What’s The Allure Of Cannabis Concentrates?

by Andrew Ward

Cannabis concentrates represent one of the brightest spots in the current and future cannabis marketplace. Extracted from the cannabis plant to make products with potencies topping 90 percent, consumers fell head over heels for the oils with various consistencies and names like rosin, budder, and glass, among many. While popular in dabbing, concentrates, also known as extracts, serve as common ingredients in edibles, topicals, and vape cartridges.

With a wide range of applications and consumption methods, concentrates have spent the past few years upending the market, eating into the sizable share held by flower.

Sales back up the buzz. In 2019, cannabis concentrates in the U.S. market size totaled $7.3 billion, according to market analysis from Grandview Research. The research firm indicates vital factors that should continue to drive the market, notably more states and countries legalizing medical cannabis. 

The market is still in a state of maturation as the space solidifies, regulations take shape, and lab studies provide further clarity into the space and its products. Despite questions remaining, most in the market appear sold on concentrates and their future. 

Strong Market Demand Expected, Or Already Underway

Michael Cohen, co-founder and president of the locally-owned dispensary and brand The Pass in Berkshire County, Massachusetts, hasn’t seen the promising extracts sales numbers reach his market just yet. However, Cohen expects them to come in time. 

“In Massachusetts, the concentrate market isn’t too big yet, and specifically, in Berkshire county, it’s about 6% of sales,” explained Cohen. He does expect that figure to increase in time. “We anticipate that this will change and concentrates will gain more traction as the market continues to mature and consumers start exploring different product types.”

Other ventures see the market demand well underway. Marijuana subscription box service Daily High Club is one company witnessing the demand first-hand. Liz Whiting, head of marketing, told Green Flower, “From sales data trends at Daily High Club, concentrates are becoming one of the fastest-growing products for consumers.” Whiting added that interest in extracts had boosted glass and accessory sales as well. 

“We have begun including requested items like bangers and concentrate tools to eager subscribers,” Whiting added. 

A Developing Market Benefits The Supply Chain

Those operating in the cannabis space told Green Flower that the past five or so years produced exciting developments for businesses and consumers alike. 

Extraction has been one of the more innovative spaces in recent years. As legalization crept across the United States and other nations, so too did extraction technology. Prior to legalization, extraction often involved do-it-yourself methods using household items, like a hair straightener and parchment paper, or volatile chemicals, such as butane, depending on the product consistency and yield desired. 

In recent years, technology has improved methods using solvents as well as all-natural techniques that use heat, pressure, ice, and water as its central extraction tools. The developments improved safety, increased batch yields, and led to the expansive world of extracts consumers are offered today.

Mike Bologna, CEO of vaporizer and accessory brand Dip Devices, told Green Flower how advancements help consumers. “That continued innovation and a decrease in difficulty entering extraction…will always benefit the end consumer who has a wider variety of concentrates to choose from.” Bologna added that the decrease in difficulty entering the space is brought on by an increase in companies, as well as the cost and availability of machinery becoming more accessible.

Daily High Club’s Whiting elaborated on how consumer education has advanced over the period as well. The marketing head detailed areas where customer education improved. 

Whiting stated, “There is more focus on terpenes and flavor profile, how to preserve that flavor, optimal temperatures for different products, glass designs to help evenly distribute heat, and high-end devices to make your concentrate session easier and smoother than ever before.”

Hurdles That Could Hinder The Cannabis Concentrates Market

 A developing market is sure to have its pain points, regardless of its high ceiling for potential. 

Some, like Dip Devices’ Bologna, stressed that the U.S. and its fragmented state-by-state legalization plays a part in capping market growth at this time. That said, the CEO believes the market will transcend due to the passion of its operators. “I believe a highlight of the market will continue to be the passion and energy that extractors and their teams are putting into the products, allowing for an amazing end product experience,” he offered up. 

Others, including Daily High Club’s Whiting and The Pass’ Cohen highlight cost as a potential barrier for potential customers and the growing market. 

“Concentrates are low yield in relation to flower, and so production is more limited and pricing significantly higher,” said Cohen of production limitations affecting price.

Whiting instead highlighted the cost of consumption being an issue for those who prefer to dab their extracts. The marketing head elaborated, “Most e-rigs cost consumers a few hundred dollars. Your traditional setup requires butane, dab tools, a banger, carb cap, torch, and more.” That said, Whiting noted that efforts are underway to bring the cost down. “There are brands looking to make this more affordable and accessible, like the G-Pen adapter, or our B-Real mini rig.”

Another recent development from a University of Colorado study could damper claims of cannabinoid potency. In a June 2020 study, researchers noted that concentrates consumers did see THC blood levels increase. However, they also experienced a similar level of impairment to that a flower user encountered. 

While the results could hinder claims of extract potency, most seem unfazed by the findings. 

“Concentrates are more potent than flower products by definition, but potency is overstated in conversations about the concentrate experience,” stated Cohen. He elaborated on additional selling points, “The purity, flavor, and whole plant combination of cannabinoids and terpenes provide a full expression of ‘entourage effect’ experience that transcends potency test scores.”

Whiting forecasted that a slight market effect could occur from the findings, but the space should ultimately continue to thrive as education and accessibility increase. Whiting explained, “Every consumer is different in the type of effect they are looking for, and I think it will come down to personal experience.”

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