Understanding & Connecting With the CBD Shopper

Recent research suggests that consumers are shifting CBD usage from ailment-based reasons to more wellness benefits.

NATIONAL REPORT — With consumer awareness of CBD and hemp products higher than ever, and sales projections on an upward curve, the convenience channel has room for growth in the CBD market.

“The typical CBD shopper is good news for c-stores because they are typically younger, liberal, and either students or blue-collar workers in skilled trades, such as plumbers, electricians and landscapers,” said Don Burke, senior vice president of Management Science Associates Inc. (MSA), a Pittsburgh-based company focused on analytics and informatics.

“It’s also far more likely that a tobacco consumer would be using CBD, which is more good news for c-stores as tobacco users are walking through the door several times per week,” Burke added.

Females are actually the majority of CBD users (60 percent) vs. males, with the bulk falling in the Generation Z age bracket (45 percent), according to research from High Yield Insights, a provider of data-driven insights about the cannabis market. Generation X makes up 28 percent of users, while boomers and seniors represent 26 percent.

According to research from Management Science Associates, which surveyed more than 100,000 people in the U.S., the specific age range for male CBD users is between 18 and 49, while female CBD users fall within the 18- to 34-year-old range.

In terms of the reasons CBD users shop for products, as of the research conducted in 2019 and 2020 by MSA, the No. 1 reason is to temporarily relieve minor aches and pains (77 percent). Other reasons include relieving chronic pain (75 percent), helping with anxiety and stress (73 percent), and helping with sleep (71 percent).

Additionally, 67 percent cite using it for increased general wellness, and 66 percent use it to improve their physical health, showing there is a wellness component to the product, according to MSA.

“Most people think of CBD as a wellness item, so if a c-store has a wellness or healthier options section in the store, it would make sense to market CBD with these items,” Burke advised.

In fact, recent research by The Integer Group, a growth marketing agency that offers data-driven insights, suggests that consumers are shifting CBD usage from ailment-based reasons such as pain and anxiety, to more wellness benefits such as an improved workout, and social occasions. This is especially true among younger consumers, noted Armand Parra, senior vice president of insight and strategy at the company, based in Lakewood, Colo.

“Quality and trust are the most important decision factors, and consumers are looking for credentials like certifications, grower information and testing results to verify product dosage and efficacy,” Parra pointed out. 

What Are They Buying?

MSA’s research shows convenience stores as the fourth most-popular retail option for those purchasing CBD, as 29 percent reported shopping for CBD in a c-store. The top choice, at 45 percent, was from a natural or specialty retailer, followed by a smoke or vape shop (39 percent), and direct from manufacturers (29 percent).

Within the CBD category, there are many different product forms available. These include edibles, such as gummies; topicals, such as creams and lotions; tinctures and oils; vape pens and smokables; drinks; and even beer.

The most popular forms of CBD currently purchased at retail, according to MSA data, are:

  • Edibles, such as gummies (36 percent);
  • Topicals (32 percent);
  • Tinctures (29 percent);
  • Vaporizers/vape pens (22 percent); and
  • Drinks (21 percent).

Within the drinks category, non-carbonated water, fruit drinks, cola and energy/recovery shots make up 74 percent of the beverage dollars, according to Burke.

He also noted that although topicals account for only 10 percent of the SKUs available, the category accounts for 26 percent of dollars, compared to vape, which accounts for 21 percent of the SKUs available, but only 3 percent of the dollars.

“The products that best fit the c-store shopper and environment are edibles, beverages and oils/drops and tinctures,” said Parra. “Vapes/smokables, patches and alcoholic beverages are the CBD product forms that shoppers are currently least interested in purchasing.”

While CBD beverages currently fall lower on the list in terms of demand, the category is seeing more products and options and, in some chains, is selling very well. At Betterment Retail Solutions, a West Des Moines, Iowa-based health and wellness company that connects up-and-coming brands with retailers, its No. 1 selling product in the category is flat CBD water.

“There is infused coffee, energy drinks, and any type of beverage you can think of with CBD,” said Tony Sparks, the company’s senior vice president of marketing. “In the cold vault, I recommend grouping all CBD into the same space, at least initially. Since vault space for certain categories such as energy and sport are hard to cut into prime shelf space, splitting CBD beverages up by segment will not get them the visibility they need.”

Sparks is seeing the smokable CBD segment perform well in c-stores as well, including products that look like actual cigarettes but have no tobacco, such as Vance Global CBD, which tested well for the company in c-stores, he noted.