Vape and Pre-roll Market Growth Continues

Liz Filmer
11 Mar 2022

Vape pens and pre-rolls continue to grow in popularity in the U.S. as cannabis consumers pay a premium for more potent products and the newest innovations.

Vape pens were the second-largest category by revenue in the U.S. cannabis market during 2020 and 2021. In 2021 alone, they netted nearly $2.6 billion in retail sales across six of the biggest adult-use markets. California, Colorado, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington.

The pre-roll category rose from the 4th largest sector to the 3rd with $1.42 billion in sales in 2021, knocking edibles out of the top three highest-revenue categories. Both had solid year-over-year growth in 2021, with vapour pens up 28.1% and pre-rolls up 38.9% from 2020. The total cannabis market, by comparison, grew 18.4%.

Cartridges made up most of the vapour pen sales, but disposable vape pens had solid growth in 2021. There is an uptick in people buying disposable vapes as consumers look for more discreet convenience products.

People want things that they can consume in public at sporting events and the like. The data shows that vape products are most popular with the younger U.S. demographic: Almost half (47% )of U.S. cannabis vapers are under 35. To put that in context, only 40% of U.S. cannabis consumers are under 35.

The data also shows that vape consumers generally tend to be heavier cannabis consumers who spend more per month on cannabis. 51.5% of vape consumers spend more than $150 per month on cannabis. In comparison, only 42.8% of other cannabis consumers spend that much.

Standard pre-roll forms, such as those made with a single flower strain, experienced relatively small year-over-year growth. Other more specialized segments, however, saw a more significant increase.

Infused pre-rolls often made by applying concentrates or cannabis oil to flower saw their sales double in 2020 and 2021. Based on this, the pre-roll market is the trend to watch in 2022.

Pre-rolls have become more attractive than those that existed five years ago. Pre-rolls that offer something different, such as concentrated oil applied to the outside of the product and then dusted with kief or THC crystals, can achieve THC potency of 40%-50%. A level that flower on its own cannot reach.

Packs of five to ten pre-rolls – are also a growing trend, with shares making up nearly 50% of all pre-roll sales by the end of 2021. Multipacks are often filled with smaller pre-rolls in the 0.25- to the 0.33-gram range.

"These are great for people who need something to smoke quickly during the day. The popularity of pre-rolls is broader than flower as they come ready to smoke without any additional preparation to consume – something new consumers appreciate.

So what is on the horizon in terms of innovations in each product category? While most vape sales are for THC distillate, mature consumers want to get the whole "entourage effect" from their products, including minor cannabinoids and terpenes. This is where vapes formulated with live resin and rosin come in. Both have grown in popularity recently and offer a more "whole-plant experience."

Despite their higher price points, consumers appreciate these products' terpene content and authentic flavour profiles. Consumers also want pre-rolls that contain higher-quality flowers rather than shake or trim. These figures show that as the legal industry and the innovation with it matures, so does the tastes and expectations of the consumer. People are much more knowledgeable about what they consume nowadays and are reluctant to settle for less. 

Liz Filmer