Americans Are Consuming More Cannabis Than Plant-Based Meat, Says New Brightfield Report

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The cannabis industry’s proof was in 2020’s revenue, but Brightfield’s newest report shows consumer behavior to match exactly what the cannabis industry already knew: people consumed more cannabis during the pandemic than they were before. 

Gen Z makes up a large part of new consumers

A clear factor is stress and anxiety, and the Brightfield report confirms that. New recreational cannabis consumers made up 6% of all consumers in 2020, with 22% being Gen Z. If you thought Generation Z wasn’t old enough to consume cannabis, so did we (kidding), but many of them are now 21 which means legal access to cannabis if they live somewhere where it’s legal. 

Consumers seeking relaxation, sleep, and emotional relief from cannabis 

New recreational customers saw the heaviest consumption, specifically in Q4 2020, with 22% of new consumers reporting they utilized cannabis multiple times a day. This declined a little bit in Q1 2021, but nonetheless, new cannabis consumers are entering the market at a faster rate than pre-pandemic. The top three desired cannabis product effects are relaxation, sleep, and emotional relief. Over half, 54%, of new recreational consumers reported utilizing cannabis for anxiety, while a whopping 74% of consumers sought cannabis for relaxation. 

Women are newly consuming cannabis in droves

Also, 59% of new consumers are women, further diversifying the cannabis marketplace. Female consumers made up 51% of cannabis consumers in Q1 2021. Women consumers steadily rose in 2020, and they tend to be younger and heavier consumers than men, with 21% of female consumers reporting daily consumption. The Brightfield Report shows women and men approach cannabis consumption differently, with women focusing more on the effects of cannabis and how it benefits their mental and physical health. 

Women use more product types than men do, especially gummies (48% of female consumers utilize gummies, as opposed to 34% of men), but women select specific times of consumption. The report says 80% of women consume cannabis right before going to bed, 59% of women say before taking care of home duties, and 50% save cannabis consumption for date night with their partner. This gender balance varies by state. In Michigan, 59% of cannabis consumers are women. In California, the number goes down to 43%. 

How brands can take advantage of the new demographics

All of this means good news for cannabis businesses. The key is approaching it well. The data tells us 2020 brought a slew of new and heavy consumers to the cannabis market, with a large majority of those new consumers being women. The report further says women favor products like gummies, topicals (17% of female consumers), vape cartridges (40% of women consumers), and flower (57% of female consumers). Cannabis companies can take advantage of these new consumers and develop a brand strategy that appeals to them. 

More Americans consume cannabis than plant-based meats

More Americans reported consuming cannabis in the past three months than hard seltzer, soy milk, and plant-based meat. According to the Brightfield report, 10% of Americans reported consuming cannabis in the past three months, with 13% of total consumers being Millenials – the most likely generation to consume cannabis. Hard seltzer, soy milk, and plant-based meat were used by 7%, 6%, and 8% of Americans, respectively. Americans still consumed more granola bars and sports drinks in 2020 than cannabis though. The report shows 13% of Americans consumed granola bars in the past three months and 15% of Americans consumed sports drinks. 

Key takeaways 

What we can gather from this report, and other consumer reports like this one, is that Americans are past ready for cannabis legalization, especially after the stress 2020 brought. 

All different kinds of people are entering the cannabis market, both as businesses and consumers, so those brands who identify and aim to understand their target audience will do well as American (and global) cannabis policy reforms over time. 

Many consumers believe now that Joe Biden is the president, April 20, 2021 will be the last illegal 4/20. Currently, there’s not a bill in circulation to legalize cannabis at the federal level, but many are pushing and hoping for it under the new blue administration.  

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