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As New Form Factors Flourish, Flower Remains King With U.S. Cannabis Consumers

August 24, 2021

Amid all the excitement and effort put behind developing and launching new cannabis form factors to engage a wider consumer audience, it’s an undeniable fact that flower remains king of the category at this stage. Putting aside new consumer-grade products like beverages and vape pens, even other legacy form factors like edibles and pre-rolled joints cannot compete with the granddaddy of cannabis, the bud itself. Despite mounting competition, flower’s share of the overall market has never dipped below 40% in the U.S. over the last three years, according to market research firm Headset.

Using data from California, Colorado, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Washington, Headset reports that flower has made up 46% of U.S. cannabis sales in 2021 through June. That’s more than double second-place vape pens at 20.8% and far exceeds pre-rolls, edibles, and concentrates, all of which are in a dead heat at about 9.7% of sales. Demand for smokeables is even stronger in Canada, with flower at 51.5% and pre-rolls double their U.S. volume at 18.4%.

Not all flower is created equal, of course. Different strains can produce markedly different experiences, classically sorted into the two subspecies of sativa and indica. Sativa-dominant strains typically produce an energizing, uplifting head high, while indicas are known for their relaxing body high. Hybrid strains are created by crossbreeding the two. In the U.S., hybrid strains now account for more than 60% of sales, while indica is at 17.2%, and sativa at 11.7%, with the remaining 7.8% going to various other types like shake and trimmings. The picture is very different in Canada, where indica leads with 43.6% of sales while hybrids and sativas are almost even at around 27%.

Consumer demographics for flower also tell an interesting story. Using the wallet share metric—how much of a given purchase is being spent on flower versus other factors—Headset reports a consistent trend across age and gender. Overall, male Baby Boomers spend the most on flower at 52% followed by a steady decline across the following generations, ending at 41.9% for Gen Z men. On the whole women spend less on flower but are more consistent across generations, with only a three point difference between the highest spenders (Millenial women at 41.9%) and the lowest (Gen Z women at 38.8%). These numbers point to a potential opportunity for newer form factors to court younger consumers, given Gen Z’s relatively lower spend on flower compared with their forebears.

While less exciting in some ways than new generations of value-added products, flower has been the bread and butter of cannabis consumption for decades—indeed, throughout history—and continues to command the largest consumer following post-legalization. Marketers betting on edibles, beverages, gummies, vapes, oils, and other form factors for the future will need to continue bringing new consumers into the category to eat into its market share.—Danny Sullivan

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