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CBD consumers & the mainstreaming of cannabis

By Mike Panebianco

What today’s CBD buyer might tell us about tomorrow’s cannabis marketplace

If any trend symbolizes the mainstreaming of cannabis, it is the sudden presence of CBD embedded everywhere you look. From CBD shots in your espresso to the cute little packets of CBD gummy bears at your local convenience store, this rhyming acronym has suddenly become ubiquitous.

CBD items tout a variety of benefits, from relaxation to reduced joint pain to improved mood. And while CBD enjoys the cool factor associated with cannabis, it has all of the “sin” (THC) removed. Where I come from, that is called a “win-win”!

So who is the CBD consumer, anyway?  I was envisioning a pretty hip character and was incredibly curious to see what the insights from MRI’s National Cannabis Study might reveal. With major categories and brands already strategizing on the best ways to move into the CBD market, this consumer segment is sure to grow exponentially.

According to MRI, 3.7 million US adults consume CBD products – about 1.5% of the total 18+ population. With a median age of 45, CBD consumers skew a little bit younger than the average American adult; in fact, “CBDers” are 46% more likely to fall into the 25-to-34 age range, and 20% more likely to be between 35 and 44.

CBDers also tend to be less affluent and less educated than average Americans. They have a median household income of $52K (versus $69K for the average US adult) – even though they report spending $52 a month on CBD products; and 26% are college graduates (compared to 31%% for all Americans). However, CBD consumers are 43% more likely than the general population to be the sole wage earners in their households and 26% more likely to be working parents.

Putting CBDers in context

Not surprisingly, CBD consumers are twice as likely as the average cannabis consumer to be Wellness Pot Practitioners, one of three cannabis consumer segments defined and tracked by MRI.  For this group, cannabis is simply part of their lifestyle and used as a wellness tool. It is easily accessible for them and often favored over Rx or OTC medications.

In addition, CBD consumers are more likely to be engaging in relaxing, healthy, and creative activities while consuming cannabis products. One-third report reading during cannabis use, while 32% meditate , and 13% practice yoga.

CBD consumers also have an activist streak. One-third (34%) say they are active members of a group that promotes legalization of cannabis – roughly double the proportion among all cannabis consumers.  In addition, 8 out 10 CBDers feel that the benefits of cannabis outweigh any concerns about negative side effects, and three-quarters say that consumption is widely accepted in their friend group.

The MRI database also can surface insights on almost any aspect of the CBDer’s life as a consumer – their product choices, attitudes towards medicine and health, and use of smartphones and apps. One interesting twist we discovered – the CBD consumer is equally comfortable with digital and traditional media. While their use of streaming TV and smartphones is substantial, we also see that 75% have read one or more magazine in the past 30 days, and 90% listened to at least a half hour of radio in the past 7 days.

Fun is just the start

So what can we learn from today’s CBD consumers about the future of cannabis uptake and marketing? First, it is not all about having fun; if cannabis had not tapped into its potential as a health tool, today’s growing acceptance would not be happening. CBDers are possibly the most mainstream of these health-conscious cannabis consumers; it doesn’t take a prescription or even a trip to the dispensary to find CBD. But the benefits of CBD are real, and they remind us that, while the fun of cannabis consumption is obvious, the health appeal is essential to its future growth.

Michael Panebianco is Vice President of Sales at MRI-Simmons.




Michael PanebiancoMichael Panebianco

Michael Panebianco

Michael Panebianco is currently Vice President Agency and Advertiser sales for MRI and the lead on the recently released cannabis study. With over 20 years of media and consumer market research sales experience, Michael brings a unique passion to developing innovative solutions that provide beneficial insights to his clients. Prior to MRI, he has held media positions with Comcast, Nassau Broadcasting, and Arbitron. He is a proud alumni of Monmouth University. Michael can be reached at 212-884-9238 or [email protected]

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