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April, 18 2019

Will a new ‘vice’ disrupt one of the oldest?

Mike Rodenburgh // WTF VICE

The legalization of cannabis in Canada is showing that throwing open the doors doesn’t mean there will be a sudden stampede to get in. Ipsos’ Alcohol Consumption Tracker (ACT) and Cannabis Consumption Tracker (CCT) studies show that attitudes and behaviors regarding cannabis are slow to shift after legalization.

Evidence from the U.S. market is mixed on whether cannabis sales are disrupting the much larger alcohol market. In Canada, where adult use has been legal for only five months, evidence suggests that neither category is changing quickly. Consumption occasions are very different between alcohol and cannabis, and the demographics of consumers of each category vary widely. This is particularly true among medical cannabis users, but the statement applies to recreational cannabis users as well. Homing in on recreational situations, data from the Ipsos ACT and CCT studies shows that most (77%) alcohol consumption occasions occur in social settings, whereas 57% of recreational cannabis consumption occasions occur alone. Similarly, alcohol is usually consumed with food, but cannabis isn’t.

The reasons for consuming the two products are different, too. Recreational cannabis is mostly used to relax or de-stress. Uses for alcohol are much more evenly varied.

What’s clear, however, is that there is blue sky for cannabis companies to define their niche in consumers’ lives. As legalization of medical and recreational use spreads across North America, new uses, refined consumption methods and strong brands will proliferate as the industry matures. As you will see throughout this issue, there is widespread interest in North America in THC and CBD products, and in integrating THC and CBD into existing product categories. The U.S. and Canada are already more open to these products than many other global markets. Legalization will likely help stigmas recede over time, leading to reduced barriers and expanded opportunities. Disruption will certainly occur but perhaps not in the expected areas and in the anticipated ways.

Mike Rodenburgh is an executive vice president at Ipsos.

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Will a new 'vice' disrupt one of the oldest?

Percentage of consumption occasions for cannabis and alcohol

Recreational Cannabis Alcohol

To relax/de-stress To relax/de-stress 66% 34%

Health benefits Health benefits 23% 3%

To have a good time/more fun To have a good time/more fun 22% 16%

To get energized/lift my mood To get energized/lift my mood 20% 6%

To reward or treat myself To reward or treat myself 15% 18%

It is part of my culture It is part of my culture 9% 6%

To satisfy a craving To satisfy a craving 9% 9%

To enjoy a special moment To enjoy a special moment 7% 12%

To connect with others To connect with others 7% 16%

Because it was offered/available Because it was offered/available 6% 13%

To celebrate an occasion To celebrate an occasion 4% 12%

To go with the food I was eating To connect with others 2% 23%


Source: Ipsos Alcohol Consumption Tracker, Ipsos Cannabis Consumption Tracker Q4 2018

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What the Future is a quarterly deep dive into different aspects of consumer and social thought and behavior. Each edition features exclusive new data from world-leading research firm Ipsos. WTF explores how a single industry or behavior fits into the broader culture now and in the coming decades. Read Previous WTF Issues »


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, Executive Vice President, Canada, Ipsos

Michael Rodenburgh leads the Canadian cannabis strategy as well as a number of large strategic accounts. He has been in the research industry for almost 25 years and has won awards for his work from both ESOMAR and Canada’s Marketing Research and Intelligence Association (MRIA).



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