September 4th, 2020
Disrupting Food is the latest report in THE IMPACT SERIES — Prohibition Partners’ suite of in-depth consumer reports detailing the impact of cannabis across key CPG markets. Supported by expert regulatory analysis, proprietary pricing databases and extensive consumer research and polling, Disrupting Food offers a comprehensive deep dive into the emerging cannabis edibles market, evaluating the key consumer profiles, market trends and commercial opportunities in this quickly evolving space. In this article, we break down some of the key findings and trends covered in the report.
THE IMPACT SERIES: Disrupting Food details the result of Prohibition Partners’ unique consumer research polling, covering over 15,000 adults across seven key national markets across North America and Europe, to evaluate the usage, purchase patterns and attitudes towards such cannabis-infused foods. The report also includes a detailed analysis on the latest regulations, company activity and consumer trends that are defining the market.
The cannabis edible consumer base
On account of their more advanced legislation and regulation of the sector, the United States and Canada can be considered ‘mature markets’ in the context of the cannabis and CBD foods space.
Within these mature markets, Prohibition Partners finds that CBD or hemp-infused food products are still more popular than THC-infused edibles, with close to one-in-three adults saying they have either bought such a product, or that they would be interested in doing so in the next 12 months. Among already active CBD or cannabis buyers, almost half of those in mature markets report using CBD or hemp-infused food products, compared to just 26% in the emerging European market who do the same.
On the whole, consumer attitude towards the CBD or hemp-infused foods market is positive. This positivity is becoming a cornerstone of the market with word-of-mouth marketing becoming critical in driving sales. One-in-three users and one-in-four potential users of these products cite ‘hearing positive reviews’ as a reasoning behind their behaviour. According to Prohibition Partners’ surveys, the word ‘natural’ is overwhelmingly the most strong association, followed by ‘effective’ and ‘healthy’.
However, consumer research has also shed a light on potential barriers for patients, revealing that 22% of potential users and 16% of existing users are unsure of the legality around using these products. In the word association survey, 12% respondents also associated the term ‘just a fad’ with the product category. Further consumer education could go a long way in addressing these concerns.
COVID-19 and the resulting lockdown restrictions have forced people indoors, disrupted the global employment market and, in many cases, increased anxiety among consumers. While many consumers are expected to limit spending we are seeing that cannabis, CBD and hemp-infused products are enjoying an uptick in purchases and intentions to buy. Consumers are looking to relax, ease anxiety and stress and try new direct-to-consumer brands during the periodical lockdowns, which has benefited the emerging infused foods market.
The rise of the casual consumer
One of the most notable market trends occurring within the cannabis edibles space is the rise of the ‘casual consumer’. Being more socially acceptable and more discreet than smokable cannabis, cannabis edibles are a convenient entry point to the market for new consumers.
The cannabis, CBD and hemp-infused confectionery market has experienced considerable growth with infused gummies currently ranking as the number one selling ingestible product available in the US. Infused confectionery products also allow the cannabis foods market to offer special occasion products — such as infused chocolates for Valentines Day, birthdays, etc. — and to appeal to high-end venues which may wish to test the waters with gourmet CBD-infused desserts.
So far, large multinational food brands have yet to move into the cannabis edibles space. This has allowed cannabis companies to successfully market special craft and artisanal products to casual consumers looking for high-quality and a luxury experience. For example, the Canopy Growth range of Bean & Bud edibles market themselves as a premium craft chocolate product, made in partnership with Canadian artisanal chocolatier Hummingbird Chocolates and using cacao beans sourced directly from farmers in South America.
The future of the market
Prohibition Partners estimates that this market is forecasted to be worth around US$2.71 billion in 2020. Our research finds that consumers are increasing CBD and cannabis consumption during lockdown, however, lockdown restrictions have caused a disruption to the traditional supply chain which has seen brands and businesses shift to a digital-first approach.
By 2024, the global market for cannabis food products is forecast to reach around US$8.9 billion, with the United States and Europe driving growth. Powered by continued regulatory changes and product innovation, the US market alone is projected to hit US$6.2 billion by 2024.
While the current edibles industry is largely dominated by small independent brands and craft producers, legislative change and continuing acquisition activity could see larger multinationals and cannabis giants begin to enter the industry in coming years. For smaller brands, the challenge will be to find ways of retaining their customer base as these larger names with their marketing and branding power enter the market.
To learn more about cannabis’ impact in the foods sector, as well as the key market players, innovations, and commercial opportunities in the space, purchase and download the full The Impact Series: Disrupting Drinks report here.