Cannabis concentrates, once considered the domain of blow torch-wielding heavy users, are increasingly going mainstream. Numerous manufacturers and retailers bet they are the next frontier for the rapidly growing licensed cannabis market.
According to data company Headset, concentrates sales in California, Colorado, Nevada, Washington state (REC), and Oregon reached $886M in 2020, up more than 40% year over year. The growth slightly outpaced the total market, which grew by 39% over the same time frame. In these states, Concentrates now amount to nearly 10% of the total market.
On a more granular level, individual companies are reporting significant increases in concentrates sales, too. Jane Technologies, for example, has seen a 133% increase on its e-commerce platform since March 2020.
For comparison, vape pens, saw their market share decrease over the same time frame, from 22.3% in 2019 to 19.1% in 2020.
A more comprehensive high
Some of this probably owes to vape pens hitting a rough patch. In addition to the EVALI lung disease scare of 2019, it appears that discerning customers have also grown weary of lower-quality THC distillate. “Vape pens are very one-dimensional,” said Dr. Raj Gupta of Caldera, a concentrates brand which Flow Cannabis Co.debuted in October 2020. “THC distillate is isolated to focus on a single molecule and therefore is crammed with THC at a very high ratio: 60, 70, 80-plus percent,” he said.
Because of that, some consumers find the effect flat, and seek out new products. (Though vapes that include THC distillate could technically qualify as concentrates, Headset categorizes them separately.)
Concentrates are often equally potent, but many contain flavorful terpenes. Connoisseurs say concentrates deliver a more comprehensive high that hinges on taste as well as a longer-lasting, more intense body high.
Seed & Smith, a dispensary and manufacturer in Denver, CO, saw a 34% increase in concentrates sales during 2020. The company boasts a proprietary product line that includes an array of designations, like live resin, live terp sugar, live sugar wax, sugar wax, whipped wax, and shatter.
The dispensary’s menu highlights a potential challenge for new consumers. Concentrates come in dozens of formulations that aren’t necessarily of interest to the average consumer.
Caleb Barcus, Seed & Smith’s director of business development, said the “steady growth” can be attributed to a variety of factors including pandemic lockdowns, the company’s expanded distribution, and targeted marketing initiatives. “We have garnered a reputation for our extremely ‘terpy’ profiles,” says Barcus. “This past year we focused on improving and marketing what was already a high-quality product line.”
“Concentrates can be a harder sell for the average person over flower or edibles,” says Chris Mix, who works in customer experience at Seed & Smith. He says that customers new to concentrates typically are drawn to them because they need stronger, faster relief for medical ailments. Others just want a stronger, faster high.
Making dabs approachable
Rather than pushing consumers towards jars filled with a variety of golden-hued goopy, glassy, viscous substances, concentrates producers have tweaked their product lines in an effort to meet new customers where they’re at.
“Over and over, the Jetty Extracts team was hearing that it was difficult for patients to accurately measure out their dose of cannabis, that it was a messy process or difficult for arthritic hands to handle, that the syringes their oil came in reminded them of ‘hardcore drugs,’” says Mike McDonald CEO of Ammonite, which makes the Dablicator, a pen-like concentrate applicator that can be used with dab rigs and in joints or bowls. Other prominent brands have partnered with Dablicator as well. (Headset, Jane, Ammonite, and Seed & Smith are Mattio clients.)
Ammonite designed the oil applicator to look more ‘approachable,’ so anyone from, say, a medical patient to someone dabbing for fun or a home baker infusing their own cookies can use extracted oils with ease.
McDonald says that as markets mature, user-friendly products that are geared towards concentrates, like the PuffCo Peak or GPen, will continue to initiate new dabbers. They help “consumers get more comfortable with a formerly intimidating product, and we expect concentrates to grow in market share even more in 2021.”
To that point, ancillary product companies are adjusting their product lines for the concentrates boom. Daily High Club, the monthly paraphernalia box subscription service, offers an “Ultimate Concentrates Dab Kit,” which retails for $120, far less than it would cost a dabbing neophyte to pick up a glass rig, quartz banger, torch, and other accessories a la carte.
Other companies have bypassed the manual process altogether. Combustion-less electronic vaporizers like the status symbol Puffco Peak eliminate the need for a blow torch and other tools that look like they belong on a dentist’s tray as much as on a smoker’s bedside table.
Dab aficionados believe well-made concentrates are the purest expression of the plant. Marketers now seek to convince a wider range of customers.
Jackie Bryant’s marketing column “On Brand” is sponsored by Mattio Communications. Column sponsors don’t influence the subject matter or content of individual stories.
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