Understanding adult cannabis enthusiasts transitioning to the legal recreational market


How to convert cannabis enthusiasts from the informal market to the legal recreational market and prepare Canadian retailers to successfully meet the needs of this high-value segment


Identifying strategies through which Canadian retailers can win with enthusiasts through comprehensive buyer personas that articulate needs, preferences, and purchase behaviours


Our research built credibility with Canadian retailers, created an evidence-based argument for retailers to prioritize the needs of enthusiasts, and was instrumental in Supreme’s creation of segments that led to an award-winning campaign in 2018

Seeking to understand the implications of legalization for the cannabis market in Canada

With cannabis legalization on the horizon in Canada, there was a great deal of uncertainty as to what factors would encourage existing cannabis consumers to move from the informal market to the legal recreational market. Legal age cannabis enthusiasts, defined as cannabis users who consume at least daily, were of particular interest because they account for up to 70% of cannabis consumption by weight. But much remained unknown about the existing cannabis culture and about the needs, preferences, and expectations of informal market consumers, who had the potential to become high-value legal-market consumers.

Supreme, a global diversified portfolio of distinct cannabis companies and brands, was interested in supporting adult cannabis enthusiasts and educating large retailers on how best to serve this market. They want to respect the culture of cannabis enthusiasts while transitioning that customer base into the legal market. Supreme approached Bridgeable to conduct a participatory research study with adult cannabis enthusiasts in five cities across Canada. The goal of the research was to identify enthusiast personas that could be used to provide recommendations to retailers and to advocate for liquor boards to transition high value customers out of the informal market through a superior customer experience.

Length of sprint:



Learning Labs held in:


cities across Canada

Research participants:


Engaging with cannabis enthusiasts firsthand

At the beginning of the engagement, Supreme wanted to deepen and validate with data science their understanding of:

  • Cannabis enthusiasts’ current buying experiences
  • How cannabis enthusiasts make buying decisions
  • What behavioural differences exist among enthusiasts
  • How cannabis enthusiasts assess quality
  • Cannabis enthusiasts’ needs related to online purchasing

To answer these questions, Bridgeable and Supreme conducted six research workshops, or Learning Labs, with 72 participants in five cities across Canada— Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto, and Halifax—to understand how each of these factors differed country-wide.

In each Learning Lab, adult cannabis enthusiasts completed a series of templated activities and group discussions that probed into their planning, purchasing, and enjoying rituals; the factors they use to assess quality; their opinions on product information pages; and their online shopping needs. The Learning Labs were supplemented by consultations with dispensaries and desk research on more established cannabis markets like Colorado and California.

With data collected from this research, Bridgeable developed a cannabis enthusiast purchasing journey and identified the key factors enthusiasts require when purchasing. These factors included sensory interaction with products, recommendations from trusted sources, and access to high-quality product data. Mapping the purchasing factors against the purchasing journey allowed the Bridgeable team to identify enthusiast personas and develop a Canada-wide insights report with recommendations for large retailers.

Bridgeable’s team entered a new sector and applied their social science expertise and design methodologies to develop a deep understanding of our customers. Their innovative research led to insightful consumer segmentation and supported validation of our data which aided the development of the 7ACRES brand … 2018 Brand of the Year.

Navdeep Dhaliwal
CEO, The Supreme Cannabis Company

Changing perceptions of legal age cannabis enthusiasts

The Bridgeable team identified three enthusiast personas with distinct buying behaviours and a fourth group of emerging enthusiasts. These personas were defined based on their relationships with the key purchasing factors.

Based on this understanding of a range of cannabis enthusiasts, we developed six make-or-break recommendations for large retailers who want to succeed in this market. Each recommendation focused on a consumer need, desire, or preference relating to product quality and variety, product information and education, and connections in existing cannabis communities.

We created a mock-up of an online store to demonstrate these make-or-break recommendations and to underscore the importance of omni-channel service for cannabis enthusiasts.

Our research has helped Supreme educate provincial boards and retailers on how best to convert adult cannabis enthusiasts to the legal market, allowed them to strengthen their market share, and was a supporting factor in Supreme’s wholly owned subsidiary 7ACRES winning “Brand of the Year” two years in a row at the Canadian Cannabis Awards (2018 and 2019).

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