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The Hidden Problem Looming Over the Cannabis Edibles Market

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The Hidden Problem Looming Over the Cannabis Edibles Market

A Problem Looming Over the Cannabis Edibles Market

The boom in legal cannabis has been absolutely historic.

According to ArcView Research, it’s already a multi-billion dollar industry – and by 2022, the legal market could be worth $32 billion globally.

As in any nascent industry, the early days of cannabis have been exciting and formative. As it begins to mature, it’ll become clearer what products will drive future growth.

In this context, cannabis edibles and beverages have taken center stage – and today’s infographic from Trait Biosciences outlines the magnitude of this opportunity, along with some of the challenges the market faces going forward.

The Rise of Edibles

From dark chocolate to CBD-infused beverages, the cannabis edibles market is one of the most diverse and exciting markets for both consumers and businesses.

Edibles and beverages have already more than doubled in their share of the overall cannabis market since 2011, and the market is expected to grow in size from $1 billion to $4.1 billion between the years 2017 and 2022.

This year, the Specialty Food Association even named cannabis edibles and beverages as a “Food Trend of the Year” – a nod to the fact that edibles are going mainstream, even within the scope of the much larger food and beverages industry.

Not surprisingly, as this category emerges, there are many big brands exploring options in the edibles market, including Constellation Brands, Molson Coors, Mondelez, Carl’s Jr, Anheuser Busch, Neal Brothers, and Coca-Cola. In particular, the beverages space seems to be hot: Constellation shelled out $4 billion for a stake in the largest cannabis company globally (Canopy Growth), and beer-maker Anheuser Busch partnered with Tilray to research THC and CBD drinks.

Marketplace Risks

There are four major sources of risk that could impact future growth potential for companies in the fast-moving cannabis edibles market:

  • Regulatory risks:
    Regulators are becoming increasingly concerned about the dosage, packaging, and labeling of edibles products
  • Stiff competition:
    Mega brands are entering the edibles space at a blistering pace, and could dominate market share from newer entrants
  • Taxes:
    Complex layers of taxation could decrease demand for edibles, such as in California, while also pushing consumers towards the black market
  • Consumer concerns:
    Unpredictable dosage amounts, taste, and even toxins have surfaced as issues with the media, as consumers voice their concerns with edible products

But above and beyond these known risks, there is another potential hindrance to the edibles and beverages market that flies under the radar: how cannabinoids are absorbed into the bloodstream when ingested.

The Journey Into the Bloodstream

Unlike substances like sugar or alcohol, cannabinoids are not soluble in water. Instead, they are soluble in fats.

A substance such as sugar can enter the bloodstream within 10-15 minutes of ingesting. On the other hand, fat soluble substances such as cannabinoids have to wait – which is why sometimes edibles take hours to kick in.

Ultimately, cannabinoids are absorbed through the body’s fat. This happens in the small intestines, which help distribute them to the rest of the body.

Implications for Edibles and Beverages

For some cannabis producers, fat-solubility just means slow onset times and a generally undesirable taste. For other products, like CBD beverages, it creates bigger problems. Water and oil simply don’t mix.

To get around this, producers are using special emulsion techniques to make oil particles smaller, so that they mix with water better, increase bioavailability, and speed up onset times.

  • Macroemulsion:
    Think of this as mixing oil and vinegar. It’s your common emulsion that will separate over time, since oil and water don’t mix
  • Nanoemulsion:
    Stable but thermodynamically unstable. Uses surfactants to keep water/oil binded
  • Microemulsion:
    Stable, but uses a higher concentration of surfactants (which lower the surface tension between two liquids)

While these techniques are seeing increased usage by producers of cannabis products, they do have their own set of limitations.

Oil and water solutions still unbind over time, and products may only have a limited shelflife. Reporting by WSJ has found that these beverages also have a questionable aftertaste for many consumers, and onset times of these products are still not as fast as smoking or vaping.

It’s also worth noting that various health regulators, scientific journals, and international organizations have raised concerns about using nano-sized particles in food and beverages.

For example, the Canadian government warns that there is a “causal relationship between nanoparticle exposure and adverse health effects”, while the respected scientific journal Nature warns that nanoparticles “may behave differently within the human body”, and that “safety of nanoparticles should be judged on a case-by-case basis”.

Next Steps?

The cannabis edibles market is poised to be the next big thing – but when it comes to how these cannabinoids get absorbed by the body, there is still much work to be done.

How will the industry and consumers move forward to capitalize on growing opportunities in the edibles and beverages market?

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Cannabis

Consumer Archetypes Shaping the European CBD Industry

This infographic visualizes the non-consumer and consumer archetypes that could be position Europe as the leader in global cannabis consumption.

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Consumer Archetypes Shaping the European CBD Industry

View the high-resolution of the infographic by clicking here.

With a colossal base of 500 million potential cannabis consumers, and laws that are loosening at a steady pace, Europe could soon emerge as the global cannabis leader.

Cannabidiol, better known as CBD, has become one of the most popular forms of cannabis in the European market, but little is known about the consumers who are reaching for it.

New Frontier Data identified a spectrum of archetypes in an effort to better understand their consumption patterns.

What Makes Europe Different?

Although Europe’s cannabis market is still in early stages, the proximity of countries could be instrumental in how quickly it grows. Widespread legalisation could be accelerated due to neighbouring countries lowering the barriers for others—also known as The Domino Effect.

A total of 22 countries have now legalised some form of medical cannabis, while other countries have decriminalised recreational cannabis or have pledged to fully legalise it in the coming years.

There is a 60% to 70% chance that cannabis will be legal across Europe within the next three years, but more research is key to unlocking growth in this market—and that includes gaining a full understanding of what consumers want.

CBD Consumer Archetypes

New Frontier Data identified five CBD consumer archetypes and four non-consumer archetypes, based on their attitudes, beliefs, and experiences. The CBD consumer archetypes are as follows:

  • The Exuberant & Intense (11%): As advocates of the CBD movement, this group is devoted to trying different products and spends more than any other archetype in the process.
  • The Integrative & Consistent (29%): CBD has become an essential component in achieving a healthy lifestyle for this group, resulting in them consuming it at least once a week and putting them in second place for highest overall spend.
  • The Sceptical & Limited (20%): CBD products are used in moderate frequency, but have not been incorporated into this group’s lifestyle as they are generally wary of health claims. However, more information may soothe the concerns of this group over time.
  • The Receptive & Reserved (23%): Consuming a narrow range of products in moderate frequency, this group are more comfortable trying products based on recommendations from friends and family. Over time, as more people in their inner circle try different products, they will also gain confidence to follow.
  • The Ambivalent & Experimental (17%): This group will not consider purchasing CBD products themselves, but will consume products when they are shared by friends and family. While their beliefs are more conservative, new products could tempt them to make CBD part of their routine.

Interestingly, up to 98% of surveyed consumers claim that CBD has positively affected their quality of life in some way. In terms of product preferences, tinctures/oils are a consumer favourite, with a large portion of people using CBD to unwind.

Non-consumer Archetypes

Less than half of all non-consumers have heard of CBD. While some of them are not open to changing behaviors, others could soon convert to a consumer archetype, provided information and legalisation becomes more commonplace.

  • Unaware & Uninterested (43%): Having never come across CBD products online or in store, this group is broadly uninterested in learning more, but may be open to experimenting as the market becomes more regulated.
  • Knowledgeable & Primed (28%): This group expresses a strong belief in the benefits of CBD and their curiosity to learn more makes them the most likely group to become consumers in the next six months.
  • Informed & Indifferent (19%): A wide exposure to CBD products does not translate to intent to purchase, potentially due to this group’s lack of awareness regarding CBD’s beneficial properties.
  • Cautious & Curious (10%): Despite a strong curiosity towards CBD products, they remain apprehensive about the safety and legality of them.

Overall, 34% of non-consumers are curious about trying CBD products—which could yield significant growth for the cannabis industry in the coming years.

A New Successor to the Throne

The recent COVID-19 outbreak has also sparked major discussion around the use of cannabis. Some parts of the world have declared it as “essential”, as consumers use products to alleviate pandemic-fuelled anxiety, which has resulted in a huge sales boost for the industry.

This will likely translate to Europe, where almost half of CBD consumers claim its therapeutic benefits are their primary reason for use.

The reality is that the potential for European cannabis growth is significant, and to achieve this, both consumer and non-consumer motivations should be considered.

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Visualizing the Huge Potential of Minor Cannabinoids

While the broader cannabis market is estimated to reach $45B by 2024, we’ve only scratched the surface in harnessing the potential of minor cannabinoids.

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The Huge Potential of Minor Cannabinoids

Hemp and marijuana are increasingly recognized for their exciting investment potential.

Due to their growing list of health benefits, the dominant conversation tends to center around the most abundant cannabinoids—cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). As a result, the cannabinoid market is estimated to reach almost $45 billion by 2024.

But CBD and THC are just two cannabinoids out of over a hundred that have been discovered to date. Today’s graphic from Trait Biosciences explores the hidden potential of the lesser-known minor cannabinoids, and illustrates how they fare in comparison to their major counterparts.

Cannabinoids 101

Cannabinoids are chemical compounds found in both hemp and marijuana that mimic compounds found in the human endocannabinoid system. This system is made up of a network of receptors that are involved in physiological processes like mood and memory.

When cannabis is consumed, cannabinoids interact with these receptors and produce different effects depending on the receptors they bind to. Although over a hundred cannabinoids have been found, they are not all created equally. They are typically divided into two categories:

  • Major cannabinoids: More plentiful
  • Minor cannabinoids: Less plentiful

Regardless of whether a cannabinoid is categorized as major or minor, every cannabinoid starts out as a form of CBG.

CBG-A: The Mother of All Cannabinoids

Cannabigerolic acid, or as it is more commonly known, CBG-A, is the acid precursor to other cannabinoid acids such as THC-A, and CBD-A. When the acids are exposed to heat, or prolonged UV light, they convert to neutral cannabinoids such as CBD and THC.

While CBG is regarded as a minor cannabinoid, it boasts a wide range of benefits that are urging researchers and scientists to take notice:

  • Fights inflammation
  • Soothes pain
  • Reduces nausea
  • Slows the spread of cancer cells
  • Helps treat glaucoma

CBG could be hugely beneficial in treating a wide variety of diseases, but it’s just one of many minor cannabinoids that could potentially blow CBD and THC out of the water.

The Potential of Minor Cannabinoids

To date, there has been limited research into the power of minor cannabinoids. However, the results from preliminary research look incredibly promising.

CannabinoidTypeExamples of potential medical application
THC
Tetrahydrocannabinol
Major, psychoactive
Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, autoimmune diseases
CBD
Cannabidiol
Major, non-psychoactive
Epilepsy, schizophrenia
CBG-A
Cannabigerolic acid
Minor, non-psychoactive
Metabolic disorders, colon cancer
THC-A
Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid
Minor, non-psychoactive
Arthritis, neurodegenerative diseases, nausea, appetite loss
CBD-A
Cannabidiolic acid
Minor, non-psychoactive
Chemotherapy-induced nausea/vomiting (CINV), depression
CBC-A
Cannabichromene acid
Minor, non-psychoactive
Fungal diseases
CBG
Cannabigerol
Minor, non-psychoactive
Crohn’s disease, bowel disease, certain cancers
CBD-V
Cannabidivarin
Minor, non-psychoactive
Seizure prevention, Rett syndrome, Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD)
CBC-V
Cannabichromevarin
Minor, non-psychoactive
Osteoporosis, ALS, Muscular dystrophy
CBC
Cannabichromene
Minor, non-psychoactive
Could inhibit growth of cancer cells, osteoarthritis, neurological diseases
THC-V
Tetrahydrocannabivarin
Minor, psychoactive
Diabetes, anxiety, PTSD
Alzheimer’s disease
CBN
Cannabinol
Minor, psychoactive
Bacterial infections, ALS ,appetite stimulant

Note: Any potential medical treatment listed here stems from preclinical/animal testing only, and is simply intended to illustrate the potential application of each cannabinoid rather than a proven benefit.

Scientists also recently discovered two new cannabinoids—THC-P and CBD-P—with research showing that THC-P could potentially be 30 times more potent than THC.

The Future of Minor Cannabinoids

FDA-approved CBD drug Epidiolex has sparked a rising interest in minor cannabinoid trials.

In fact, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has committed to providing funding to strengthen the evidence for minor cannabinoids and their pain relieving properties.

Cannabinoids could also add great value to cancer treatment-related side effects, however, more research is needed to turn potential into proof. With the availability of more robust evidence, the potential medical applications for minor cannabinoids could be much greater than we can imagine.

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