- Forty-one percent of U.S. consumers said they would try recreational cannabis in foods such as candy, chocolate snacks and packaged foods if or when it becomes legal, according to an A.T. Kearney survey of 1,000 Americans and 1,000 Canadians.
- Consumers were asked which cannabis-containing products they or someone they know have tried in areas including food, smoking, vaping and beverages. In the U.S., 58% said yes about food, 12% for alcohol and 10% for nonalcoholic drinks such as juice, water, tea or coffee.
- "The survey clearly demonstrates the viability of the market for cannabis across multiple consumer segments – CPGs and retailers focused on health and wellness, snacking, functional food and beverage, and beverage alcohol need to have a perspective on how they will approach the cannabis opportunity,” Randy Burt, a partner in A.T. Kearney’s consumer and retail practice, said in a statement.
The study from A.T. Kearney highlights what many food and beverage companies have been communicating for months: there is growing consumer interest in consuming cannabis food and drinks, and they're positioning themselves to be a part of it.
In the last year alone, Constellation Brands, the marketer of Corona and Modelo Especial, has invested roughly $4 billion to purchase a 38% stake in Canopy Growth, the world's largest publicly traded cannabis company. Molson Coors Canada this week finalized a deal with The Hydropothecary Corporation to create a joint venture to sell cannabis-infused drinks. Coca-Cola is reportedly in talks with Canadian cannabis producer Aurora Cannabis about making marijuana-infused beverages, Bloomberg reported last month. Even Walmart in Canada is exploring the sale of marijuana products.
Nine U.S. states and the District of Columbia have now legalized recreational use of marijuana, with a dozen more in a position to make the change this year. Canada is preparing to legalize marijuana on October 17. As more U.S. states give the okay, it naturally opens up additional markets for these and other companies to sell their products. While it is not a forgone conclusion that most states will legalize marijuana, it's evident that companies are confident enough to make the investment now rather than wait for more states to give the OK. With at least some shoppers open to trying food or beverage products with cannabis, they have little choice but to prepare — or risk ceding sales to their competitors.
What's most interesting in the A.T. Kearney study is that when it came to food or drinks, consumers expressed more willingness to try candy, chocolate snacks and packaged foods than non-alcoholic or alcoholic drinks. Yet it's the beverage space, specifically beer, that has been the most aggressive in investing and preparing for a cannabis future, perhaps amid concern more consumers looking to relax could turn to marijuana instead of their products. A.T. Kearney found that of the U.S. respondents who said they would try recreational cannabis, most would consume it in place of beer (26%) followed by wine and spirits at 23%.
Meanwhile, major food companies have ignored the space, leaving investments to smaller operations. It's possible that despite the potential and chance to collect much-needed revenue as bottom lines suffer due to changing consumer patterns, manufacturers of brownies, bars, cookies and candies are reluctant to tarnish their image — possibly because many of their products are sold to children.
The study asked consumers how their perceptions of different kinds of companies may change if they sold cannabis products, but they did not ask about food manufacturers. The study found that 44% of Americans would have an improved perception of a health and wellness firm, 29% would think better of a nonalcoholic beverage company and 23% for an alcoholic one. On the other side 9% of U.S. respondents said cannabis products would give them a worse perception of a health and wellness company, 13% of nonalcoholic beverages and 18% for alcohol.
Perhaps food operations will be more inclined to jump in or form partnerships with other companies as more states open themselves up to legalizing marijuana and the revenue potential becomes too much to ignore.