By Arundati Dandapani
Who uses topicals and why? What is the relationship between topicals and the medical versus the recreational markets? This feature explores the relatively new legal history of topicals in Canada, contextualizing current cannabis consumption habits with consumer research from Canada’s largest syndicated study of cannabis consumers by Vividata and point to why topicals are an opportunity market among new users, seniors, women and patients, pegged to grow by five times and dominate sales in the coming year.
Topicals (cannabis infused creams, oils, serum) combined with edibles, tinctures and concentrates are pegged to bring in more than $200 million in sales, with topicals alone accounting for $174 million in sales in Canada this year, according to Deloitte’s latest study. There are currently 453,000 topicals users in Canada, constituting about 2% of 19+ year old Canadians surveyed by Vividata, placing topicals among the least popular forms of cannabis used. Their delayed legal status along with lack of awareness and availability around topicals could contribute to low consumption patterns.
Although topicals rank in the bottom three popular forms of cannabis consumed, there is an untapped market of potential topicals users and intenders (2,485,000) who are either currently limited by access owing to its late legalization and delayed shipment to shelves, or who haven’t yet chosen to use topicals. Over a third (33%) of current topicals users fall in the 50-64 years old age group, making it a more popular format among older users followed by 35-49 year olds (26%) and 25-34 year olds (18%). Not only are over half of topicals consumers women (53%), but women are also 18% more likely to consume topicals than the average Canadian aged 19+ years. Topicals are the only form of cannabis where women’s interest and consumption (along with concentrates) ranks higher than men’s in Canada.
Despite the opportunity with seniors, new users and women, close to one in three Canadian topicals users (32%) have obtained their cannabis from black market sources that are not government licensed. Price could be a factor, given that interest in topicals is also led by those in the lowest income earning bracket with annual household incomes below $50,000.
The medicinal uses of topicals are significant. Over half (53%) of all Canadians interested in topicals, already consume cannabis for medical reasons. Moreover, the frequency in Canadians’ cannabis use in the past week or month is higher for those who use cannabis as a remedy/treatment/therapy pointing to the opportunity market that topicals can fill in the consumer and medical landscape especially when treating pain (chronic and joint pain and even back pain) without distorting human cognition, i.e, applying topicals to your body never makes you feel high, only alleviates the pain or relieves the condition it is being used to treat.