Consumers crazy for CBD? Today’s cannabis movement echoes natural market of the 1990s

We see more and more consumers embrace activities promoting general health and wellness. Whether shopping, cooking, eating, exercising, reading or healing and taking care of themselves and their families, millions of Americans are participating in the marketplace that we define as “natural product worlds.” Healthier food, organic food, herbal and dietary supplements, natural personal care and household products, as well as a serious involvement with alternative medical treatments and practices, have come to represent lifestyle choices by which consumers can differentiate themselves in new and fulfilling ways.

While this could be said about today’s health and wellness consumers, we made these observations in 1998 in our Natural Sensibility: A Study of Changing Culture and Lifestyle report. So, it’s not that big of a news flash to us to see the emergence of cannabinoid products (both intoxicating and non-intoxicating) onto the mainstream stage.

CBD jelly beans are now a reality. Major beverage and QSR brands are contemplating CBD-infused beverages, and recreational marijuana is now legal in 10 states with medical marijuana legal in 33 states. This is very reminiscent of the fast-moving days of the late 1990s when natural and organic products were exploding into the mainstream from what had formerly been a niche natural products industry.

Back then, before it became a household word, we boldly and correctly predicted that organic would emerge from the shadows of a niche market and into the blazing sunshine of the mainstream marketplace. We demonstrated that the industry game board was changing and said that even the largest retailers would one day be selling organics to everyday consumers across all walks of life. They did and continue to expand on this proposition.

Today, with linkages to the natural and organic movement, diverse cannabinoid products (including cannabis and CBD) are storming into the vanguard of contemporary health and wellness culture. Cannabis in all its varied forms promises significant disruption in the health and wellness industry, from food and beverages to supplements to pharmaceuticals. Current users in legal recreational states almost always have a health and wellness-related reason, even if they also enjoy cannabis’s recreational benefits.

Our Health + Wellness 2019: From Moderation to Mindfulness report finds that the state-by-state legalization of marijuana and the national deregulation of hemp and CBD have brought about greater consumer awareness of cannabis as a health and wellness product -- to the point that consumers now primarily talk about cannabis as a natural, safer way to treat many conditions and something that should be made available legally to adults.

The appeal of cannabis as a health and wellness tool rests on the consumer perception that it is a plant and thus a more natural, less harmful replacement for OTC and prescription drugs, as well as alcohol.

Currently, edibles are the top category of cannabis products purchased in the past year among legal health and wellness users, promising significant growth for future markets. Gen Z and millennials are particularly inclined to seek out cannabis beverages, too.

The early natural and organic movement had to move beyond the “hippie” co-ops where it started with more mainstream messaging that was less intimidating and ideological and more focused on personal health benefits while still maintaining the underlying ethical sensibilities that gave it authenticity. The cannabis industry will need to do the same.

We’re at a point in food culture where consumers know so much about the ingredients in their foods and beverages that makes the dearth of knowledge in CBD so interesting.

There will always be ingredients du jour that come in and out of food culture, but every now and then, one or two come along that go beyond the interesting and prove their staying power. CBD might just be one of these ingredients. Certainly today, you can’t have a conversation about food and beverage that doesn’t include CBD at some juncture. The question is whether CBD is merely an ingredient for the moment or if there is something larger going on that will sustain its momentum farther into the future.

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As CEO of The Hartman Group, Demeritt drives the vision, strategy, operations and results-oriented culture for the company's associates as The Hartman Group furthers its offerings of tactical thinking, consumer and market intelligence, cultural competency and innovative intellectual capital to a global marketplace.
 

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