In recent years, global demand for cannabis and CBD products has surged, and the industry is expected to be worth over $148 billion by 2031. As the legalisation of cannabis continues to take effect worldwide and its benefits become more widely known, men and women of all ages are increasing their consumption. Perhaps surprisingly, the fastest-growing group of CBD and cannabis consumers are Gen Z women.
Research from Headset, a cannabis analytics firm, shows that year-on-year sales of cannabis grew the fastest at 151% for women born after 1997. There are several reasons to explain this trend. Firstly, the legalisation of cannabis has destigmatised the drug and made it more accessible to young people. Secondly, the research into the benefits of cannabis has resulted in hundreds of new products such as drinks, gummies and gels coming to market. Evidence shows that women consume these products considerably more than their male counterparts, who tend to access cannabis in traditional ways.
Thirdly, and most importantly, Gen Z women have become the fastest-growing consumers of cannabis thanks to companies actively marketing and branding their products with them in mind. There’s no better example of this than the changing nature of how cannabis is advertised.
Targetting Gen Z women
The expanding ways of cannabis consumption have helped change its perception: the stigma around it has been reduced, and the new rebrand has given it a chic and classy feel that appeals to a new audience. Research shows that Gen Z consumes cannabis through beverages and edibles above all else. In 2020, sales of cannabis beverages were five times higher than the average sales of cannabis products. Cannabis products appearing in mainstream retailers at affordable prices have also helped normalise the drug. These factors have led to an increase in Gen Z women purchasing cannabis as it has reputable benefits and is easily accessible.
Cannabis has also had an upgrade when it comes to luxury. New brands such as KIVA are selling expensive products with premium ingredients and packaging to match. Its range of edibles, including chocolate, gummies and mints, contain sustainably-sourced cacao, 100% biodegradable packaging and locally-grown cannabis. “I don’t enjoy smoking cannabis, but I love consuming edibles. It’s something about the way it looks, it seems so appealing in its bright and chic packaging,” says one 19-year-old girl from London.
When it comes to CBD, high-end retailers such as Cult Beauty and Sephora have created dedicated product lines targetting millennial women with more disposable income. Sephora’s line of CBD-infused skincare can cost as much as $100 for its oils and moisturisers. The CBD-infused cosmetic market is expected to grow by $3.07 billion from 2020 to 2025, and the target audience for these ‘wow’ products is Gen Z women.
Across all price points, the main appeal of these products to young women is feminine marketing and branding. Stereotypical cannabis branding has disappeared, and instead, products such as pre-rolls and capsules feature modern and chic designs that make them look similar to cosmetic products. Packaging tends to be expensive, informative and, above all, instagrammable.
Social media and cannabis
Information about cannabis is reaching Gen Z women through social media. The rise of platforms such as Tik Tok, where 60% of its users are Gen Z, allows brands to connect with young women and advertise their products. This is alongside the already established presence of cannabis companies on Instagram and Twitter.
Although many social media platforms ban any promotion of cannabis, brands can still discuss and highlight the benefits of wider product ranges. Advertising is most effective through short-form videos, discount codes, and most importantly, influencers.
The use of influencers to promote cannabis products works particularly well as they sell a lifestyle to go alongside it. For example, the relaxing and calming effects of cannabis are marketed through products that can easily be incorporated into everyday life. A recent increase in influencers discussing cannabis products as a way of helping deal with problems such as anxiety and ADHD is also appealing to younger generations. These products vary from pure cannabis to CBD-infused ones such as oils and candles that are particularly appealing to young women.
There’s so much misinformation around cannabis, and we’ve found that following accounts on Instagram gives us the full picture about the drug, the industry and how to consume it safely
Social media is also useful for cannabis companies to educate people on the benefits, power and impact of the drug. This helps to engage groups of society such as Gen Z women who have previously not been the target audience for cannabis products. “There’s so much misinformation around cannabis, and we’ve found that following accounts on Instagram gives us the full picture about the drug, the industry and how to consume it safely,” said a group of 18 year old women from Manchester. Increased awareness helps destigmatise the use of cannabis, and over time it will become increasingly normalised.
Gen Z women are a new and largely untapped group that is becoming increasingly aware and interested in cannabis, given its legalisation and increased research into its benefits. Established and new brands are capitalising on this by creating products, often CBD-infused ones such as skincare and cosmetics, that actively target young women. Fashionable packaging, appealing effects and clever social media advertising are paving the way for the continued rise of Gen Z women consuming the drug in its various forms.