The Fastest-Growing Cannabis Consumers May Surprise You
New demographic research points to new opportunities for cannabis businesses.
Generation Z is unlike any generation that came before. The first truly “digital native” generation, born between the late 1990s and the mid-2000s, they were the first to grow up with an Internet connection and mobile phones.
They’re also the first to reach adulthood with cannabis legal in many states across the country. That’s made them one of the biggest consumer markets for cannabis entrepreneurs.
A new study from Headset, a Seattle-based cannabis data firm, found that Gen Z is the fastest-growing segment of the cannabis-buying public. Sales surged 127 percent in 2020 among Gen Z, with the biggest percentage gain among females. That number looks even bigger when compared to the percentage increase among other generations: Millennials (46 percent), Gen X (29 percent), and Baby Boomers (5 percent).
As Headset noted in its study, “This demographic will continue to drive exponential growth, so it’s important to pay attention and understand their preferences.”
Gen Z likes flower best. Pre-rolls are also popular.
For the study, Headset looked at more than $14 billion worth of transaction data from 9.3 million customers. They pulled demographic data from loyalty programs at dispensaries.
Gen Z cannabis consumers show buying patterns that differ from other generations. For example, they rank as the only generation to buy most of their cannabis in pre-roll joints. They also purchase more concentrates than other generations, the survey found.
Other trends among Gen Z cannabis consumers include:
More THC than CBD. Older people might use CBD products to promote better sleep or manage pain, but these aren’t big issues with Gen Zers. They prefer to smoke their weed, focusing less than 10 percent of the total spending on non-inhalables. Other generations spend about 15 percent on non-inhalable products.
Less brand loyalty. Gen Z buyers tend to experiment with new products rather than stick with one brand. For example, when it comes to vape pen purchases, only 20.6 percent of Gen Z buyers showed brand loyalty, compared to 25.2 percent from other generations.
In a webinar about the report, Liz Conner, director of analytics for Headset, said that the “core of Gen Z is the idea of manifesting an individual identity. So, consumption for them becomes a means of self-expression as opposed to, say, for example, buying or wearing a brand to fit in with the norms.”
Women of all ages also are buying more cannabis
The Headset study and past studies on buying patterns have found that women increasingly are trying cannabis. Headset found higher growth rates in sales among women when compared to men across every generation.
Part of the attraction is the commitment by the cannabis industry to package and promote cannabis just like any other retail item. “No more do I have to meet a creepy guy in a back alley to get a gram of no-name, gross weed," 35-year-old catering business owner Meagan Tyler Shreve told NBC. "Now I get to walk into a retail store and purchase top-shelf, designer weed. The changes are astronomical."
Bethany Gomez, managing director at cannabis market research agency Brightfield Group, told NBC that sales statistics show “the future of cannabis is female. An order of magnitude more.”
That presents an opportunity for cannabis companies with an eye on the future. Many of them simply do not market well to women, creating an opportunity for products to stand out with a change in marketing strategy.