$4.1 billion market for cannabis-infused edibles, could Australia join Canada and the US on THC?

Posted by Cat Woods on 29th October 2018

INVESTMENT in the cannabis market by food and beverage producers is increasing as laws enable recreational use of the drug.  According to GlobalData, cannabis infused beverages are poised to become more widely available.

Australia shows no immediate signs of following Canada and the US to enable cannabis-infused edibles.

The market is growing internationally though, and food producers, importers and manufacturers would be wise to keep an eye to the market and the potential for changes in legislation.

Arcview Market Research and BDS Analytics report consumer spending on cannabis-infused food and beverages reached approximately $1 billion in 2017 between the United States and Canada.

This is a fraction of the total $9.1 billion spent on consumable cannabis overall.

They report the edibles could be worth over $4.1 billion by 2022, a figure that undeniably attracts food and beverage producers globally with an eye to the post-legalisation future.

Californian consumers spent over $180 million on cannabis-infused food and beverages in 2017. This rose to 18% of total sales of marijuana in California in February and reports show that it is growing.

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US owners of well-known Corona Beer, Constellation Brands, recognised the potential contest between alcohol and marijuana and in the interests of attracting and retaining both markets, introduced cannabis infused craft beer.

Soft drinks, lattes, beers and even gourmet sweets like gummy bears and ice cream are coming with a dose of THC.

In Colorado, BDS Analytics reported the sales of edible marijuana products rose 67 per cent between February 2016 and 2017.

At present, nine US states and Canada have legalised marijuana for those over 21 years of age. While uncertainty over the sustainability of legalisation (with US Attorney General Jeff Sessions wanting to reintroduce criminalisation) makes for some industry concerns, venture capitalists and major food investors are putting their money into technological innovation and edibles.

US-based website Leafly offers a range of cannabis products by various brands, from beverages to condiments, snacks and supplements. Included are a cold-brew coffee infused with THC by Level+, Med A Mints, Elite Hemp Products Gummy Worms, Sativa Sea Salt Caramel (made with cannabis-infused butter), Cornucopia Peanut Butter (with 2 ounces of cannabis) and Binske Extra Virgin Olive Oil distilled with THC.

Sylvain Charlebois, Dean at the Faculty of Management at Dalhousie University, is also known as “The Food Professor”, and has studied, written and advised on agribusiness and food trends extensively.

“The market potential for edibles in Australia is still unknown, for the most part,” says Dr Charlebois.

“In the case of cannabis, curiosity seems to be a substantial driver that may attract consumers to food products, whether it is at a retail store or in a restaurant. The effects one would experience by consuming cannabis is of interest too, but the data does not show whether this would be a long-term driver of consumption. There is clearly an opportunity for the industry to educate consumers, and for regulators to respond to concerns so that the risk is mitigated.”