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

Mike Rodenburgh looks at the differences between alcohol and cannabis consumption. His vice: either a B.C. Pinot Noir or a French Sancerre, depending on season and mood

The author(s)

  • Michael Rodenburgh Executive Vice President, Canada
Get in touch

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.

This article was originally published in What the Future, 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.

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

The author(s)

  • Michael Rodenburgh Executive Vice President, Canada

Consumer & Shopper