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    Meet Carmen Brace: The Emerging Trends Expert Who Founded The Ingenious Cannabis Insight Company Aclara Research

    Meet Carmen Brace: The Emerging Trends Expert Who Founded The Ingenious Cannabis Insight Company Aclara Research

    Carmen Brace is an emerging trends expert with vast experience at the intersection of cannabis, wellness, and the consumer packaged goods industry.

    She is a breakthrough strategic thinker with a successful career at the forefront of global CPG brands and entrepreneurship into emerging wellness trends. Her futurist mindset and pioneer work ethic led to the founding of one of the first dedicated cannabis consumer insights companies, Aclara Research. She published the first studies on cannabis and wellness in 2017, identifying CBD as an emerging functional food ingredient.

    Carmen is also a member of the Illinois Governor’s Committee on Cannabis and Health, serves on the board of directors for Chicago NORML, is an expert witness for the Illinois legislature, and a featured speaker across many of the industry’s top conferences.

    We had the opportunity to interview Carmen and gain insight into how Aclara Research came to be.

     Where are you from originally?

    I grew up in  University Park, a suburb far south of Chicago.  I’m also a first-generation immigrant, my family is from Trinidad and the US.

    What was the inspiration for the development of Aclara Research?

    When I realized that cannabis demand was driven by health and wellness needs – that demand wasn’t driven by getting high, it was about getting well.  This insight led me to think about future business needs – and the opportunity to launch a consulting and data company.

    How do you think the economy will benefit from this?

    Cannabis has the potential to improve quality of life indicators and improve GDP. The Journal of Pain reports that the annual cost of chronic pain in the US is as high as $635 billion a year. Pain is just one of the reasons that people regularly use cannabis.  If we can decrease pain levels, people become more productive. The $635 billion annual cost to society shows us how important this is to the economy.

    What was one thing you did that exceeded your expectations when you began developing Aclara Research?

    In 2017, I fielded the first studies of Illinois medical cannabis patients with a group of pharmacists.  We knew the results were significant  – over 65% stopped using opioids after using cannabis – but I was surprised at the level of media coverage we received.  Over 100 outlets covered the study!  At that time, I knew that my insights into cannabis and health would be important not only for clients but for the public.

    In what ways is cannabis shaping the future of CPG?

    Cannabis and other plant-based CPG products are the fastest-growing categories in the industry.  Plant-based products are projected to reach $162M by 2030  – an impressive 10-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19% which follows cannabis at an astounding 27% CAGR – the fastest-growing consumable product in the US.

    Cannabis is disruptive to CPG because it solves multiple need states for consumers much better than many products today.  Aclara Research shows that 68% of cannabis users choose cannabis products because they are “healthier” and “more effective” than traditional products like prescription drugs, OTC medications, and alcohol.  People want plant-based alternatives to solve their chronic needs for relaxation, better sleep, more focus, and more energy.  Cannabis can deliver on all these needs.

    What does success mean to you? What are your rules for success?

    Success means that if I die today, I have no regrets because I lived in alignment with my principles and followed my intuition to be the best version of myself. Mission accomplished.


    What are your thoughts on the rise of the cannabis and CBD wellness market, post-COVID?

    Not surprisingly, the pandemic has made people more concerned about their health. Ipsos, one of our cannabis research partners, reports that 62% of Americans are more concerned about their health post-pandemic.  As consumers search for products that provide health benefits, helping them to relax, decrease anxiety levels and sleep better – cannabis will continue to be the fastest-growing industry in the US.

    How do you handle comparisons between Aclara Research and that of other companies? What is one way you continue to distinguish your brand and stand apart?

    Since 2016, my business has focused on helping clients engage foresight capabilities to identify consumer behavior changes that lead to business disruption – and opportunity.  Cannabis is one of several consumer behavioral shifts – “signals” – that represent the importance of functional food ingredients in a comprehensive innovation strategy for CPG companies.

    What are the 2023 emerging trends for cannabis and CPG industries? 

    We want foods that are better for us, our perception of health and wellness is expanding – and we want to support businesses that are doing good in the world.  This will lead to key scenarios that will drive the industry.

    Focus on women’s health care will drive demand for cannabis to improve quality of life. Cannabis has shown to be an effective remedy for Autoimmune diseases which impact over 23 million people – and 82% are women.  Clinical research on CBD and other cannabinoids will lead to more effective medications with fewer side effects for women once cleared for use.

    ESG goals expand: CPG companies that commercialize cannabis products advocate to release cannabis prisoners from jail. Over 50% of consumers expect brands to take a stand on equality issues.  Traditional CPG companies with cannabis investments take an active stand to free cannabis prisoners from jail, adding momentum to President Bidens’ movement to pardon former prisoners.

    Can you tell us about your findings from your latest study, examining cannabis usage occasions and implications for various industries including CPG? 

    We partnered with Ipsos on the syndicated study “Cannabis, CBD and Wellness” of over 1000 consumers to understand the role of cannabis and CBD in America’s approach to mental and physical well-being.  This study identifies how, why, when, and where people begin to use cannabis products – which leads to decreasing the use of prescription drugs, OTC medications, and alcohol.  Over 50% stopped or decreased the use of these products after using cannabis — especially Millennials and Gen Z consumers.  We know that over 30% of US households have purchased legal cannabinoids (NielsenIQ, 2020) – so as more stores open across the US, more people will buy cannabis and CBD products.

    These consumers are also using emerging health products to manage, health, mood, and energy –  including nootropics, adaptogens, and psilocybin.  Our research shows that over 65% of these consumers are searching for new products to improve mental focus and sleep quality. Cannabis is one of many “new” products that they are using to improve their health.

    As CPG companies focus on capturing new wellness demand spaces, understand where emerging products like cannabis, mushrooms, and psilocybin fit in the product consideration set – and why consumers are choosing them.

    The Fox Magazine is all about inspiration, what/who inspires you the most?

    I’m inspired by Harriet Tubman. She escaped slavery in 1849 and then chose to become a conductor of the Underground Railroad to help hundreds of others. A Patriot that believed in freedom so deeply that she risked torture and death to help others secure their own.

    What’s something people would be surprised to learn about you?

    I like to crochet blankets for family and friends.  My grandmother taught me how to crochet when I was very little, and I find the process very cathartic.

    What is your favorite or original innovation-related motto, quote, or words to live by?

    I’m a fan of Daniel Burnham, who was an early futurist. His 1909 Plan for Chicago focused on transforming the city from a transportation hub to a culturally relevant, beautiful, and business-friendly city.

    “Make no Small Plans; They Have no Magic to Stir people’s Blood. Make Big Plans, Aim High in Hope and Work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will never die, but long after we are gone will be a living thing, asserting itself with ever-growing insistency.” -Daniel Burnham

    Connect with Carmen Brace!

    1 Comment

    • Joseph Friedman
      January 13, 2023

      I am thrilled to know Carmen and have always enjoyed working with her. Carmen is a trend setter and is on the cutting edge of meshing CBD, Cannabis and psychotropics into CPG organizations.

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    Meet Carmen Brace: T…

    by Delaney Alexander Time to read this article: 17 min