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May 25, 2018

Are Old School Concentrates Still On Fire?

Old School Weed Concentrates

Back in the day, as in 2015, relatively novel forms of extracts, like shatter and wax, ruled the concentrates marketplace in Colorado. But their reign steadily eroded during 2015 and by the third quarter of 2016 both had been vanquished by vape pens. During that quarter, vapes captured 29 percent of the concentrates market, and sales of shatter and wax each represented 23 percent respectively. This data insight and other insights referenced in this article were pulled from millions of transactions tracked in our GreenEdge™ Retail Sales Tracking platform.

 

Ever since vapes have been the king of the concentrates hill, and not just in Colorado. They also rule in other states with recreational sales, such as Washington, Oregon and California. The rise of the vape has garnered a lot of media attention, for good reason; vapes are extremely popular, especially in California and Oregon, where during the first quarter of 2018 vape sales represented 80 and 69 percent respectively of those states’ concentrates markets.

 

But the rest of the wild world of concentrates — BDS Analytics tracks 11 different types of them — never went away. Manufacturers still turn cannabis into a diversity of extracts, with names like caviar and bubble hash, and consumers buy them.

 

Vapes get all of the love, but let’s revisit some prominent old flames: shatter, wax, oils and live resin.

 

The most interesting story among old-school concentrates is live resin, which can be dabbed but is often used in vape pens, too. The style of concentrate, which requires freezing just-harvested buds to subcritical temperatures and then keeping them frozen during the extraction process, is time-intensive, and expensive, compared to most other styles. But consumers increasingly turn to live resin to get their buzzes on. Among other things, the freezing helps maintain terpenes, organic compounds found in the cannabis plant that foster different effects, especially when combined with THC. (The terpene+THC combo platter is called the “entourage effect.”) And freezing, too, preserves flavor and aroma better than other extraction styles.

 

While growth among many other non-vape styles of concentrates has either flat-lined or declined in Colorado, and experienced modest (with one big exception) bumps in Oregon, it’s up markedly for live resin. During Q1 of this year, for example, live resin experienced growth of 66 percent in Colorado, and 128 percent in Oregon. In Colorado, where live resin originated, its slice of the concentrates pie upped from 10 percent during Q1 2017 to 13 percent during Q1 2018. Even as vapes devour concentrates market share in Colorado, live resin still manages to surge. Impressive.

 

In both cases, live resin remains a small slice of the concentrates pie — below 5 percent in Colorado and Oregon, as well as in California. And it comes at a premium: an average gram of live resin during Q1 this year sold for $37.30 in Oregon, $34.62 in Colorado and $47.40 (!) in California. Meanwhile, shatter and wax normally sell for less than $25 a gram in the other states. Clearly, mounting consumer ardor for live resin has nothing to do with bargain shopping.

 

The rise of wax in Oregon stands as another trend worth exploring. While wax experienced negative growth (-1 percent) in Colorado during Q1, it rocketed up by 335 percent in the Beaver State; and, sales of units rose by 655 percent, meaning that prices fell as sales of grams rose quite a bit. That is serious growth. But it must be tempered: wax represented less than 2 percent of the concentrates market during Q1, on sales of $821,500. Sales were exceptionally modest during Q1 2017, and one year later it didn’t take epic consumer passion for cash-register receipts to roughly triple (and for unit sales to sextuple).

 

A final point: growth in dollars-sold of concentrates does not normally correspond with the numbers of grams being sold — growth is normally markedly higher for the volume of grams sold versus the amount of dollars that clerks are ringing-up at cash registers.

 

Prices are declining across the board for concentrates. In Oregon, for example, the average gram of live resin during Q1 2017 sold for $63.85, but a year later the average price was $37.40. In Colorado, a gram of shatter during Q1 2017 cost $21.57, but during the same quarter this year it was down to $17.97. The ratcheting down of prices influences the volume of dollars sold at cash registers.

 

Meanwhile, however, consumers are buying more and more grams of all concentrates. So in Colorado during Q1 2018, for example, the amount of money dispensaries hauled from sales of wax fell by 1 percent — negative growth. But during the same period, dispensaries experienced 10 percent growth in terms of how many grams of wax they sold. This story plays out over and over again in different markets.

 

Will shatter or wax ever rise once again to the pinnacle of the concentrates mountain? Given growth trajectories in vapes, it seems unlikely. But there’s more to a mountain than a peak. Savvy extractors will find opportunities all of the way up the trail.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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