4 questions to answer before shopping for a cannabis packaging machine

Danielle Ohl


As the market for legal cannabis products expands, brands will need to address production efficiency in addition to shelf impact, safety, and sustainability in its packaging.

Many top players in the industry are investing in cannabis packaging machines to accomplish their goals for growth and performance in a competitive and ever-changing market.

If you're a cannabis company interested in how packaging automation can change your business, chances are you have a bunch of questions and aren't quite sure how to get started.

So first things first: Before even starting your shopping for a cannabis packaging machine, be prepared with answers to a few basic questions that equipment manufacturers will surely ask. Knowing these things will ensure your research and price quotes will be thorough, accurate, and you will be in a position to make confident decisions when the time comes.

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1. What am I packaging?

Perhaps the most important question to answer, it almost seems too simple. Of course you know what you're packaging inside and out...but the machine supplier likely doesn't. And your product and its properties make all the difference when it comes to selecting a packaging machine that does what you need it to do.

The cannabis packaging machine supplier will need to know specific details about your product like:

  • Is your product sticky or dry?
  • If your product is a powder, does it flow freely?
  • If your product is a liquid, what is its viscosity?
  • How much product by weight needs to be in each bag?

Basically, the more detail you can provide the equipment supplier about the products you want to package on the automated system, the smoother the shopping and purchasing process will be in the long run.

2. What kind of shelf life do I expect?

To ensure preservative-free freshness and shelf stability, many food packagers have been using something called Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) for many years. This technology also happens to be very useful in the cannabis industry because it preserves freshness and maintains potency.

So how does Modified Atmosphere Packaging work? These packaging automation "add-ons" decrease the package content’s exposure to oxygen, which is one of the main causes of product spoilage. There are three types of MAP that apply to cannabis packaging: gas flushing, barrier films, and scavenger or desiccant packs.

  • Gas flushing. During the packaging process, a gas (typically nitrogen) is used to displace the ambient oxygen within the package. Nitrogen gas flushing delays oxidation, decreases the growth of aerobic spoilage organisms, provides a cushion for package contents, and helps maintain package conformity.
  • Barrier packaging. Many packagers use special laminated packaging films that create and maintain a desired atmosphere within the package. These high-barrier packaging materials prevent the permeation of things like water, oxygen, aroma, and light.
  • Scavenger or desiccant packs. These small sachets are added to the contents of the package. The ingredients in the sachet absorb ambient moisture and oxygen.

3. What are the legal requirements of my package?

In the cannabis industry, there are strict regulations on how much the weight of your packages can vary. To ensure your packages are filled within these tight tolerances, a high-accuracy scale is a must. Scales are purchased in addition to your main packaging machine and then are integrated by the equipment supplier so they work seamlessly together.

In addition to strict weight tolerances, there are state-specific requirements for cannabis packaging that include things like package design, marketing terms and claims allowed, and (perhaps most importantly) child-resistant closures. To ensure compliance, many cannabis companies opt for the highest level of package security. Automated packaging machines can easily accommodate child-resistant features on flexible packages; simply let your packaging machine manufacturer know what requirements you must meet.

Remember: Packaging equipment manufacturers are experts in packaging automation, not the law. While most of us make every effort to keep on top of the latest changes in our primary markets, we are not experts in your trading area. Make sure you know the rules. We will help you follow them.  

4. What is my budget?

Like any business, it’s important to ensure your investment fits within your budget and is likely to yield a return. The price of your equipment is entirely based on your needs and specifications. The more you know about your machine’s requirements, the easier it is to estimate the potential purchase cost. More complex, customized, or faster machines usually require a bigger financial commitment.

A great way to find out if packaging automation is the right financial decision for your business is to run the numbers, calculating things like ROI and payback period. Knowing these numbers will allow for an apples-to-apples comparison when shopping and will give you confidence when decision time comes.

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