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Flower Continues To Dominate, But Other Form Factors Make Inroads

July 19, 2022

While innovation abounds in terms of the number of ways companies are marketing and consumers are using cannabis, so far it’s been hard to top the basics. Despite the ease of acquisition in recreational markets of edibles, beverages, vaporizers, and other form factors, cannabis flower remains the top category. Approximately 44% of cannabis sales last year were flower, according to a recent report from market research firm New Frontier, with 83% of current consumers reporting using it. That far outshined the 56% of consumers who enjoy edibles, the 33% vaping, and the 14% who have tried cannabis beverages.

Not only is flower the most frequently used form of cannabis, it was also rated the favorite form by 60% of consumers. Use is fairly consistent across age groups, with 65% of both the 18-34 cohort and the 35-54 cohort reporting purchasing flower, falling off somewhat with only 57% of 55+ cannabis consumers buying it. Among consumers who exclusively use flower, 40% say they do so exclusively for recreational reasons. However, that share of flower-only consumers is shrinking as more and more try other form factors. As is the case overall across the industry, men buy significantly more flower than women, with combined loose flower and pre-roll sales averaging $1.2 million a month in California for men while women averaged less than $600,000.

Of those sales, the vast majority were made in increments of 3.5 grams, or an eighth of an ounce. Fully 79% of flower sales were made in one-eighth increments and only 10% of purchases were for a quarter-ounce or higher. This is due largely to its historical role as the unit of sale. But New Frontier speculates it may also be explained by price flexibility, writing, “Looking specifically at April 2021, the median gross sale for an eighth in the lowest price quartile was $20, with $60 being the highest. That range provides a great deal of flexibility for consumers throughout a variety of socioeconomic circumstances.”

Consumers choose which flower to buy primarily for what mental effects it will produce, with potency as a secondary consideration. The strain Wedding Cake has been the top seller in California for three years running after Leafly named it its strain of the year in 2019, due to its high potency and relaxing effects. Knowledge of strains or the desire to try new ones can be a key factor in purchasing decisions, New Frontier says. “Consumers may demonstrate strong desire for particular strains, which they will actively seek out. Consumers are becoming far more intentional about their uses. As the industry grows, brands which can best identify who their target consumers are, and articulate why they consume, are more likely to reach said customers.”

Among New Frontier’s takeaways, a few stand out. Flower’s central place in cannabis culture means that even as product options expand, consumers are complementing, not replacing, their flower use. But consumers will continue to diversify their product preferences. Another interesting point is that consumers in newly legal markets are showing increasing interest in other form factors–in years past flower would dominate new markets before new products could gain traction, but new markets are increasingly seeing strong sales of other form factors from the jump, and producers should plan for this shift in behavior.—Danny Sullivan

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