Cannabis: A Booming Industry
The cannabis industry is growing at an unprecedented rate, reaching $6.7 billion in sales in 2016 and is set to grow to $50 billion by 2026. While it may still feel like this industry is relatively new (at least legally), the level of sophistication in the design and marketing of cannabis brands is rapidly accelerating. According to Ted Corless’ blog News Munchies, “Cannabis connoisseurs now care about the way marijuana has been manicured, the density of the bud, and the way it looks in a jar. Plus, cannabis packaging is everything. Some of the sought-after strains are coming to us direct from celebrities, who mix brand and business seamlessly.”
Competing in the Retail Environment
With competition on the rise and regulation in flux from state to state, there is a lot for “potpreneurs” to consider when developing their product packaging, retail display, and marketing. The quality of your product alone is not enough - you must grab the attention of and educate the consumer within the retail environment to increase you market share and make meaningful sales. With this in mind, we have assembled 10 must-know pieces of information and guidance collected from the packaging experts at The BoxMaker who work directly with the cannabis industry on a daily basis.
#1: Branding is KEY
Primary packaging in the cannabis industry is relatively similar in size and shape across brands - from Mylar bags and pouches to tubes and jars. Because of these similarities, well-crafted branding is the best way to stand out amongst the rest on the shelf. Adding print directly to your packaging or attaching a colorful label is an absolute MUST to appeal to consumers. Ensure that your branding is cohesive across products, and that you make a strong first impression. That doesn’t mean your product needs to be the “loudest” one on the shelf - many designer cannabis brands are opting for clean and simple looks, which translates to an easy option for shoppers. Consumers will often choose the product with the better branding and associate it with higher quality.
#2: Let Your Product Speak for Itself
Many budtenders may not have tried the product you are selling, and as a result might not sell it very well. By enhancing your packaging with content that can be scanned via smartphone and linked to your company website, additional product information, customer reviews and more, potential buyers can learn more about your product right in the retail environment while they have it in their hand or while viewing your display behind the counter. Linked content provided at the right moment can be the additional piece of education needed to convert a prospective customer into a raving fan.
#3: Don’t Forget to Educate the Dispensaries, Too!
Many growers are using sample kits to market their product to dispensaries. A custom corrugated box that displays your product and branding well makes a great first impression and can peak the business’ interest in your merchandise. Digital print provides a great solution for short-run orders of boxes like these where full-color graphics are highly impactful.
#4: Maximize Shelf Presence in Limited Space
Safety and security are top priorities for cannabis retailers. By law, all dispensaries must have cannabis products locked up - which means glass cases are the norm in this environment. Due to the space limits this creates, brands should maximize their presence with a compact and highly graphic retail display, making the most of their constrained real estate behind the glass.
#5: Know the Rules Where You Grow
It seems obvious, but ensuring you stay up-to-date with the laws in the state you grow and distribute your product in is key. Each has its own set of rules and regulations and they all differ in some way. Remember: no cannabis can travel out of the state it’s grown in!
#6: Respond with Agility to Safety and Regulatory Labeling
From state to state and year to year, the safety and regulatory labeling requirements for cannabis products are ever changing. Because of this, your packaging and labels often must be updated to meet the new or revised laws. Traditional print methods such as flexo and litho-lam can have high costs of entry due to the required purchase of print plates and relatively high minimum volume orders. And all this investment can quickly go to waste when a new law goes into effect and you’re left with unused packaging inventory on your hands. With the development of high quality digital print at an affordable price point for both labels and corrugated packaging, brands are now able to order in the exact quantities needed to package their supply until the next big change is here, and then adapt quickly to that change without needing to purchase new plates - they can simply update their digital graphics file and place their next order! Because most cannabis brands sell several different strains and have uniquely labeled packaging for each, the savings with digital print can be significant considering the number of print versions alone. Find more information on digital print here.
#7: Experiment, Experiment, Experiment
Cannabis brands are in a unique position to take advantage of the industry’s rapid growth and consumer enthusiasm to truly push their branding to new heights and discover better ways to connect with their audience through packaging. Digital print offers so many options to get creative with your shelf presentation, and you can switch up your artwork easily without a big re-investment of startup costs. Quick iterations to discover what resonates with your audience are easier than ever to achieve. And there’s plenty to play with, too - from product personalization to variable artwork, major consumer brands are showing what’s possible in shelf impact (and ROI) with these techniques. Cannabis brands who follow suit will surely reap the benefits.
#8: Buy in Bulk Where Possible
Not every piece of your packaging will have the potential to change as frequently as your labels. For primary packaging items such as pouches, bags, bottles and jars, order in bulk to reduce the per-item cost. Larger quantities = larger savings! If you are currently ordering in volumes based on what you will need for your next shipment or two, consider partnering with a packaging provider that offers warehousing and just-in-time inventory services. This way you can secure the cost savings of a large order, but only must store what you will immediately need.
#9: Save on Labor and Time with a Label Applicator
Adding a label applicator to your assembly line speeds up the process of packaging your product, meaning you can fulfill your orders quickly and add to your bottom line. If you’ve been in business for a few years with a consistent dispensary retail base, you should consider this time-saving option!
#10: Consider Your Packaging’s Production Timeline - Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute!
Because packaging plays such a large role in your product’s retail success, hopefully you are planning for its production timeline early on - you can’t afford not to. Traditionally printed packaging (flexo, litho-lam) can take over a month to produce. Luckily, digital print can deliver on projects in as little as 10-14 business days (5-10 for repeat orders). Talk to your packaging partner about their timeline and build it in to your schedule. Don’t give your packaging the short end of the stick and think of it last minute - it’s worth planning for.
Well, there you have it! 10 great pieces of information on packaging for canna-businesses, direct from the experts themselves. Remember, the only thing constant is change. For cannabis companies willing to combine planning and creativity, the sky is the limit for how high their businesses can fly.
If you have additional questions on packaging for your cannabis venture and would like to speak to one of our experts, contact The BoxMaker today.
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