The vape sector now makes up more than a quarter of cannabis sales. For Q4 of 2022, BDSA Retail Sales Tracking shows that vapes accounted for ~26 percent of total dollar sales across BDSA-tracked markets. To succeed in this highly competitive sector, it’s essential to evaluate the nuanced trends, including different form factors and concentrate inputs. Some of the emerging concentrate inputs, for example, are particularly primed for premiumization and growth.
Even with competing premium alternatives, distillate is the leading input for vape products
When looking at the vape category as a whole, distillate remains the dominant input for vape products, making up almost 60 percent of total dollar vape sales across BDSA-tracked markets in Q4 2022. The strength of distillate holds true when we drill down to look at vape subcategories as well. Distillate makes up a ~52 percent share of dollar disposable vape sales across all BDSA-tracked markets for Q4 2022 and ~59 percent share of total vape cartridge sales.
The strong hold of distillate in the vape sector is driven by a few factors. Distillate is one of the more economical concentrates to use as a vape input, and offers a high THC potency. BDSA Consumer Insights showing that “high THC content” is the number one driver of product choice for consumers of inhalables, with ~36 percent of respondents in adult-use states citing it as a major influencer on product choice. While distillate products may not offer the intense cannabis flavor of live resin or rosin, distillate products are known for their consistency. This consistency is an important trait for many, as BDSA’s Consumer Insights shows that ~30 percent of consumers in adult-use states are willing to pay more for a product that provides consistent, repeatable experiences.
Live resin holding significant share across legal markets
Making up ~23 percent of vape dollar sales across BDSA tracked markets, live resin vapes are the next largest subcategory after distillate. Live resin offers consumers a more intense flavor profile due to its higher terpene content and has grown to make up a significant share of the vape category. The growth is likely attributed to the quality flavor at an increasingly affordable price point. This trend tracks with consumer purchasing drivers, with BDSA’s Consumer Insights data showing that 32 percent of consumers claim that taste or flavor has a significant influence on their product choices.
Rosin on the rise in mature markets
Bringing in just about 3 percent of dollar vape sales across all BDSA-tracked markets, rosin is a subcategory of the vape sector that sometimes goes unnoticed. However, rosin vapes have seen strong growth and make up a larger share of the category when looking specifically at more mature cannabis markets. In the Colorado market, for example, rosin vape cartridges have grown from a ~4 percent share of dollar vape cartridge sales in Q4 2020, to a ~14 percent share of vape cartridge sales in Q4 2022.
While rosin’s performance in the vape segment has been strongest in Colorado, other markets are also starting to show a rise in rosin vape cartridge sales. BDSA Retail Sales Tracking data from California shows that rosin vape cartridge sales grew ~4 percent between Q1 2022 and Q4 2022.
Pricing trends across the vape category
As cannabis markets have been dealing with significant price compression over the past 18 months, no granular discussion of cannabis categories is complete without digging into pricing data. Across mature cannabis markets (AZ, CA, CO, NV, OR), equivalent average retail prices across all product categories (EQ ARP’s) fell ~16 percent between Q4 2021 and Q4 2022, with less mature markets seeing even higher rates of price compression. Price compression in the vape cartridge category was slightly lower than that seen across all cannabis products, with vape cartridge products in these same mature markets seeing ~12 percent price drops between Q4 2021 and Q4 2022. With little sign that price compression is a waning trend, it is worth taking a careful look at pricing trends across the vape category to identify which form factors can still demand a high price at retail.
Historically one of the more budget friendly options in the distillate cartridge category, distillate cartridges started out with a lower ARP compared to competing form factors, and thus have seen lower price compression that the vape cartridge category as an aggregate. Distillate cartridges saw ~10 percent price compression between Q4 2021 and Q4 2022 across mature BDSA-tracked states (AZ, CA, CO, NV, OR), and held an EQ ARP or ~$28/gram in Q4 2022. Distillate disposables saw EQ ARPs fall ~5 percent across these markets between Q4 2021 and Q4 2022, with the EQ ARP landing at ~$26 in Q4 2022.
Even after other subcategories have seen more significant price compression, it’s still clear that distillate products are a winner for brands looking to target price-conscious consumers, a significant chunk of the consumer base. (BDSA Consumer Insights show that 27 percent of consumers cite low price as a top driver of product choice.)
Positioned as a more premium product due to its higher terpene content, live resin cartridges traditionally held much higher prices at retail. Between Q4 2021 and Q4 2022, live resin cartridges saw ~15 percent price compression across mature BDSA-tracked states. As a result of this, live resin cartridges now hold an EQ ARP just above that of distillate cartridges, with an ARP of ~$31/gram in Q4 2022 across AZ, CA, CO, NV and OR. Prices for live resin disposables remained relatively stable through 2022 across mature markets, with average retail prices ending up at ~30/gram in Q4 2022.
Historically the higher terpene content of live resin products led for live resin to be positioned as a premium product, but with retail prices for live resin vapes closing in on those of distillate products, there is an opportunity for brands to use Live Resin inputs to draw in more price conscious consumers who are also looking for a high-terpene vape product.
While rosin cartridges have yet to make up a large share of the vape sector across the aggregate of legal markets, BDSA Retail Sales Tracking data show that rosin may be a winning form factor from a pricing perspective. Rosin cartridges have seen a ~11 percent price compression between Q4 2021 and Q4 2022 across mature BDSA-tracked states, an impressive feat given the high prices that the product demanded in early 2023. Even after over a year of continued price drops, rosin cartridges held an ARP of $37/gram in Q4 2022 across AZ, CA, CO, NV and OR, showing that rosin products are primed for premiumization in 2023. EQ ARPs for rosin disposables fell ~17 percent between Q4 2021 and Q4 2022, with ARPs settling at ~$40/g in Q4 2022
The Vape category consistently makes up over a quarter of total cannabis dollar sales across legal states, and vape brands and products have become more sophisticated than ever in the past two years. With price compression still hitting the legal cannabis space, it’s important for brands to understand the strengths of each vape subcategory, and how to position and price new products to succeed in an increasingly competitive retail environment.