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Mar 27, 2019

Will Legal Marijuana Create New Food Opportunities?

Darren Seifer, Executive Director, Industry Analyst ;

Food Consumption

@NPDSeifer

If you’ve been to a food conference lately you’ll notice there’s at least one session talking about cannabis, CBD, cannabinoids, or whatever term we’re using now. I’ve been to two conferences in recent weeks that addressed the topic and I’m writing this post while in California, where voters legalized recreational use of marijuana via referendum in 2016. Therefore, I have pot on the brain – so to speak.

At NPD we’re always analyzing how trends affect the food and beverage industry and if you talk to a - what shall we call them, “pot enthusiasts” — you’ll know food plays a major role when they use marijuana. This can be from how they ingest the marijuana to the munchies leading them to eat a variety of indulgent foods.

We took a look in our SnackTrack® information, which monitors the consumption of ready-to-eat convenience-oriented snack foods in the U.S., to see if there are changes since legalization occurred. In those states that legalized recreational marijuana, brownie consumption has increased a whopping 107 percent compared to pre-legalization times. Chewy candies, which had a stable consumption level for years, grew by 17 percent after legalization, and fruit snacks also increased after legalization.

I’m not sure yet if this is a result of the munchies, pot brownies, or gummies, and all I can fully say with confidence is these changes are correlations. However, these correlations are in line with what we’ve known anecdotally for some time about recreational pot usage and can point to growth opportunities should more states allow it.

There’s also the question about the cannabinoids or the elements of the plant that lack THC, which is the element that makes people feel “high.” Getting back to the conferences where this is a major topic, they tout cannabinoids as natural remedies for stress relief, skin issues, and other maladies, with great tolerance and little to no addiction. Can this be another way to innovate in the food industry with natural relaxing elements? Oftentimes we have indulgent snacks at the end of a long day to try to counter the stress. Will we one day see cannabinoid-infused foods to help us further manage stress? I think it’s more than possible since these foods already exist with long lines waiting to try them at trade shows.

It will be an interesting future for cannabis since there are recreational and functional sides for its use. I’m going to keep a close eye on this and let you know what I find. It wasn’t too long ago when this was totally illegal across the U.S. and anyone who thought it can change was told they were smoking something. Times have certainly changed – to be blunt!


To learn more about the future of cannabis and its impact on the food and foodservice industries join us at our upcoming U.S. Food Summit, “Winning the Moment,” which will be held in Chicago, April 23-24.




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