Over half of consumers interested in trying cannabis-enhanced food products, research shows

By Mary Ellen Shoup

- Last updated on GMT


Related tags Cannabis

As the laws legalizing recreational use of cannabis shift in North America, consumer interest and readiness to try cannabis-infused products is also evolving, recent research by A.T. Kearney revealed.

Medical marijuana is currently legal in 30 US states and Washington D.C. and its recreational use is legal in nine states. Reform of marijuana laws will be on the ballot this November in Michigan, Missouri, North Dakota, and Utah. In Canada, use of medical and recreational marijuana will be legalized throughout the country this month.

According to A.T. Kearney the acceptance of cannabis products has grown exponentially creating a “21st​ century gold rush.”

“Entrepreneurs and venture capitalists comfortable with building and navigating nascent markets have already gained first-mover advantage, establishing a broad range of cannabis-based products. And the opportunity is proving too great for many Fortune 500 companies to ignore,”​ A.T. Kearney noted. 

Size of the prize? 

A.T. Kearney estimates the global cannabis market will reach US$50bn by 2020 (CAGR of 45%) with recreational cannabis estimated to hit US$132bn in revenue by 2030. 

Consumer acceptance rising

A.T. Kearney surveyed 1,000 American and 1,000 Canadian consumers about their attitudes towards marijuana and cannabis-based or -infused products and over half of respondents said they would try recreational cannabis if it became legal.

Of the survey respondents who would try recreational cannabis, almost two-thirds (61%) are interested in edible formats such as candy, chocolate, and snacks.

Of those individuals who said they would try recreational cannabis, most would consume it in place of beer, wine, and spirits, the survey found.

The survey findings show a huge potential market for cannabis-infused products particularly for companies and brands in the health and wellness space, according to A.T. Kearney.

A strong majority (79%) of respondents across all age groups either agreed or strongly agreed that cannabis products offer wellness and therapeutic benefits and more than three-quarters (76%)  of respondents said they would be likely to try a legal therapeutic product infused with cannabis.

“The survey clearly demonstrates the viability of the market for cannabis across multiple consumer segments,” ​Randy Burt, a partner in A.T. Kearney’s consumer and retail practice, said.

“CPGs and retailers focused on health and wellness, snacking, functional food and beverage, and beverage alcohol need to have a perspective on how they will approach the cannabis opportunity, ”

Companies launching cannabis products seen as ‘innovative’

When asked in the survey, “How would you perceive your favorite brand if they launched a product containing cannabis?” ​86% of American and 84% of Canadian respondents indicated their perceptions would be improved or would not change.

Nearly half of all respondents said they would buy more frequently from brands offering cannabis products; 46% would feel more loyal to those brands; 36% felt that the brands would better represent their values; and 42% would see brands bringing cannabis products to market as “innovative or trendy.”

Across all age groups, 80% of adults surveyed agreed or strongly agreed that cannabis products offer wellness and therapeutic products.

While the majority of consumers surveyed believe cannabis has therapeutic benefits and the trusting the brand bringing cannabis-infused products to the market was important to 72% of US respondents and 73% of Canadian respondents in assess the quality and safety of those products.

CBD to serve as 'test market' for cannabis

A.T. Kearney’s study found that over 75% of respondents were aware that cannabis has beneficial but non-psychoactive components such as the therapeutic benefits associated with hemp-derived CBD (cannabidoil). 

While the use of CBD in foods and beverages is not legal​ in the US according to current FDA regulations, the CBD market has seen explosive growth with an expected market value of US$1bn by end of 2018, according to A.T. Kearney.

"The plant’s properties as an intoxicant are well known, but the market for cannabis products that don’t produce a sense of euphoria (or 'high') may be even larger than the recreational market,"​ A.T. Kearney added. 

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