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What Consumers Think About Hemp and Cannabis

Tom Vierhile, innovation insights director at Canadean, has an idea.

Tom Vierhile

October 8, 2015

4 Min Read
What Consumers Think About Hemp and Cannabis

Note from Supplement Perspectives’ Pete Croatto: Every once in a while, I’ll ask somebody for market research pertaining to an aspect of the natural products industry. One source is Tom Vierhile, the innovation insights director at Canadean (formerly Datatmonitor).

When I emailed Tom for some information, I was hoping for some data that would serve as a jumping off point for an interview or a post. Tom’s response to my query was so thorough and thoughtful, that I decided to publish it as a post. Enjoy!

Be sure to follow Tom on Twitter, @TomVierhile.

The hemp market—at least for food products—is heavily weighted toward grain-based products including cereals and cereal bars.  Those are the two big food categories. Hemp is used quite widely in non-food categories. It looks like more of the cutting-edge innovation is coming from overseas markets as you can see spreads and even a coffee product with hemp.
Here’s insight from an April 2015 presentation on hemp that I gave at Ingredients Marketplace that includes the following insights:
Hemp is currently used as an ingredient in a minority of product categories tracked by Canadean. For the just over two-year period from January 2013 to February 2015, hemp was used as an ingredient in 29.9 percent of food and non-alcoholic beverage categories globally. Hemp was used as an ingredient in 15.7 percent of non-food categories over that same period (includes household, personal care and pet care product categories). 

This means that the majority of food and beverage as well as non-food categories have yet to see any new products with hemp used as an ingredient. This could indicate a significant growth opportunity going forward.
Just 16 new product categories accounted for 2 percent or more of total global hemp and hempseed product launches for the period from January 2013 to February 2015, according to Canadean. This indicates that hemp is firmly established in a relative handful of areas right now.

Here are the top food and non-food categories globally with the percentage representing the percentage of all hemp product launches coming from that category:
* Cereal bars = category accounted for 13.7% of all hemp or hempseed product launches globally.
* Lip make-up = 8.4%
* Soap = 6.3%
* Body care = 4.2%
* Breakfast cereals = 4.2%
* Chocolate = 4.2%
* Vitamins and minerals = 4.2%
Canadean asked US consumers some interesting survey questions about marijuana/cannabis and hemp. The questions below were from Canadean’s Q2 2015 global survey.

Question: Do you think the following ingredients will have a positive or negative impact on our health?
Question was asked about food ingredients. Just 24 percent of respondents said that cannabis/marijuana would have a “positive” impact on health. That compares to 83 percent that said either blueberry or whole grains would have a positive impact on health (both were at the top of the food ingredient heap).

Question: How effective do you think the following ingredients can be in a beauty/grooming product? 

Question was asked about non-food ingredients. 33 percent of respondents said that they believed hemp would be “effective” in a beauty or grooming product, which is a decent showing. That compares to 38 percent that said the same about argan oil; 78 percent said the same about aloe vera; 64 percent said that coconut oil would be “effective” in a beauty or grooming product.

We asked about “cannabis/marijuana” for food products and “hemp” for non-food products. It is unfortunate that we did not ask about “hemp” for food products as I suspect that hemp would have tested somewhat better than “cannabis/marijuana” for food products since the latter insinuates that the product may contain THC, which is the psychoactive compound in cannabis. Hemp does not contain this ingredient in a high enough concentration to be psychoactive. 

Confusion about this issue is one factor that is probably holding hemp back from wider market acceptance.
From a new product perspective, at least, it does appear that hemp is edging toward the mainstream. Companies are beginning to use it as a trendy and cutting edge ingredient, but there is still some fear about consumption of hemp and the possibility that this could skew a drug test trying to measure marijuana exposure.

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