With a growing number of states now choosing legalization, the recreational and medical cannabis markets are in a meteoric growth phase. Demand for cannabis is at an all-time high, but growers and extractors are dealing with a unique set of challenges in bringing new products to market. With state regulations constantly expanding and evolving, packaging codes can differ from state to state, making things very confusing. Beyond the regulatory challenges, traditional and online marketing programs are approached with great caution by ganjapreneurs, as federal law still prohibits the growing, using, and selling of cannabis products.

The heightened role of packaging

While established industries such as spirits, cosmetics, and nutraceuticals use extensive marketing, advertising, fancy websites and key sponsorships to sell their products, the cannabis market is still young and many entrepreneurs are unprepared to invest at that scale. Moreover, regulatory concerns mean that growers and extractors must proceed carefully with the marketing and advertising of their brand. Without these expensive and far-reaching tools, companies must find unique ways to launch their brand, build a customer base, and meet packaging requirements such as child-resistance and labeling.

The role of packaging is huge as it needs to do a lot of things, including position the brand, demonstrate safety, distinguish product lines, and attract both the savvy and first-time user — who will be inundated with choices of flavors, strains, potency, and quality. With new brands and products hitting the market, the demand for distinctive, safe and compelling packaging from experienced packaging vendors is enormous while the availability of good options is limited.

Changing perceptions about cannabis products

As the country’s view of marijuana use relaxes, product packaging is playing a central role in shaping the way consumers and governments perceive the legitimacy and safety of cannabis products. Cannabis packaging is evolving at light speed from plastic baggies/jars to highly sophisticated and certified child-resistant designs that rival those used in traditional consumer products. Changing perceptions also means using packaging to educate and strongly position the product to command different price points. Customers are far more likely to believe in the quality and safety of a cannabis product if it is well packaged as opposed to using bags/jars only. A consumer’s decision to buy is driven by great packaging and it’s precisely why a cosmetic customer might pay $100+ for a lavish carton with a small tube of anti-aging cream — perceived value!

Outer packaging is one of the most important factors in a go-to-market strategy. While the market share map is still forming, it is imperative that companies in the cannabis industry gain and keep early market share. A great deal of thought and research should go into determining a comprehensive packaging strategy that is effective in creating a first and lasting connection with the target audience.

Cannabis packaging should be tasteful and unique, but responsibly functional above all else.

Edibles and safe packaging

Edibles come in a wide array of shapes, sizes, and flavors — from mints, chocolate bars, gummy bears, to infused drinks and every delivery vehicle in between. Edibles pose special challenges to manufacturers as there are state regulations for packaging to protect children and prevent them from consuming the THC-infused versions of their favorite treats/snacks. Long before a new cannabis edible product is launched, the primary or secondary package may need to be CRC (child-resistant-certified). In some states, CRC may not be the only requirement. Additional requirements may include non-see through (opaque) cartons and re-closable designs for multi-serving cannabis products.

Navigating these requirements and translating them into packaging solutions that are safe, yet true to their brand, is something cannabis companies need and the easiest solution is often to seek out experienced packaging suppliers who can help them.

Speed-to-market

Product is ready to launch, but packaging isn’t? Or has your packaging arrived and it looks far different than envisioned?

When bringing a new product to market, speed is of the essence. This is when market experience and the technology used by packaging manufacturers will come into play in a big way. Slow development, poor quality, reworks, and long lead times are just a few spoilers to success and ROI. These common pitfalls can be avoided when partnering with a packaging supplier who is turnkey, has streamlined development, and can execute a packaging vision with speed-to-market.

A final word

Packaging plays a critical role in any industry. For the cannabis industry, packaging means more than just a pretty outside. It can greatly differentiate and establish a brand on the market and solidify its market share. Moreover, packaging is central to meeting regulatory demands for safety and quality.

With so many changes going on in the industry, cannabis entrepreneurs should seek out experienced packaging suppliers to help them hit the market and establish their brands for the future.

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