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Innovation Strategies to Deliver CBD Products With Speed and Confidence

Cannbis Leaf and Oil

It’s a new year, and 2022 has the potential to be remembered as the year when minor cannabinoids achieved major status. 

It’s true that the cannabis market is generally interested in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the intoxicating cannabinoid that most marijuana consumers have come to know and love, as well as cannabidiol (CBD). But cannabinoids, such as tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) and cannabinol (CBN), have started to attract attention on their own.

The future of cannabinoid products is bright due to the countless applications of pure, isolated minor cannabinoids, including CBG, CBN, CBC, THCV, and CBDV.  The new cannabinoid consumer is looking for an exact, consistent experience to reliably target either a particular medical ailment, or to bring about a specific, desired effect. 

The ability to play with the cannabinoid ratio “lever” is one of the most exciting and powerful tools formulators have, especially as new technologies enable the isolation of more and more new cannabinoids.

As the Cannabis Sativa plant goes mainstream, the major cannabinoids—THC and CBD—are getting all the glory. However, the minor cannabinoids have huge potential, and may even be more powerful than their major counterparts.

  • CBG, or Cannabigerol, has shown potential in soothing inflammation, stimulating appetite, inhibiting cancer cell growth, and killing drug-resistant bacteria.  CBG is further thought to help regulate mood thanks to its ability to boost anandamide, the body’s native “bliss” molecule, as well as act as a GABA reuptake inhibitor. which provides a range of benefits including mood elevation, anxiety relief, muscle relaxation, seizure relief and more.
  • CBN, or Cannabinol, shows promise in promoting restful sleep and sedation, as well as pain relief and appetite stimulation. In topical products, CBN may also be helpful for treating psoriasis, dermatitis and other skin irritating conditions.
  • CBC, or Cannabichromene, works well with other cannabis components like cannabinoids and terpenes and holds promise in elevating mood, reducing pain and inflammation, and supporting immune functions and bone growth. On the topical side, one of the most interesting potential applications for CBC is as a treatment for acne—a recent study found that several cannabinoids, including CBD and CBC, are effective for targeting the bacteria that cause acne and for reducing skin inflammation that causes reddened pimples and painful swelling.
  • THCV, or Tetrahydrocannabivarin, is a highly sought after cannabinoid due to its potential to suppress appetite, making THCV-dominant products ideal for weight management. THCV also has the potential to increase energy and focus. On the topical side, in the same study that identified CBC as a potential acne-fighting ingredient, THCV was found to be even more effective than CBD or CBC at fighting the causes of acne, which when combined with the anti-inflammatory effects of THCV and other cannabinoids, may one day lead to the development of acne medications with these cannabinoids as active ingredients.
  • CBDV, or Cannabidivarin, is structurally very similar to cannabidiol (CBD), but has a few different properties. Not many studies have been carried out on the effect of CBDV on the body, but researchers are currently studying its effects on various conditions including epilepsy, nausea, pain, inflammation, and mood disorders. CBDV can also boost the development of bones, possessing components that stimulate bone growth.

As the CBD market has matured, consumers have had the opportunity to engage with cannabinoids on their terms. New Frontier Data’s Consumption Drivers report provides an in-depth analysis on CBD consumer groups and the factors shaping consumption behaviors. In the report, respondents were grouped into four cohorts based on their primary reason to consume CBD:

  • Medical
  • Pain Management
  • General Wellness
  • Unwinding

From those primary reasons, the survey examines the attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors associated with different motivations for CBD consumption, to glean better understanding about the needs and characteristics of diverse CBD consumers. Understanding these emerging consumer groups allows brands to cater to the rapidly evolving consumer base and develop products and messaging aligned with their evolving needs.


Medical consumers are the smallest cohort, and their particular needs and behaviors make them the easiest to identify. Simply stated, these consumers use CBD as they would a prescription medicine and they are far more likely than are others to indicate that they consume CBD daily, as is done with many common medications. As the group with the most frequent interaction with CBD, Medical consumers are also the cannabinoid’s strongest advocates, thus believing strongly in the benefits of CBD, and sharing information about it widely within their social circles.


Pain Management consumers – the largest and oldest cohort – while relatively uninterested in and uninformed about the broader cannabis market, are highly satisfied with CBD for their particular needs, and tend not to sample beyond what already works for them. Nearly half (48 percent) of Pain Management consumers are unsure of the differences between CBD formulations such as full spectrum oil, broad spectrum oil, whole plant, or isolate. As a group, Pain Management consumers have successfully addressed a specific need, are happy with results, and uninterested in further adjusting their habits. 


Wellness consumers primarily utilize CBD to promote overall health and wellness, as with a nutritional supplement. Like most CBD consumers, they have an overall positive impression of CBD and use it for a variety of reasons. These consumers are among the least likely to have had a conversation about CBD (11 percent), and nearly one in five (17 percent) do not know any friends or family who consume CBD. As such, they are among the least likely to have been recommended CBD (25 percent), and least likely to have recommended CBD (50 percent). Regardless of their reason for consumption, consumers hold an incredibly high opinion of CBD. Without social reinforcement, General Wellness consumers have cultivated a slightly less exuberant (though still generally positive) view of CBD.


The final identified cohort—unwinding consumers (the youngest group on average)—have habits largely driven by interaction within their social circles who use CBD. While they are more infrequent consumers than are other cohorts, they use a relatively broad range of products, which they source most often from personal connections, and typically utilize CBD to relieve stress or reduce anxiety. As such, they are more likely to consume CBD sporadically, as needed. Given that their social connections are major factors in guiding their behavior, Unwinding consumers were among the least likely to identify a preferred brand. In fact, more than half (54 percent) claimed to have no preferred brand, while one in five (20 percent) claimed to rarely know which brand they purchase. The lack of entrenched brand loyalty for most Unwinding consumers highlights the significant opportunity that remains for brands to acquire shares of minds and wallets as the space continues to mature. 

While Medical consumers are most likely to be regimented in their use, more likely to be brand-loyal, and most focused on dosing, other consumers groups are far less entrenched in their product preferences and consumption habits. As a group, Unwinding consumers will continue to seek new products on the market until they identify a form best suited to address their needs, and as such, is a key target for creating a brand worthy of obsession.

Unwinding Consumers: The Brand Obsession Opportunity

Unwinding consumers are the most open to trying new products, and as a group, have not yet found a brand to which they are loyal. As a result, they present the most salient near-term commercial opportunity for product development. Below, we highlight the top strategies for targeting this key consumer segment:

  • Novel Cannabinoids Ingredients: To deliver on the product promise for unwinding consumers, it is a smart strategy to explore formulations with the more novel and rare cannabinoids ingredients. For example, recent research showed that CBDA can act as an effective anti-inflammatory agent, while another study found that CBDA was a thousand times more powerful than CBD for anti-anxiety effects. Other rare cannabinoids such as CBN and CBDV further possess potential for deep relaxation and relief.
  • Nootropics: Although they have a fancy name, nootropics are actually pretty common — L-Theanine is found in tea, but also comes in the form of a supplement; Creatine, a popular bodybuilding powder, fuels brain cells; and even caffeine, the one thing many of us can’t live without, is a nootropic. With Unilever’s recent acquisition of Onnit, whose hero products feature nootropic ingredients, these mentally stimulating supplements are going mainstream. We expect to continue to see more products boasting the energy-managing, cognitive-enhancing and mood-moderating effects of adaptogens, as unwinding consumers continue to seek holistic and preventive ways to manage their mental health.
  • Avant-garde Form Factors: Beyond ingredients and sophisticated formulations, innovative and inventive forms will help to drive trial, ease of use, and brand loyalty. Liweli, a cannabinoid wellness lifestyle brand, features Stress Melts, 20 mg CBD chewable tablets, in their collection, and Pym offers all-natural amino acid Mood Chews to support calm and relaxation.
  • Functional Beverages: Beverages are not just about quenching thirst anymore. Led by Millennials and Gen Z, more and more consumers are looking for functional beverages that deliver nutritional benefits in the never-ending quest to be healthier, with Nuun being a prime example of this expanding trend. The functional beverage category is one of the fastest growing nutritional markets out there with a 8.66 percent CAGR by 2024—this change is being propelled by young consumers looking for beverages that deliver real benefits like enhanced hydration and cognitive support while cutting alcohol and sugar consumption.

If you’re just starting to build a brand, these focus areas should guide you in its development. If you have a brand already, and it seems lacking, consider adjusting your product portfolio to include the strategies outlined above.