2019 Trends for Cannabis: From The Outside In

 
 

(This post originally appeared on Cannabis Business Executive)

Tis the season again. No, not Danksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas-light-untangling*, or any other holiday traditions. Trend predictions - issued from all corners - mark the end of the calendar as well. From toys, to fashion, to paint colors, forecasts of hot trends get plenty of play this time of year. In the cannabis industry, much of the discussion about the coming year has focused - rightly so - on projecting the impact of the midterm and gubernatorial elections. While we will likely weigh in with our commentary as well, this week will be dedicated to looking outside cannabis. Below you'll find a curated list of resources, articles, and commentary from various sources you may find worthy of some attention. 

Beverages: Fizzy, Fortified, and Otherwise

2018 saw the rise of niche trends like wine-in-a-can and more mainstream developments like the ongoing boom functional beverages. What's next?

  • In a recent break-out session at FlavorCon, beverage innovators imbibe presented on disruptors in tea, mocktails, and fortified water

  • CBD players take note: functional beverages exceeded $100M in venture capital funding in 2017 and may hit the $200M mark this year, yet only 3% hit $10M in annual revenue according to the Wall Street Journal. Here is an analysis as to why.

  • Restaurant menus show emerging flavors like "ginger-lime, watermelon mint tulsi and “smoked jalapeno" may be catching on. (What is tulsi? Here you go.)

  • Another "Top 5" list for 2019 calls out flavors even further afield including bergamot orange, yuzu, calamansi, citron, and makrut lime. Other (likely more attainable) trendy flavors also made the list, such as Meyer lemon and blood orange.

A Few Words on Chocolate

  • “Trendologist" Amy Marks-McGee predicted hot new flavors in chocolate (registration required) like caramelized hazelnut

  • Reinforcing the trends of hazelnut and almond butter, mainstream confectionery brands are launching new products such as M&M's "Hazelnut Spread" and Snickers "Creamy Almond Butter"

  • Donuts are back in. Now with fancy chocolate. (For some of us, donuts were never out...)

  • More predictions on chocolatey trends can be found here and here and another on “craft chocolate" (perhaps a bit closer to home) here.

Everyone Talks Food Trends, But What About Packaging?

Everyone - from Kroger, Whole Foods, to behemoth chicken companies - wants to talk about the next hot thing in food. (The predictions from each can be found here, here, and, from Tyson Foods, here.)

What comes up often? Reducing waste from packaging food and drinks. Consumers continue to demand minimal packaging, ideally from environmentally-friendly materials.

The issue has long been on the radar for the cannabis industry as well. Especially so given the layers packaging necessary in some markets to comply with local regulations. A blog post on Dieline cites some eye-popping examples. For instance: a consumer in Canada reported purchasing a single gram of cannabis contained in 38 grams of packaging. Signaling the sheer size of cannabis package manufacturing, market research firms have started devoting entire reports to the topic. Another signal: KushCo recently joined Walmart, P&G, Coca-Cola and others in the Sustainable Packaging Coalition.

While the industry seeks to collaborate with lawmakers to solve the concerns driving excessive packaging - kid-proofing tops the list - others seek out environmentally friendly solutions in the interim. In a nice bit of kismet, bioplastic sourced from hemp could be a fitting candidate. Christie Lunsford, CEO of The Hemp Biz Conference, delved into the possibility in November.

A recent article on The Rooster also points to some promising signs on how the industry is solving the problem.

Other packaging-related resources:

  • An upcoming webinar will cover the "latest label and packaging advancements" presented by packaging company Inland.

  • Luxury packaging designer API released the annual "Trends Folio". Samples, such as "Poetry", of the trends in the 2019/20 Folio can be found here. (Note: likely of most interest to designers and artists.)

  • Packaging firm Westrock released an interesting whitepaper containing relevant consumer insights on the impact of packaging in mainstream categories: 81% of consumers have tried something new due to an eye-catching package, 63% have purchased a product again solely due to aesthetics, and 52% report switching brands due to packaging alone.

Health and Wellness

  • Global wellness experts Welltodo released a 2019 Consumer Wellness Trends Report highlighting issues core to the cannabis business such as mental and holistic health. (sign-up required)

  • In a promising sign of growing awareness, the endocannabinoid system made the list in this of 11 Wellness Trends to Watch in 2019 by MindBodyGreen. The list also includes issues such as "the sleep cycle" and is littered with links to additional resources. (Note: the article was sponsored by NatureMade and thus may have some bias.)

  • For a fascinating look at challenges faced by OTC brands, branding agency DewGibbons+Partners crafted "10 Uncomfortable Truths for 21st Century OTC Brands To Live By". Regardless of how you consider OTC - a competitor, a dinosaur, a potential partner, an uneasy bedfellow - a "view behind the curtain" like this isn't easy to come by. The report contains insights that can be leveraged by cannabis brands as well. 

Certainly not an exhaustive list, and some lines back to the cannabis business may be clear and some dotted, but looking further afield can often spark new ideas and help executives peer around the corner to what's next.

 

*For those of you dreading unboxing last year's decorations, apparently "getting in the right frame of mind" is the first step toward avoiding a meltdown while wrestling with a mess of tangled lights... most of us should have a go-to solution for that close at hand.

Questions? Comments? Contact me directly via mike@highyieldinsights.com

Photo by Elijah O'Donnell on Unsplash

 
 
 
Mike Luce