Canadian attitudes and behaviours assessed over the last six months, heading towards the availability of edibles, infused beverages and topical products.
In December 2019 H+K conducted a nation-wide survey of adult Canadians about cannabis.
H+K has been advising clients in the medical and recreational cannabis space since 2013. We help clients achieve success in this industry by assisting them with regulations, communications, marketing and public affairs.
Over the years H+K has released close to a dozen studies on Canadian attitudes, perceptions, values and behaviours related to Cannabis. This recent study largely focused on updating key measures collected in May of 2019. Timing is critical. We collected
consumer behaviour and perception data last May at roughly the half-way point between Cannabis 1.0 legalization (recreational dried flower, etc.) and Cannabis 2.0 (recreational edibles, topicals, etc.). That study was released at the Ontario Chamber of Commerce event: Capitalizing on Canada’s Cannabis Potential, and was a notable shift in our lines of inquiry.
The May 2019 research focused on Canadians as consumers of legal cannabis, shifting away from Canadians as citizens engaging in a public policy debate (where the pre-legalization research largely focused).
We chose to update our consumer research at year’s end, following the legalization of Cannabis 2.0 (recreational edibles, topicals,
etc.) recognizing that the first wholesale cannabis 2.0 shipments will be made in mid-December. This is the dawn the Cannabis 2.0, and what follows is an analysis of the market and consumer information needs.
• Recreational consumer (18%) segment grows slightly over the past 6 months or so, while regular consumers (14%) segment decreases slightly. Non-consumer (38%) and rare consumer (30%) market segments remain stable.
• Drivers of consumption across market remains medical and wellness reasons.
• No decrease in consumer use of illicit market over past 6 months or so.
• Edibles prevalent in pre-Cannabis 2.0 market, expected to increase over the next year
• The information that consumers crave most about cannabis is related to impacts on health
• Of all consumer segments, only regular consumers (in majority numbers) know what kinds of cannabis products they like and know where to get it. Unfortunately, only half of them get it from legal retail outlets. For the rest of the consumer segments, 4 in 10 or less know what kind of cannabis products they like and even fewer know where to get them
• Highest potential in the year ahead is with rare consumers purchasing non-intoxicating products
• Potential risk for food and beverage brands persists among non-consumers of Cannabis
Cannabis Segments in the Cannabis Market
To better understand the relationships different groups of Canadians have with the cannabis market we divided respondents up into four segments based on their experience with cannabis.
Using the cannabis user definition from Statistics Canada we first segmented Canadians into consumers (consumed cannabis in the past three months), rare consumers (have used cannabis in their lifetime but not in the past three months) and Canadians who have never consumed cannabis. The consumer group was divided up further based on frequency of use.
This resulted in four segments of Canadians in the cannabis market; regular, recreational, rare and non-consumers.
• Using cannabis at least once a week.
• 14% of adult Canadians (was 16% in May, 2019: -2%)
• Use cannabis a few times in a three-month period.
• 18% of adult Canadians (was 15% in May, 2019: +3%)
• Used cannabis at some point in the past, but not in the last three months.
• 30% of adult Canadians (was 31% in May, 2019: no change)
• Have never used cannabis before.
• 38% (was 38% in May, 2019: no change)
The market today
Medical and wellness dominate:
• Almost 9 in 10 (87%) regular consumers (14% of market) indicate that medical and wellness reasons drive part or all of their use.
• In May 2019, 7 in 10 regular consumers indicated that medical reasons drove part or all of their use.
• In this recent study we added ‘wellness’ and have learned that for all but 13% of regular consumers, medical and wellness is part of their consumption profile.
• Of note – recreational consumers (14% of market) are much less likely to have medial and wellness as part of their consumption profile, where 31% indicate consuming Cannabis for purely for non-medical and wellness reasons
Illegal market lives on:
• Over one third (34%) of consumers use the illegal market to obtain cannabis.
• That number is unchanged since May 2019.
Edibles common among consumers…some of the time:
• Today, at the dawn of Cannabis 2.0, 6 in 10 (60%) consumers eat food infused with cannabis at least some of the time when they consume.
• Not surprisingly, given that legal commercial edible products are not yet available, that number is unchanged since May 2019.
Most sought after cannabis info? It’s all about health:
• The most sought-after information types coalesce around health. This hasn’t changed since May 2019.
• The top five categories are (% highly interested):
• Health impacts on long-term use (47%)
• Potential health and wellness benefits (48%)
• Side-effects (46%)
• Health and development impacts on youth (41%)
• Interactions with prescription drugs (40%)
• The vast majority of regular consumers know what kind of cannabis product they like (71%) and they know where to get it (77%).
• But, only about half get the product they like from legal regulated retail store (51%).
• But, only 4 in 10 recreational consumers (the growing market segment) know what kind of product they like (42%) and only half know where to get it (53%). And – again, only about half get the product they like from legal regulated retail store (50%).
• And, interestingly, for rare consumers, only about 1 in 10 know what kind of cannabis product they like (11%; 53% don’t know), only about 1 in 4 know where to get it (23%
Consumer landscape stable over past year:
• For most consumers, consumption of intoxicating and non-intoxicating cannabis products has not changed over the past year.
• There is a net increase in intoxicating cannabis of 9% among regular and recreational consumers (% increase minus % decrease)
• And, there is a net increase in non-intoxicating cannabis of 7% among regular and recreational consumers (% increase minus % decrease)
The market tomorrow
Highest market potential:
• Highest potential in the year ahead is with rare consumers (30% of market) purchasing non-intoxicating products
• 41% indicate they’re either very or somewhat likely to try non-intoxicating cannabis in the next year (almost 2X on likelihood to try intoxicating products)
• Almost 1 in 5 non-consumers (38% of market) are either very or somewhat likely to try non-intoxicating cannabis in the next year (19%; again, 2X on likelihood to try intoxicating products)
Expected consumer landscape over the next year:
• More than half of consumers expect their consumption of intoxicating and non-intoxicating cannabis products to stay about the same over the next year (56% and 55% respectively)
• There is expected to be net increase in intoxicating cannabis of 14% among regular and recreational consumers (with most the increase coming from regular consumers; +26% compared to +6%)
• And, there is expected to be a net increase in non-intoxicating cannabis of 13% among regular and recreational consumers (with most the increase coming from regular consumers; +16% compared to +11%)
Potential risk for food and beverage brands persists among non-consumers of Cannabis:
• In May 2019, and now again in December, we asked consumers if their purchasing bahaviour would change if one of their “favourite food or beverage” brands started producing cannabis-infused products.
• The results are largely unchanged from May 2019
• Generally, about 1 in 5 consumers said they would “stop purchasing from that brand” (22%; 20% in May 2019)
• Half said it would have no impact for them (52%; 54% in May 2019)
• And, about 1 in 10 said they would purchase even more products from that brand (that number skyrockets to 37% by more among regular consumers and 21% among recreational consumers. Interesting take-away for food and beverage brands, but one can’t forget that these two consumer segments, combined, only adds up to 32%.
• Non-consumers, on the other hand, which is close to 4 in 10 (32%) of adult Canadians, feel much stronger about this. The big “watch-out” for food and beverage brands moving into this space is that almost 4 in 10 (37%) non-consumers say they would walk away from a favourite food and beverage brand is they started producing cannabis-infused products. Even after accounting for the delta between what consumers say they would do and what they actually do, the impact could still be in the double digits.
• All of this speaks to the need for food and beverage brands to carefully understand the customers and where there could be gains, but also losses.
About the Study
Hill+Knowlton Strategies used the Leger Opinion (LEO) online panel to field a national survey. In total, 1,000 Canadians were surveyed over the period of December 2nd to the 6th, 2019. Sampling was done within age, gender and region quotas. The survey was fielded in English and French. Length of survey was 5-10 minutes. Data were weighted on age, gender and region according to 2016 census figures. An associated margin of error for a randomly selected sample of this size would be ±3.5%, 19 times out of 20.