Is Cannabis A Threat To Alcohol Sales? It's Complicated But Here's What The Experts Say

With the U.S. legal cannabis industry on track to pull in upwards of $46 billion by 2026, many in the alcohol and beverage space are eyeing the cannabis industry as a unique opportunity to expand and reach new consumers although there are just as many who are ill at ease over the impact this could have on alcohol sales.

Alcohol Vs. Cannabis -- All Good

Roy Bingham, co-founder and CEO of BDSA said there’s no need for anyone to worry, that coexistence is where it’s at these days. BDSA is the leading provider of market research solutions for the global cannabinoid industry.

“Today, more consumers are pairing cannabis with alcohol than ever before, especially when relaxing or hanging out with friends," Bingham said. 

Consumption of cannabis by alcohol consumers is on the rise per BDSA’s Consumer Insights data, but consumer attitudes also show that consumption occasions for alcohol and cannabis differ enough that the supposed threat to alcohol sales posed by legal cannabis is minor. The number of cannabis consumers who report co-consuming cannabis with certain types of alcohol has seen an appreciable rise. 

"We've also seen a rise in more unexpected use occasions as consumers branch out and use cannabis in new ways, such as while indulging in fine dining or working out. This shift offers a unique opportunity for brands to focus on innovation and create new products to meet these varied use occasions," Bingham told Benzinga. 

Additional BDSA insights show that cannabis and alcohol are doing just fine together

The share of consumers in adult-use markets who report pairing cannabis with spirits or liquor rose from 12% in Spring 2018 to 22% in Spring 2022, while the share who report cannabis with cocktails doubled to total 20% in Spring 2022.

High energy social occasions such as bar nights, special events, and date nights present a lower risk of cannabis impact to alcohol sales, while consumption for health/wellness, creative endeavors, and certain outdoor activities are more often cannabis-specific.

Continued growth in the cannabis space will create opportunities for brands to produce products with targeted formulations designed to meet the varied needs and use occasions for consumers.

BDSA’s newest wave of Consumer Insights data demonstrates that more than 50% of those surveyed in cannabis-legal states have consumed cannabis in the past six months. Diving deeper into the data clearly shows that the cannabis consumer base is knowledgeable, open to trying new product formats and willing to experiment with incorporating cannabis into more occasions throughout their lives.

In just a few short years, BDSA noted that attitudes towards cannabis across the country have shifted rapidly, with the share of those who have “bought in” to cannabis consumption skyrocketing while fewer and fewer report not being open to consuming cannabis. 

Overall consumer participation is lower in medical markets, but BDSA data suggest that consumer participation is growing at a similar rate. 

Photo: Engin Akyurt and Washarapol D BinYo Jundang by Pexels and LinkedIn

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