Article

Stirring the Pot: Cannabis and the CPG Market

This spring, the Justice Department announced its plans to reclassify marijuana from a Schedule I to a Schedule III drug under federal law. While the move would not officially legalize the drug on a federal level, it would open the door for further research and innovation. The move also reflects the nation’s shifting attitudes on marijuana, with 24 states legalizing it for recreational use in the past decade and an additional 17 legalizing it for medicinal use. 

Marijuana use has a noteworthy impact on food and beverage consumption habits, making it a critical topic for brands or retailers in the consumables space. From traditional grocery categories like snacks and sports drinks to alcoholic beverages and restaurant visits, users show distinct preferences for the products they consume.

CBD vs. THC: What’s the Difference and Why Does It Matter?

The cannabis plant produces hundreds of different chemical compounds including CBD and THC. Any cannabis plant with a THC concentration above 0.3% is classified as marijuana, while anything with less is considered hemp. Only marijuana is considered a controlled substance, while hemp faces fewer restrictions and regulations—this means CBD is more accessible in the market already.

THC is the main psychoactive ingredient in the cannabis plant and is responsible for inducing a high effect for users, while CBD does not have the same intoxicating properties. Given its milder effects, CBD doesn’t appear to have a significant influence on consumer behaviors like THC (marijuana).

Measuring Munchies: Marijuana’s Effect on Traditional Grocery

One common side effect of marijuana use is an increased appetite, something that comes through in purchase data. Compared to non-users, THC users spend a larger portion of their grocery dollars on categories like sports & energy drinks (1.7x), beer (1.3x), frozen sandwiches (1.3x), frozen pizza (1.1x), and frozen appetizers (1.1x). Daily THC users have even more pronounced spikes in almost every category studied, with notable differences from regular THC users in candy, herbs & spices, frozen potato snacks, and packaged sweet snacks. 

Top Grocery Categories for THC users

Quick Hit: THC and Fast Food

Fast food and delivery services win with THC users. Compared to non-users, THC users are 61% more likely to have ordered from Doordash in the past three months and are 35% more likely to have ordered Uber Eats. They’re also more likely to have visited Little Caesars Pizza (+31%), Jersey Mike’s Subs (+28%), or Taco Bell (+22%). Similar to traditional grocery trends, these behaviors are even more pronounced among daily THC users.

Under the Influence: THC and Alcohol Trends

Although THC users spend more on alcohol than non-users ($496 vs. $432 annually), spending is inversely tied to the frequency of THC use, with daily users spending less than infrequent users ($453 vs. $535 annually). More than 1 in 3 THC users (36%) say they have reduced their alcohol consumption since they began using cannabis products, suggesting that consumers substitute one for the other.

Alcohol purchase habits

CBD’s Subdued Impact on Shoppers

Unlike THC use, CBD use does not appear to have a significant influence on consumer behavior. However, CBD users are an interesting segment of consumers with distinct profiles and motivations. Users skew older with higher incomes, and many cite struggles with muscle and joint pain. They favor homeopathic remedies & organic products and spend more on vitamins & supplements than the average consumer, making them a worthwhile focus for brands and retailers in the health & wellness space.

Gen Z and Millennial Cannabis Trends

Cannabis use is much more popular among Gen Z and Millennial consumers. The latest government research suggests that 26% of 21 to 34-year-olds have used marijuana in the past month, compared to 16% of 21+ Americans as a whole. Their preferences and behaviors are especially important to understand, given they are poised to grow in purchasing power in the coming years and represent the future of the category.

Go Deeper Into The Weeds

The insights in this article highlight a few key points from our recent report on modern cannabis consumers. Download the full report now for a more in-depth view on cannabis trends, including user profiles, usage habits & spending, and what activities consumers engage in while using cannabis. For customized insights on how cannabis is impacting your brand or category, reach out to your Numerator representative or get in touch with our team today.

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