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Over the last six month, 9 million new users have entered the U.S. CBD market, according to a newly-published study from consumer research firm High Yield Insights. This represents one in four of every CBD user — and in addition, more than one in three of long-term CBD users have tried at least one new product formulation during this time.

25% of the CBD users surveyed said they had bought their most recent CBD item to cope with COVID-related anxiety or stress. This may also have been the purchase trigger for the long-term CBD users to try something new within the category.

The term given to these newcomers to the CBD marketplace is “COVID Commencers” — and they have a distinct demographic profile. They are more likely to be women, as the early adopters of CBD tended to be male. Almost two-thirds have reached retirement age; the group most likely to experience pandemic blues.

However, male newcomers have a much broader product repertoire than female; some 31% of males bought into ten or more different CBD product formats as compared to just 10% of female newcomers. Most COVID Commencers enter the category using oils and topicals, and almost six out of ten new users also try gummies.

The research also shows that these newcomers have less knowledge about the CBD marketplace than one might expect. For example, one in ten do not know the difference between hemp and cannabis. Almost one in ten do not understand the difference between CBD and THC. They tend not to conduct their own product research, but are solely influenced by recommendations from friends and health providers.

This leads to a significant amount of trial and error, which is an issue for the industry to take on. Two-thirds of COVID Commencers say they are still trying to find the product format or brand that works best for them — yet at the same time they are focused on paying what they consider a reasonable price. They’re influenced by product offers and special promotions, and only 13% report any willingness to pay a premium for specialist CBD brands.

So there’s a pressing need for more newcomer education, especially now as the COVID crisis continues to rattle American consumers. Many CBD product claims that have traction with long-term users, such as where a product is sourced or whether it is full-spectrum, broad-spectrum or isolate, go right over the heads of COVID Commencers. Companies should remember that these new users want things to be kept simple, and that they are just as much concerned with good value as they are with efficacy.