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Concentrated on Concentrates

Of The Big Three in cannabis — flower, concentrates and edibles — growth in Colorado, Washington and Oregon has been strong ever since recreational marijuana was made legal. But one of the categories, concentrates, tends to win the growth category every year, according to data from cannabis market research firm BDS Analytics.

In Colorado last year, growth hit 37.5 percent compared to 25 percent for edibles and just 1.8 percent for flower. Oregon? Growth reached 71 percent, beating out flower (but losing to edibles, which expanded at a blistering 152 percent). And in Washington growth reached 64.5 percent, beating the other members of The Big Three.

But concentrates is a broad category, comprising everything from hash to vape pens. And when it comes to studying growth in concentrates, not all concentrates are made alike. Neither are concentrate fans in different states.

The concentrate market in Colorado between January and November of last year.

In Colorado, vape pens are the most popular form of concentrate (it’s the same with all states). They captured 35 percent of the concentrates market during most of 2017, and experienced growth of 80 percent. But Live Resin — a category so small in other states that it barely registers — saw 77 percent growth, putting it roughly on par with vape pens, even though market share is just 10 percent. What’s Live Resin? It’s a process for turning flower into a concentrate that involves freezing freshly picked but and gaining expansive terpene profiles in the extracts. Terpenes contribute to the overall “high” feeling in different ways, and they often taste good, too.

The concentrates market in Washington between January and October of last year.

The situation is different in Washington. There, as in Colorado, vapes capture a relatively modest slice of market share — 34 percent. And growth of 70.5 percent, too, was comparable to that in Colorado for vapes. But the most impressive concentrates growth in Washington was for the style called wax (yep — the concentrate has a waxy texture), which expanded by 73 percent during much of 2017 and captured 21 percent of the concentrates market; by comparison, wax grew by just 16.5 percent in Colorado last year and . Oils, too, grew fast in Washington — up by 68.5 percent.

The concentrates market in Oregon between January and November of last year.

As is often the case, we look to Oregon for consumer trends that stand apart from the pack. In the Beaver State, vape sales represent 64 percent of the concentrates market —nearly double market share in Colorado and Washington — and experienced growth of 161 percent during much of 2017. Wax? It grabs about 2 percent of the market, and growth is measured as a negative in Oregon during much of 2017. What we see exploding in Oregon, along with vape pens, is shatter (the concentrate is brittle, fragile and shatters easily). Sales of the category expanded by 110 percent, and shatter now owns 11 percent of the concentrates market.

Concentrated on forging new ground with concentrates sales this year? Do pay attention to data — consumer sentiment evolves rapidly in the sector.

Doug Brown

Doug Brown

Douglas Brown spent more than two decades in newspaper and magazine newsrooms around the country, covering everything from the White House and Capitol Hill to technology policy to crime in New Mexico. Now, he runs Contact High Communications, a leading cannabis public relations firm based in Boulder, CO. He can be reached at

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