(Editor’s note: This story is part of a recurring series of commentaries from professionals connected to the hemp industry. Jackie Berg is co-founder of CBD Marketing Hub, a digital-to-door agency focused on CBD and cannabis marketing.)
Sleep is valued commodity and something many Americans are increasingly bereft of. Many health experts see sleep issues as a looming health crisis.
Forty percent or more Americans don’t get enough sleep, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The problem is worse among people of color.
Such sleep insufficiency, which health experts classify as less than seven hours of sleep nightly, leads to long-term health issues from cardiovascular disease and diabetes to mental-health issues.
The trends have led to late-night internet searches and seismic increases in overall digital consumption, which — while good for digital commerce — are detrimental to sleep.
The word “insomnia” was Googled more in 2020 than ever before. A record 2.77 million searches were clocked in the first five months of 2020 alone, according to researcher Kirsi-Marja Zitting, an instructor and associate neuroscientist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston who studied the trend.
The American Sleep Apnea Association estimates 20 million to 30 million Americans suffer from intermittent sleep problems every year.
Opportunities for hemp and cannabis: Meaning, not money
Although the sleep market represents a significant growth opportunity, many CBD and cannabis brand are looking beyond the category’s profit potential at something far different: a chance to make a difference.
That aim is a part of the DNA of many CBD and cannabis brands, where 6 in 10 company founders see the industry’s momentum as a part of a greater mission to do good, according to the 2019 CBD & Cannabis confidence survey conducted by the Insyght Institute, the nonprofit arm of the market research firm Target Insyght.
The continuous drive for improvement is more important than ever, said PureKana CEO Kathy Casey, who reports sleep product sales growth of 14% over the last half of 2020.
“Families are really struggling to manage additional pandemic-related stressors and are becoming more and open to non-pharmaceutical sleep aides, particularly the more natural and non-addictive alternatives,” Casey said.
Together with Gen Z consumers, stressed-out millennials accounted for 48% of the U.S. CBD market in the fourth quarter last year, according to marketing analytics firm High Yield Insights.
THC products are another alternative growing in popularity.
One California-based dispensary and delivery service, Ganja Goddess, reports a 635% increase in its cannabis sleep product sales. Nearly 70% of its customers use its cannabis products to support sleep, according to its CEO Zachary Pitts.
“The pandemic and its extended duration has taken the lid off some of the stigmas surrounding the importance of mental health and its place in our overall well-being,” Casey said.
Education is more important than ever, according to Josh Richman, CMO of Receptra Naturals, which makes gummies and a tincture for sleep.
“Consumers need education about our products,” Richman said. “We need to promote the overall importance of sleep, not just our own product lines.”
The pandemic has revealed how closely tied sleep and stress are.
Stress levels among U.S. adults are higher now than the early days of the pandemic, according to the American Psychological Association’s recent “Stress in America” survey, which revealed that 80% report emotions with prolonged stress.
People are talking about stress, anxiety and related sleep issues more openly than they ever have, according to Casey.
“These issues are front and center in the majority of conversations taking place in people’s homes, communities and workplaces,” Casey said.
“Everyone is talking about how to cope, from new exercise and meditation routines to more natural alternatives.”
That openness is a part of what’s driving up sleep-market growth, which Market Data Forecast estimates will grow 5.9% annually from $34.9 billion in 2020 to an estimated $46.5 billion by 2025.
Melatonin supplements were among category drivers that drew $825 million in consumer spending, according to market analytics firm Nielsen, representing a 42.6% increase.
Prescriptions for sleep-related issues are at an all-time high, according to a report from Express Scripts, which reports a 14.8% increase in prescription sleep medications between mid-February and mid-March of 2020.
“The pandemic has helped to elevate awareness of the importance of good sleep and has softened the momentum of ‘Sleep is for Suckers’ messaging,” adds Richman, who reports a shift in interest around better sleep, particularly among moms 40 to 50 years of age and 25-to-35-year-old millennials, Receptra Naturals’ largest growth segment.
“Consumers definitely have a preference for plant-based solutions,” says Richman, who says that interest is particularly high in ‘paired’ products like CBN (an alternative to synthetic melatonin) which shows promise for enhancing sleep.
Employers’ workplace policies, practices and protocols are shifting in concert with consumer and market trends.
“Employers formerly focused almost primarily on physical health programs and benefits are seeing the need to extend their focus and are changing the way they address benefit programs and policies … understanding that it is incumbent on them to offer more and better mental health solutions,” Casey said.
With alcohol consumption up and consumers increasingly turning to addictive remedies to keep themselves together throughout this pandemic, there are new worries that many remote workers will be returning to the workplace with substance misuse disorders.
Although the cannabis industry must comply with challenging marketing restrictions, there are legal and effective ways to position sleep products. Here’s our top four:
- Content Marketing. Like many CPG companies, more CBD and cannabis brands are moving their ad budgets to content marketing buys, working directly with publishers able and willing to create custom marketing campaigns. This move allows brands to leverage user consent-driven segmentation and attribution controls and to encourage a personalized brand experience.
- Keyword Marketing. Other digital solutions utilize a legal form of keyword marketing, which allows brands to serve up ads to bottom funnel buyers in the search process. Although program capabilities vary, most allow brands to competitively blunt (including competitive product names in their targeting), leverage key consumer demos and CBD and cannabis search terms in their targeting.
- Strategic Partnerships. Foundations and nonprofit partners are also becoming more willing to partner with cannabis brands as a result of shifting consumer acceptance and legalization of cannabis.
- Educational Posts. Education is key. Brands should responsibly educate consumers about the importance of sleep, irrespective of product messaging.
“We need to support and applaud lifestyle changes beyond CBD that people are making to be and stay well,” Richman said. “If the outcome of our efforts is good, it is good for us all.”
Jackie Berg can be reached at [email protected].
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