The humble budtender is the true tastemaker and gatekeeper of the cannabis industry. Whatever you choose to call them – cannabis clerks, cannistas, educators, consultants, sales associates, cannabis concierges, or specialists – these individuals own the relationship between brands and consumers in most cases. Cannabis brands are constantly trying to find ways to win over these tastemakers and have their offerings recommended first and foremost when a consumer enters a store. Brightfield Group, an ADCANN-partnered cannabis consumer insights firm based in Chicago, recently conducted a survey of Canadian budtenders in collaboration with O2O to discover the most-recommended brands in the country and how they consistently win over retail store workers. This article will summarize the findings and top brands in the report so that you can learn from the best.

Why are Budtenders Important for Cannabis Brands?

  1. Budtenders play a critical role in shaping what’s in a shopper’s bag and influencing consumer decisions, with a large majority of budtenders believing they impact consumer purchases.
  2. 86% of brick-and-mortar sales come from in-person purchases, meaning the vast majority of consumers will interact with budtenders in some capacity when buying cannabis.
  3. Nearly half of consumers do not know what they want specifically when visiting a cannabis store. Budtenders help guide them through product and brand recommendations. 
  4. Budtenders are commonly heavy consumers, tastemakers, early adopters and online reviewers. These individuals impact the decisions of others.

How can Cannabis Brands Win The Support of Budtenders?

Sample Products: Bringing budtenders sample products before they are released to market (in applicable provinces) helps them confidently make recommendations to both their consumers and purchasing managers. A large majority of budtenders surveyed said free samples would help persuade them to recommend a brand. 

Brand Swag: Merchandise, clothing, smoking accessories, keychains, lanyards, etc are all still proving to be valuable tools for cannabis brands to win over budtenders. These employees appreciate free items and being able to represent their favourite brands while working. 52% of budtenders said that swag impacts brand recommendations.

Brand Training and Product Knowledge: Budtenders appreciate brand representatives that provide educational information, including COA data (terpenes, cannabinoids), growing practices, and more. This information can be communicated through emails, print materials, in-store visits and/or organized product knowledge training sessions. 

Free Products: This was listed as a separate item but includes free cannabis product samples along with merchandise, clothing, etc. 

Brand-Sponsored Events: Hosting and participating in cannabis-friendly events and expos is a great way for cannabis brands to interact with more budtenders and win their affinity. Bud Bash is a great example of a cannabis industry event focused on catering to budtenders.

Social Media Exposure: A number of budtenders listed social media exposure as important to them when considering which brands to recommend. Develop deeper connections with consumers by being active on social media, following “influential” budtenders and interacting with/re-posting their content.  

Friendly and Knowledgeable Sales Representatives: Having friendly and knowledgeable faces representing your brand is always an important key factor. People buy from people. If you have good individuals working for you, budtenders will naturally resonate toward recommending products from your company. It’s human nature. 

Brand Recommendations

There is a discrepancy between the brands that budtenders recommend to consumers most and the brands that they purchase and consume the most themselves. Some brands see higher rates of recommendation than budtender purchasing, while others are less likely to be recommended while budtenders still purchase. 

There are a few reasons for this. Budtenders are willing to spend more on cannabis than the consumers they sell products to because they are typically more passionate about the plant than your average consumer and see trying new offerings as beneficial to their job. Additionally, budtenders almost always get staff discounts that allow them to access higher-priced products at more affordable margins. Therefore, the most recommended brands may not offer the “best” products, but rather the best value per dollar.

Top 3 Cannabis Brands in Canada 2023 by Budtender Recommendations

Big LP vs Smaller Craft Producer Divide

Many of the most recommended and consumed cannabis brands by budtenders are owned by smaller-sized LPs and micro-producers. Conversely, among the least recommended brands are many large, publicly traded Licensed Producers. It seems that your average budtender is more likely to have an affinity for companies they see as underdogs or “craft” versus corporate or conglomerate cannabis. This phenomenon is clear when exploring brands budtenders call out as ones they purchase and recommend, which include Ghost Drops, Carmel, and BLKMKT.

The Most Impactful Marketing Strategies to Persuade Budtenders


  • Pop-ups: Brand activations in-store with reps, free merch, other limited perks.
  • Store displays: tent cards, sell sheets, consumer-facing installations. The most mentioned example from budtenders was Ghost Drops’ unique collectible trading cards that provide information about each of their individual strains.
  • Promotions, bundles and sales: different price-based promotions, bundles and deals for budtenders/retail stores to pass along to their consumers to sell more product. Includes more controversial practices including “data deals”.


  • Product knowledge sessions: having brand representatives in-store during and outside of retail hours to educate budtenders on a brand’s current and upcoming products is impactful.
  • Helpful digital presence: having educational information on your social media pages and website helps educate budtenders and equip them with the tools they need to sell your product.


  • Swag/free giveaways: giving away merchandise and clothing to both budtenders and their in-store customers is a great way to win budtender affinity.
  • Contests/raffles: giving away other experiences, event tickets, merchandise, etc for budtenders and their in-store customers is a great way to win budtender affinity.

Branding and Digital Marketing

  • Social media: social media campaigns help budtenders learn about new products and brands. Budtenders appreciate brands that interact with them and share their content on social media.
  • Good branding: a decent percentage of budtenders say that the quality and uniqueness of a cannabis company’s branding is important to them and helps them sell and recommend their products.
  • Informational website: having an informational website where budtenders can go to learn more about your brand and offerings is something that many budtenders mentioned in this study.

The Future of Budtenders in the Canadian Cannabis Industry

Budtenders will likely remain one of the primary keys to success for aspiring cannabis companies in Canada and abroad. The retail model in Canada has made it so that budtender recommendations are one of the predominant factors in brand success or failure. Even as some of the country’s most prominent brands move to their own direct-to-consumer retail models or exclusive partnerships with select retailers, the majority of brands will want to continue to pour resources into developing and strengthening relationships with budtenders across the regions they service. Those that invest in these relationships and motivating factors will see success and growth in the future.

Last Updated on May 15, 2023 by ADCANN



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