2022, but consumer purchasing behaviors are showing a shift in product form preferences that could open the doors for brand opportunities in the next decade. As cannabis use is normalized in the coming years and the cannabis consumer population expands and diversifies, brands will also need…
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Legal cannabis sales are still dominated by flower in 2022, but consumer purchasing behaviors are showing a shift in product form preferences that could open the doors for brand opportunities in the next decade. As cannabis use is normalized in the coming years and the cannabis consumer population expands and diversifies, brands will also need to diversify their product offerings to keep up with shifting demand.
Cannabis consumer preferences have been changing for years. New Frontier Data’s 2021 U.S. Cannabis Consumer Evolution report revealed that the use of “flower only” among both legal and illicit market buyers decreased by 14% between 2018 and 2021. Specifically, 2021 data showed that just 24% of buyers only consume flower (down from 38% in 2018) compared to 57% who consume both flower and non-flower forms of cannabis (up from 48% in 2018) and 19% who don’t consume flower forms at all (compared to 14% in 2018).
Bottom-line, consumer purchasing patterns show that when cannabis consumers have access to a broader selection of product forms, their preferences are likely to change. Smart companies should be already innovating and preparing to launch new products in order to capture market share and to establish themselves as market leaders and brands of choice as early as possible.
Consumer Preferences Varies by State
Fast forward to 2022 and consumer preferences continue to evolve. In fact, according to New Frontier Data’s 2022 U.S. Cannabis Report, product preferences and consumption habits have changed significantly since adult-use markets first launched. These changes were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
One of the most interesting findings in New Frontier Data’s 2022 report is how consumer buying patterns differ between states. Among those states that allow flower sales in the legal cannabis market, demand varies based on local laws, market size, market maturity, and local consumption preferences.
For example, sales of flower dominate in Alaska, North Dakota, and Rhode Island. However, flower accounts for less than half of sales in California, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Virginia. To compare, the New Frontier Data researchers looked at two different markets – one with a more mature legal market (Colorado) and one with a less mature legal market (California).
Comparing Cannabis Consumer Preferences in Colorado vs. California
Colorado’s cannabis market is one of the most mature in the country. Looking at product sales since 2017, the market share for flower has decreased by 20%, and the market share for prerolls has dropped by 41%. On the other hand, market share for vapes has gone up by 66%, edibles by 62%, and extracts by 31%. Market share for topicals and tinctures decreased by 61%.
California is a less mature market than Colorado, and consumer preference trends are different from Colorado. Since 2018, flower market share has dropped by 12% while preroll market share has increased by 98%, Vape, extract, and other product form market shares have also decreased since 2018 by 11%, 19%, and 17%, respectively. Conversely, edible market share jumped by 55% since 2018.
Brand Dominance in California
Brand density varies by product type in California, and it’s something companies looking to gain market share across the country should pay attention to and learn from. Flower and preroll are the most crowded categories. With more brand choices, the top brands hold less market share than the top brands hold in less crowded categories.
The top three flower brands in California hold 10% market share, and the top 10 flower brands have a 23% share of the market. For the preroll category, the top three brands hold 27% of the market compared to 46% held by the top 10 brands.
The vape category is the third most crowded. The top three vape brands have 42% market share, while the top 10 hold 61%. Next, is the edibles category with a 44% market share held between the top three brands and 74% between the top 10 brands. Extracts are next in terms of brand density where 35% of the market is held by the top three brands and 51% by the top 10 brands.
Tinctures, topicals, and beverages are less crowded categories, and fewer brands dominate each. The top three brands hold 32%, 61%, and 31% market share, respectively, and the top 10 brands hold 65%, 87%, and 75% market share, respectively. The least crowded category is pills. The top three pill brands hold 69% of the market, while the top 10 brands hold 97% of the market.
Key Takeaways about Cannabis Consumer Preferences and Brand Opportunities
It’s important to note that cannabis consumers are not all alike. For example, New Frontier Data’s 2022 report points out that in California, men are 5% more likely than women to purchase flower and 2% more likely to purchase extracts. Conversely, women are 7% more likely than men to purchase edibles. In other words, to thrive in the future, cannabis companies need to diversify to meet the demands of evolving consumers in different states and with varying demographic profiles.
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