Posted by Dave Kaplan
1 year ago / July 30, 2020
Consumers and Budtenders Need Better Vape Education
Ask a budtender about a specific strain of dried flower and you’re likely to get a full rundown of the product’s composition, including its cannabinoid content, terpene profile, potency, origin and cultivation method. You may even receive some dosage advice.
Ask that same budtender about what sets a specific cannabis vape product apart from its competitors, however, and you’re likely to get a completely different answer—or lack thereof, more accurately! Aside from reading off whatever information is printed on the product’s package, most budtenders won’t be able to tell you much about the vape hardware itself or the extract housed within.
The lack of vape knowledge at the retail and consumer levels is understandable. After all, the cannabis vape space is still in its infancy, especially in Canada where cannabis vape products have only been on retail shelves for six months. But it is a problem nonetheless, given the efforts you’ve taken to perfect your extract and select vape hardware that matches and elevates it.
Why Customer Education is So Important for Cannabis Vape Products:
The end user experience is tied directly to a device’s functionality. For the best possible experience, users need to fully understand how to operate the devices they purchase. They also need to be informed in-store of the distinct features each vape product has so they can select the hardware that best suits their purposes. Users who are new to vaping, for instance, should be directed toward draw-activated disposable vape products, which are easier to use than push-activated units and easier to assemble than 510-threaded battery and cartridge combinations. More experienced cannabis vape users, on the other hand, should be shown more advanced cartridge and battery combinations with push-button activations, variable heat-settings, and preheating functionalities.
Consumers that select the wrong devices—units that are either too advanced or too simple for their needs—are bound to have suboptimal experiences, likely leading them to purchase another brand’s vape products or steering them away from the delivery method altogether going forward.
Almost any consumer can tell you the key differences between an Apple and a Lenovo computer or a Dyson and a Hoover vacuum. Unfortunately, the same cannot yet be said about consumer knowledge of vape hardware manufacturers. In fact, many budtenders wouldn’t even be able to tell you which companies manufacture the various vape products they sell, especially in Canada where restrictive labelling laws severely limit the amount of brand collateral allowed on product packages.
This is problematic because you want your customers to know that your extracts are housed in safe, superior, and reliable hardware. The reality is not every vape hardware manufacturer uses the same materials or heating technologies. Nor do they all possess the same product certifications or adhere to the same standards of manufacturing and quality-control excellence. All of Greentank’s cartridges, for instance, have passed extensive heavy metal testing and are built with elite ceramic cores and certified child-resistant technology, making them not only the safest cartridges on the market but also the most ideal for users with young children. That information falls to the wayside for the average consumer who, without any substantive product information, is left to make purchases solely on aesthetics, brand & strain name recognition, and cannabinoid/terpene contents.
Price Point Explanations
There’s a good reason why cannabis vape products have some of the highest average price points in the industry. While on the surface it might be difficult for consumers to wrap their heads around how 0.5 gram cartridges can retail for anywhere from $30-$60 in the US ($35-$75 in Canada) when the same quantity of dried flower costs considerably less, the reality is that the two cannabis product types are not the same. They vary significantly in terms of potencies.
The Ontario Cannabis Store, for instance, offers consumers extensive dried flower options, but not a single strain on the website exceeds 29% THC. The retailer’s prefilled cartridges, on the other hand, start at 32% THC on the extremely low end and go all the way up to 88% THC. Ditto for their disposable vapes, which contain as much as 92% THC in certain SKUs. Don’t bother getting your calculator; cannabis vape products are, on average, approximately 3X more potent than dried flower, which means that consumers can derive the same effects from these products as they would from dried flower without consuming nearly as much. That value play is lost on most consumers and, in our experience, a surprising amount of budtenders!
Regulated cannabis vape pens are also the healthier option of the two cannabis product types simply because there is no combustion involved in the delivery method. Cannabis vapes heat extracts at lower temperatures, producing clean and flavorful vapor that is carcinogen-free. To achieve this, vape products are equipped with special heating cores and overheating-preventative measures. The extra cost of that built-in technology is factored into the price of these products. But at the end of the day, are these premiums for safer and cleaner cannabis products really any different from the types of premiums consumers already pay for organic fruit or free-range meat?
Although the cannabis vape industry is still in its infancy, it’s already dealt with two major obstacles: heavy metals and EVALI. And even though the former actually served as a catalyst to make the industry safer and the latter was almost entirely the result of unregulated, black market products, the legal cannabis vape industry’s reputation took a substantial hit nonetheless.
As a result, many cannabis consumers have become wary of legal vape products, believing that they too contain contaminants and other harmful, unnatural additives, such as vitamin E acetate. This could not be further from the truth. In reality, cannabis vape products sold through the legal market, regardless of state or province, are thoroughly regulated and must pass strict contaminant and additive testing before they can be placed on licensed retailers’ shelves.
For those of us in the industry, this is common knowledge. But that’s not the case for consumers and budtenders, who don’t necessarily stay up-to-date on industry news and developments. They’re not aware of the widespread efforts toward transparency and safer vaping the industry has made over the last 9 months, and it’s up to businesses like yours and our own to educate them on this front.
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