In the Cannabis Industry, Differentiation Is Key

  • by , Op-Ed Contributor, June 29, 2017

Cannabis product packaging, specifically within the edibles and extracts segments, have come a long way in the first few years of adult recreational use. The color palette has expanded well beyond the Rasta spectrum and graphics are no longer trapped in the stoner culture of hand-drawn red eyes and pot leaves. 

We’ve seen products go from being brownies wrapped in cellophane sealed with a printed mailing label, to mimicking what you might find in high-end presentations of gourmet foods and cosmetics. Examples of this elevated level of branding can be seen in products from companies such as Defonce Chocolatier, Lola Lola and Beboe.

This evolution does not start and end with edibles. Cannabis vaporizer pen packaging, such as Pax, is sleek enough to catch the eyes of even the most experienced electronics shoppers. 



However, this design does not come without a cost. Have you ever unboxed a high-end vaporizer from its endless layers of childproof packaging? Sometimes it can feel as if the cost of packaging exceeds the cost of the items they’re carrying. These expenses are certainly something to keep in mind as you’re calculating your margins. In the as-yet-untaxed markets, expensive packaging may not be sustainable once taxation begins.  

With more and more products hitting dispensary shelves weekly, packaging can help producers differentiate their product line in a flooded market. Putting your product in a custom die-cut box with a Soft Touch finish could be the trick to setting your goods apart from the crowd. However, it is important to stay wary of accruing expenses that don’t fit into your budget. Companies should keep an eye on their packaging costs relative to what is going on in their segment of the market.

Packaging by product type will likely standardize as regulations, consumer behavior, and mandates from the retailers dictate. We saw this happen in the cellphone case industry — the market leader determined the form factor, consumers expected and looked for it, and retail ultimately required it. Once a standard is set, the producers’ ability to gain market share simply by delivering a product in unprecedented packaging will likely become limited.

Where producers should look to make wins is in the area of written and graphical packaging messaging Opportunities exist in informing the consumer about the product as it is relevant to them now. Talking about natural and organic means of production, as well as the certifications and testing scores of the product, will help assure consumers that they are getting clean, healthy, and safe products. Consumer desire for reassurance is sure to increase as consumption ramps up, as we saw in Colorado after pesticide-tainted products warranted business-devastating recalls.  

There is the prospect of creating graphical representations in support of allaying consumer concerns, as well as for potency, serving size, and type of effect. If you’re able to find the right people to work with, all of these things and more could develop into the industry standard for your state. And that’s a great place to be if you hope to be an industry leader in your product category — working with regulators to help drive the inevitable standardization.

If you have been to industry events and trade shows, you know that they are chock full of packaging companies. Some are homegrown and some are more mainstream, but all are ready to help with all of your packaging needs. These ancillary companies bring with them experience and scale and are great resources for finding just the right mix of cost and shelf appeal. They can produce your finished pieces or assist with initial concepts and designs for organizations lacking design vision.

This is an exciting time to be in our developing industry. We are all innovators and our creations of today are likely to set the standards for the future. So, when you’re brainstorming packaging ideas with your team, take a moment to reflect on the fact that you just may be developing something equivalent to the next aluminum beverage can, snack bag, or candy wrapper. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Next story loading loading..