Marijuana businesses in new markets can expect consumer knowledge and tastes to change over time, but not by much. According to retailers in mature recreational marijuana markets, flower remains the most popular product format.
Nevertheless, business owners should be ready to adapt to a more educated consumer who will want to know about terpenes, secondary cannabinoids, extraction methods and other aspects of products as markets develop.
“Over time, people become more educated,” said Dominic Cundari, general manager at ArborSide in Ann Arbor, Michigan. “Then you see other product categories like edibles and cartridges start to compete.”
Cundari attributed the popularity of infused edibles and vapes to familiarity and ease of use. “Picking up a lot more consumers over time, increasing that market size overall, is going to lead to certain products taking off and that demographic changing.”
Jeff Finnerty, head of marketing at New York-based multistate operator Ayr Wellness, agreed. “We see consumers educating themselves more around elements of not only flower but the other categories. We see people asking for not just THC but also more about the other cannabinoids and their effects.”
Interest in terpenes
Ayr Wellness did a recent customer survey around marijuana concentrates that confirmed as much. The company asked consumers what percentage of terpenes they wanted combustible products to have and offered choices of 0%-2%, 2%-3%, 4%-6% and 6.5% and above.
Executives assumed people would pick the biggest number. But roughly 18% of people said they didn’t have a point of view, which the executives interpreted to mean 82% of consumers believe they have enough cannabis knowledge to know the amount of terpenes they want.
“There is a clear evolution of understanding around the terpenes,” Finnerty said.
Twenty-seven percent of respondents selected the 4%-6% range, whereas 15% said they wanted more than 6.5% terpenes.
Advertising plays a role
Another consumer influence in new cannabis markets will be advertising, especially as marketing restrictions loosen up, Cundari said. Billboards and other types of advertising have become common in Michigan, helping normalize cannabis in the state while promoting brands.
“As restrictions on advertising and regulations find a happy medium, we’ll see edibles and most likely (vape) carts take a bit of a bigger market share overall,” he said. “Flower is going to be king for as long as I’m around. But I do see some of those other … products take a bigger market share over time.”
Ann DeMarco, general manager of Highland Health in Trinidad, Colorado, agreed.
“When marijuana first became legal, everybody was like, ‘Oh, cool, I can just go get all the pot I want.’ This is not like alcohol, and let’s go have a party and see how messed up we can all get,” she said. “There are consumers that consume for those purposes. But we’re finding more and more of the community that we serve are trying to accomplish something with their cannabis. … They’ve become far more sophisticated. There’s so much information available now to consumers that they come in already with a lot of knowledge.”
DeMarco believes change will come slowly. “I think that eventually … maybe 10, 15 years down the road, people will start becoming more concerned with safer ways to consume cannabis,” she said. “That will lead us away from smoking. But I don’t see it in the near future.”
To see the full cover package including graphs and charts, visit “What Consumers Want” in the digital version of MJBizMagazine.