Cannabis Product Packaging: Six Top Tips
November 14, 2019
The global packaging market for cannabis products is expected to surpass $20.4 billion by 2025, according to a new report from Zion Market Research. Steve Everly, brand director of WestPack and The Cannabis Packaging Summit, Informa Markets offers tips to create effective cannabis packaging, navigate changing rules, and avoid costly recalls.
Capture Your Intended Audience’s Attention
Packaging plays a foundational role in reassuring consumers that they are purchasing a legitimate, legal, and safe product, by imparting a consumer experience of familiarity, luxury, and simplicity. Stand-up pre-made pouches for example, have been winning in the cannabis edible market. They are a recognizable packaging format with a premium look and feel, they offer a good amount of surface area for labeling and branding, and they give the product a small-batch feeling that attracts modern consumers.
Be mindful of design choices that inadvertently appeal to children. Bright, eye-catching graphics, cartoons, and use of words like “candy” and “cookies” may make sense from a marketing perspective but run the risk of attracting the attention of children (and regulators.) A minimal, yet sophisticated and timeless design will position the product well and save time and redesign expenses as consumer preferences evolve.
Make Sure It’s Fresh and Potent
For flower specifically, when exposed to the elements (especially oxygen), the shelf life and potency of the product are degraded. One way to ensure product stays fresher longer is to use a Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) solution called nitrogen gas flush as part of the packaging process. This technology pumps harmless nitrogen gas inside packages before they are sealed shut. The nitrogen gas displaces the oxygen, delaying oxidation and spoilage.
Sustainable and ethical business practices increasingly fuel consumer spending habits, a trend largely shaped by the millennial and Gen-Z demographic. In fact, according to Nielson, almost half of U.S. shoppers say they’ll change their consumption habits to benefit the environment.
While the cannabis industry is experiencing unprecedented growth, it is also creating a tremendous amount of packaging waste. There was an estimated 10,000 tons of packaging waste generated in the first year of legalization in Canada alone, due to the utilization of hard-to-recycle plastics that end up in landfills.
Companies such as Sana Packaging are attempting to solve cannabis’ plastic waste problem by using 100 percent plant-based hemp plastic, 100 percent reclaimed ocean plastic, and other sustainable materials. Applying innovative packaging technology, creating eco-friendly packaging, and investing in sustainable practices such as the accordion, or peel-back labels that reduce the amount of waste created by product packaging, helps brands not only reach environmentally conscious consumers but also make an impact on a growing global issue.
Keep Children Safe
The rise in medical and recreational cannabis use means millions of cannabis products will make their way into homes. That can lead to unintended exposure to and access by children. Each state has their own specific packaging requirements and by January 1, 2020, all cannabis product packaging must be child-resistant by law.
Cannabis companies will need to submit to Child Resistant Packaging (CRP) parameters set by the Consumer Product and Safety Commission. Approval requires that packaging be certified as child-resistant and undergoes rigorous testing to prevent child access. Packaging testing by a third party is an important, yet commonly missed step, that cannabis product companies need to pay attention to.
Many cannabis players have already begun implementing CRP parameters in packaging, and the industry has seen an emergence of innovation and clever designs that leave the contents inaccessible to even the most dedicated child, while ensuring the intended user is able to open the product. An ongoing related challenge however is that cannabis is used by a number of disabled and elderly consumers who must be able to access the product without issue.
A few of the most commonly used safety measures include exit bags, push-and-twist caps, squeeze-and-pull-designs, metal tins, and metered dosing with locking features.
Don’t Forget Compliance Labeling
For brands creating a product to be sold at a dispensary, it’s important to consider the regulatory labeling that will appear on the final product that is delivered to consumers. There needs to be enough surface area to make certain the packaging identity is not lost among compliance stickers. That said, because federal and municipal regulations governing cannabis are complex and compliance laws are unique to the District of Columbia and the eleven states cannabis is legalized in for adult use – Alaska, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington – the regulations on what is required on packaging varies across state lines.
From a retailer’s perspective, it’s imperative to educate salespeople about where to place required labels, so they do not obscure important information on the packaging.
Cannabis regulations vary across city, state and county lines, and are changing as well, so compliance issues exist throughout the entire landscape. Packaging and labeling are an important part of dealing with those changes. Instead of guessing what the new regulations will be and when they will be rolled-out, companies should proactively go beyond the current requirements. This could potentially save time and money on reprints down the line.
It's vital to devote time to properly research the rules prior to committing to packaging or equipment purchases. Manufacturers of packaging materials and machines will often have a grasp of the laws, but it is ultimately up to the retailer to make sure their packaging meets regulations when determining which product to place on their shelves.