January 17, 2020

Cannabis trends and insights behind Generation Z

What are Generation Z looking for in cannabis? Analyzing Gen Z basket composition and preferred product categories.
Written by
Liz Connors
Published on
January 17, 2020
Vapor pen icon
Interested in the vapor pen market? Read our comprehensive 2023 report. Get the low-down on which brands and form factors are gaining the most market share as well as demographics about the consumers doing the most purchasing.

Generation Z is the upcoming demographic for marketers. Born between the late 1990s to mid-2000s, those in Generation Z are the true digital natives. They’ve never been without the internet or mobile phones. More importantly, they’re also coming of age at a time when cannabis consumption is growing more acceptable. In fact, many anticipate that Generation Z will be twice as likely as the average American to use cannabis.

Right now, only a fraction of Gen Z can legally partake (because of the purchasing age for pot in all US recreational markets), but year-over-year data shows that Generation Z has more than tripled their market share as more of them turn 21 this demographic will continue to drive exponential growth, so it’s  important to pay attention and understand their preferences. 

Pre-rolls preference shows affinity for convenience

Generation Z has some unique purchase patterns compared to their older counterparts. Most notably, it appears Gen Z loves convenience, preferring pre-rolls to flower. Unlike other generations where flower is the most commonly purchased item, nearly 55% of Generation Z transactions include a pre-roll and 50% include a flower product compared to the baskets of other generations at 54% and 61% (respectively). Gen Z also purchases more concentrates than other generations with 31% of baskets containing a concentrate compared to 23%.

Cannabis Category Basket Distribution – Gen Z vs Other Generations
Cannabis Category Basket Distribution – Gen Z vs Other Generations

THC over CBD: at least for now

Individuals in their early twenties are not usually known for their back pain or issues with sleep quality. So, it comes as no surprise that individuals in Generation Z purchase fewer CBD or CBD-heavy products than older generations. 

Other generations spend about 15% of their cannabis wallet on non-inhalable products with nearly half of that spend on products that contain CBD.  Those in Generation Z prefer to smoke their weed: less than 10% of their cannabis wallet was spent on non-inhalables. Further, when Gen Z does purchase non-inhalable products, they are less likely than other generations to go for products that contain CBD. In general, only 35% of their non-inhalable spend goes to CBD or CBD-heavy products, compared to 42% of other generations.

Non-inhalable and CBD-heavy % of Cannabis Sales
Non-inhalable and CBD-heavy % of Cannabis Sales

Still into sampling 

As a bunch, Generation Z is an experimental group, especially when it comes to vapor pens.  Less concerned with brand loyalty, Gen Z consumers prefer to try new products rather than stick with products they already know.  

By tracking consumer purchases through time, Headset can measure loyalty by looking at customers who have had at least 5 vapor pen purchases since the beginning of 2019. Headset defines a customer as loyal when at least 75% of their vape-related purchases are from the same brand; somewhat loyal when between 50 and 75% are the same brand; and disloyal when no two brands make up at least half of their purchases. 

Headset’s analysis reveals that only about 20.6% of Generation Z customers are brand loyal compared to 25.2% from other generations. That’s good news for new market entrants and a signal to dispensaries to keep revolving inventory to keep their vape product lineup interesting for this group.

Cannabis Brand Loyalty – Gen Z vs Other Generations
Cannabis Brand Loyalty – Gen Z vs Other Generations

While Generation Z is only a fraction of the cannabis market today, they’re also the generation that is coming of age at a time when marijuana is virtually mainstream. Backed by their digital savvy, they may just be the generation that has the most influence to normalize cannabis for the generations before them and those still to come.  

To learn more about Gen Z and other customer segments, check our latest Demographics Market Report.

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