Edibles could bring millions of consumers into the cannabis market

A report from Lift&Co and EY also shows that brand currently has a low impact on cannabis purchase decisions.

With cannabis-infused edibles, beverages, vape pens and topicals expected to be legalized for sale by the end of the year, millions of consumers who have yet to try cannabis may be more open to entering the market – but education will still be a key factor in addressing some lingering concerns.

That’s according to a new report from cannabis review site Lift & Co. and market research firm EY Canada.

The survey polled 3,000 Canadians, with 1,375 identifying as cannabis consumers, 1,546 identifying as non-consumers and 52 as “budtenders,” the people at cannabis producers or retailers who guide consumers through their purchase journey.

Roughly 12% of non-consumers said they were likely to try new cannabis products once they were legalized, which could represent three million new consumers entering the cannabis market later this year. But while this group is interested in experimenting with baked goods, confectionery and food additives that have a low dosage, one third of them say not knowing enough about cannabis is keeping them from entering the category.

“Current non-consumers need more information before they feel comfortable trying cannabis products,” said Monica Chadha, EY Canada’s cannabis lead. “Deciphering through online information for what’s credible can be a challenge. Companies will need to determine the best way of building awareness and educating targeted consumer segments as one way to help inform the purchasing decision and build brand loyalty.”

Chadha also pointed out that while non-consumers are open to experimentation, they have different attitudes towards cannabis than people who were consuming it after legalization. While the biggest portion (33%) of the Canadian population are as unlikely to ever use cannabis, based on the research, 23% were categorized as “approval seekers” who haven’t ruled out trying it but still have concerns about things like not knowing enough about cannabanoids, concerns about long-term effects, and fears about losing control of their actions while high. Those concerns, however, could be addressed by clinical research (according to 52% of the group) or health care professionals (47%) – though only 18% said product reviews would be a consideration in addressing their concerns.

A further 27% of the population were categorized as “skeptics” by the report, who have even less knowledge about cannabis and are less likely than the “approval seekers” to try it – though said that if they did, they had a slightly more positive attitude towards low-dosage topicals and edibles.

The survey also found that quality, intended effects, price and potency were the most important criteria for current consumers as they make a purchase decision, with relatively few considering brand. The survey indicated that 70% of consumers who make their purchases through brick-and-mortar locations do not know which product or brand they intend to purchase prior to entering the store. Among non-consumers, potency and price were relatively less important compared to current consumers, and – as mentioned above – place more emphasis on clinical research and recommendations from health care practitioners in their purchase decisions.