European Cannabis Consumers Embrace Edibles/Topicals

By Noah Tomares, Research Analyst, New Frontier Data

Traditionally speaking, combustible cannabis products have long been the ingestion option of choice among consumers.

Through inhalation, THC enters the lungs and passes into the bloodstream, allowing the consumer to feel its effects much more rapidly than via the digestion of an edible. The effect in the former is felt almost immediately, and relatively consistently. Infused products, conversely, have long been considered less desirable or—at the very least—faced adoption challenges due to inconsistencies of manufacturing technique and effect. Modern technology and industry have started to overcome some of the previous limitations just as legalization has brought cannabis more into mainstream use.

Infused products include multiple forms, generally falling into either edible (i.e., solid or liquid) forms or topical forms designed to be absorbed through the skin.

Challenges in quality stem in part from the cannabinoids themselves. They are hydrophobic, with poor solubility: Without additional steps, the human body has difficulty absorbing them. The biological obstacle may have contributed to mixed perceptions around the “pot brownie”, a popular cannabis-infused food recipe characterized by notoriously inconsistent effects experienced along an equally unpredictable timeline.

Contemporary manufacturing methods now allow for desired cannabinoids to be extracted and infused into a variety of products.

Extraction primarily relies on one of two techniques: solvent-based or nonsolvent-based methods. Solvent-based techniques involve dissolving cannabinoids in a removable solvent for extracted cannabinoids to be utilized. Nonsolvent-based techniques can vary from rudimentary mechanical techniques to the utilization of machinery for producing precise levels of heat and pressure.

Once the desired cannabinoids are extracted, modern technology allows for the active ingredients to be infused with enhanced consistency. Through glycosylation, for example, hydrophobic molecules are transformed by directly changing their chemical composition.  Another advanced technique is emulsion: By utilizing an emulsifying agent, cannabinoids can be suspended in an aqueous solution to improve its surface area to enhance a body’s ability to absorb the desired cannabinoids, thereby accelerating the onset of effects (along with providing additional benefits).

Such techniques allow for greater consistency in dosage and effect, which rank among top priorities for consumers. About three-quarters of European CBD consumers cite quality as a concern in choosing their products, and an important factor when considering where to purchase them. In ranking order, they reportedly prioritize doses per serving (79%) and per product (77%) along with non-cannabis ingredients (73%) as purchasing influencers.

For more detailed examination of infused products, consult New Frontier Data’s recent report, Cannabis-Infused Products Report Series: U.S. Consumer Experience and Demand, along with the upcoming, joint SōRSE/New Frontier Data webinar, The Cannabis Sector on the Rise – Cannabis Infused Products: Trends, Innovations & Opportunities, scheduled for May 13 at 3 p.m. EST.