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Sublinguals are taking Canadian cannabis by storm

If you’re dosing cannabis with one of the new sublingual strips on the Canadian market, you’re part of a burgeoning trend that analysts say is poised to become a major consumable format.

In the same way dyes (aka oil drops), sublingual products have seen a massive 3000% growth in Canadian sales between 2020 and 2021 (with the necessary caveat noting that these products only entered the market in 2020). Although they still represent only a small part of cannabis sales, the rapid growth indicates a new trend in consumption.

According to data compiled by Helmet“…it appears that sublingual strips are driving a significant portion of the growth of the tincture and sublingual category in Canada, with very few distinct products providing the majority of sales.”

A small tab on the tongue will suffice. (Courtesy of Headset)

The report notes that sales of sublingual products peaked in July 2021 at around $425,000 nationwide, then sales dipped in December to just under $350,000.

Sublingual products look like strips of mint that you would place under your tongue. With either 5mg or 10mg of THC, these strips offer a faster onset of around 15 minutes, compared to around 90 minutes for edibles and drinks.

As Leafly wrote earliersublingual absorption is so effective because it bypasses the gastrointestinal system, where stomach acids and enzymes often convert delta-9 THC to the more psychoactive form of 11-hydroxy THC.

Sublingual strips avoid this pathway by directly interacting with blood circulation through this membrane under the tongue. It offers the consumer a purer delta-9 experience, which is similar to smoking or vaping

Cannabis consumers want to try everything at least once

As part of the 2.0 class of cannabis products being deployed in Canada, they represent a more discreet format for Canadian cannabis consumers than flowers and vapes.

“I’m not surprised that so many people went out and bought these kinds of tapes,” says Rachel Colic, chief strategist at Y Creative, a consultancy focused on branding for the cannabis industry. “It’s a long overdue format, it’s new and new and people always want to try everything once.”

She notes that the format is user-friendly because of the way the sublingual strips resemble easily recognizable product mint strips, such as Listerine’s PocketPaks.


Why are pre-rolls so popular with consumers?

What’s also turning heads favorably is how this market has surged in the last 18 months with only two key players in the market: THC oral strips to beproduced by Thrive Cannabis based in Simcoe, Ontario, and Kin plugs of Aleafia Health in Toronto.

Colic says limited market entrants have made impressive efforts in their category. “I find it remarkable that these two SKUs have driven all of this growth and filled the void left by the cannabis market.”

Best-selling format for medical cannabis patients

Speaking with Tricia Symmes, CEO of Aleafia Health, she says the sublingual strips have become one of their top selling medical products. They have also produced strips for the adult market, and one of their big sellers is their high CBD strips.

“It’s discreet, offers reliable dosing, and has become very popular with first-time consumers,” says Symmes, noting how its licensed producer (LP) partnered with Kin State Group in California to distribute the strips in the Canadian market. .

Easy, discreet and portable. (Courtesy of Aleafia)

She adds that Aleafia and Kin are working to bring more sublingual products to Canada in the coming year, such as those with different flavors and CBD isolate.

But if sublingual cannabis products are about to become the next big thing, why are only two LPs in Canada producing them?

The lack of market research in this area is a barrier, says Dessy Pavlova, project manager at CannStandard, which tracks cannabis sales in Canada. “And the flower still has the appeal of many consumers and LPs, and it’s still number one in market share in Canada.”

David Silverberg

David Silverberg is a freelance journalist who writes for the Toronto Star, BBC News, Washington Post, Business Insider, Cannabis Health, Merry Jane, High Times and many other outlets. He is also a copywriting coach to help freelance journalists and creatives advance their careers.

View articles by David Silverberg

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