As we prepare for our first live event in over two years, we’re taking time to explore parts of Lift&Co’s 2022 agenda. Edibles in Canada is one topic getting a lot of attention and one we know our clients are deeply interested in.
After all, there was a lot of hype about edibles in Canada when they launched back in 2019, but these days, some of the excitement has faded. Some edible categories have pulled ahead, while others have surprisingly failed to capture the market’s attention. With regulatory changes coming in 2023, the market is set to shift once again.
We look at what is driving the future of edibles in Canada: the rise of gummies, the stagnation of drinks, and what needs to change to meet consumer expectations.
It’s All About Gummies
According to a 2021 report from Dalhousie University’s Agri-Food Analytics Lab (AAL), Canadians are no longer as curious about edibles as they once were when they launched in late 2019.
The report findings show that only 25 percent of cannabis consumers now prefer edibles, but it was as high as 36 percent when this product category kicked off.
Even with a slight downturn in edible interest overall, gummies and other sweets remain the top choice within this class of edibles. Despite a world of options, from baked goods to drinks to chocolates, the top choice of Canadians is a THC-infused gummy.
This matches consumer preferences in more mature markets. In fact, across the major markets in the US, gummies alone made up more than $1 billion in sales in 2021, capturing 70 percent of market share.
The gummy weed category in Canada will likely continue to grow because consumers love the discretion, precise dosing, and fun flavours these edibles offer. Especially popular among new consumers and people who want more control over the experience, edibles deliver perfectly encapsulated effects — in interesting cannabinoid profiles.
Cannabis Drinks Take Back Seat
What about cannabis drinks? When they first launched, it was an edible category getting a ton of attention. Yet three years in, cannabis-infused beverages have failed to really grab consumer interest.
There may be a few reasons for this. The Ottawa Business Observer suggests that weed drinks were once expected to capture the new-to-cannabis consumer. However, at this point, most of the canna-curious crowd have gone ahead and tried it. As a result, there is a rapidly dwindling market of cannabis newbies looking to try cannabis for the first time.
Secondly, drinks haven’t broken through the novelty status. As we have seen above, consumers still love edibles and other infused foods over a more drinkable format. This might just boil down to familiarity with infused foods over infused beverages.
Finally, pot drinks may be perfect in social settings, but the pandemic has shut down most get-togethers for the last two years. So, just like we weren’t all gathering and sharing a case of beer over COVID-19 lockdowns, nobody was socializing and sharing cans of infused beverages either.
While cannabis drinks aren’t going anywhere, Canadians may need a bit of time post-pandemic to familiarize themselves with this category. Only with more people turning up to parties and gatherings with a pack of THC drinks as an alcohol alternative will this category truly find its stride.
Edibles in Canada: More Movement Needed on the Regulatory Front
If you’ve been paying close attention to edible market numbers, there’s still a significant gap between the scale of the edibles market in the US versus what we see in Canada. And it doesn’t just boil down to population size.
Edibles and drinks categories of cannabis products in Canada haven’t taken off as they have in the US.
One difference is the Canadian legal restrictions over edibles. In Canada, packages can only contain 10 mg of THC, with a max of 10 mg per serving.
In the US, policies vary, but most markets allow for much greater potencies or at least multiple servings per package. California, as one example, allows for up to 100 mg per package.
Cannabis Industry Insider Niel Marotta, Weighs In
Niel Marotta, President and CEO of Indiva and Co-Chair of the Edibles Caucus, is speaking on this subject at Lift&Co in Toronto this year. As the leading industry expert, he has long been an advocate for a shift in edible regulation.
On March 8th, 2022, he sat down to speak with the Business of Cannabis about the need for a legislative review. Marotta explained, “There is certainly room to see higher THC limits in all the edibles. […] I kind of think of it as a barbell approach. We get people that complain there is not nearly enough THC in these packages, and then we get the more novice approach where people say, one gummy is enough for me.”
We need to have edible products that span a wide spectrum of preferences and tolerances. Ten milligrams may work for some Canadians, but a massive consumer demographic wants higher potencies and is thus far finding these products from illicit sources.
Edibles in Canada need to shift to better align with people’s consumption preferences. The Lift&Co event will detai how, “The unintended consequence of [current regulation] is that two-thirds of edible customers are going back to the illicit market for unsafe and improperly dosed products.”
Many Canadians will never move away from the legacy market. Why? Because they have to purchase five packages of single-serve gummies when they can buy a single gummy with the same total THC from an illicit source.
Edibles in Canada: A Segment Still Maturing
It will undoubtedly be interesting to see how the popularity of cannabis-infused gummies and weed drinks shifts in the coming years.
Will Canadians go all in on gummies like we see south of the border? Will THC drinks ever truly become the social bubbly beverage, as they have been marketed for so long?
As we near the 2023 Cannabis Act review, we know we won’t be the only ones holding our collective breath on changes to edible dosing and serving size. With this in mind, TechPOS will be paying close attention to Lift&Co 2022 to see what other leaders in the industry predict for edibles in Canada.
Are you heading to Lift&Co 2022 in Toronto? We’d love to see you! Connect with us to schedule a meeting or stop by our booth 1620.