In the year since the COVID-19 pandemic began and as the staggering number of deaths across the globe has increased, so have rates of depression, anxiety and other mental health challenges related to the pandemic’s many impacts on survivors.
The pandemic’s toll on mental health and the growing legalization of cannabis products in the U.S. led our team at Datassential to examine how the current global crisis is impacting the sale of cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabis products, how they are being consumed, and what most motivates sales.
The 2018 Farm Bill legalized CBD at the federal level when it removed hemp from the definition of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act. CBD doesn’t produce psychoactive effects, but it’s often used for stress and pain management. State rules vary. Meanwhile, cannabis is still illegal at the federal level and contains THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which produces psychoactive effects that make people feel “high.” A number of states have legalized cannabis for recreational and/or medicinal use.
Datassential’s latest consumer survey on cannabis purchase habits and intentions found 57% of customers reported they have used cannabis or CBD oil to reduce stress or anxiety, while 52% have used them to unwind or for relaxation.
Many consumers look to c-stores to get the latest CBD products. And 70% said they would be at least somewhat likely to purchase cannabis products at a c-store too, according to the survey.
The market for CBD and cannabis products has already been strong in areas where they are legal. But public acceptance of these products is growing and pushing the possibility that c-stores, in states that don’t currently allow the legal sale of these products, could soon join the ranks.
The public overwhelmingly supports the legalization and decriminalization trend that’s been occurring in the U.S. for years. Almost two-thirds of respondents supported legalization of cannabis for both medicinal and recreational use. Half of men have tried cannabis products in a recreational or social setting, according to the survey, along with 37% of women.
And 40% of respondents overall said they had tried cannabis in a recreational or social setting, compared to 35% who said they have tried CBD oil or extract either by itself or in a food or beverage.
When it comes to food and beverage items infused with CBD or cannabis, consumers are most interested in trying infused gummies or candies, at 46% of respondents. But just under that, 45% of consumers said they’d be interested in foods infused with THC, such as baked goods, chocolate bars and related treats.
The figures are lower but still encouraging in the beverage segment, where 35% said they’d be interested in THC-infused non-alcoholic beverages, and 32% expressed interest in THC-infused alcoholic beverages. Interestingly though, nearly as many consumers (30%) said that the consumption of cannabis products would have no impact on their alcohol consumption.
For c-store operators to capitalize on CBD and/or cannabis, prominent displays of infused candies and gummies will be key, since that is the segment consumers are most attracted to. But so will allowing options for customers to sample in other forms, such as infused sweets like candy bars or bakery items, which are close to the top in terms of consumer preference. Infused beverages, both alcoholic and not, are a small but growing segment not to be ignored.
Looking ahead, it’s vital for c-store operators to stay informed in the cannabis space as more states legalize cannabis products. The most successful operators will stay on top of trends as more consumers choose to experiment and tastes may evolve rapidly.
Samantha Des Jardins is a copywriter at Datassential, a market research agency helping food & beverage companies of all sizes and segments innovate, sell and plan for the future, backed by the best data in the industry. She can be reached at [email protected].