6 factors to consider when upgrading your cannabis packaging

Danielle Ohl

cannabis in clear bag.jpg

With legalization in many US states and nationwide in Canada, purchasing cannabis products today is modern, safe, and sophisticated.

Cannabis product packaging, however, has some catching up to do.

To penetrate new markets and legitimize a once taboo product, top players in the industry realize that upgrading their packaging from the 'clear plastic baggie' of the past is vital.

So don't treat the packaging of your legal cannabis product as an afterthought, give it the attention it rightfully deserves!

Here are 5 factors to consider:

1. Types of cannabis packaging

Cannabis products can be found in many different packaging formats, from glass jars to cartons to tins to plastic bags and pouches. Each package type has its own advantages and disadvantages, but we are seeing explosive growth in using flexible pouches and bags for cannabis products, especially edibles and powders. Here's why:

Flexible packaging has distinct advantages, top among them being: They are economical in cost, lightweight and cheaper to ship, surprisingly sustainable, and consumers LOVE their convenience.

So what bag types does this emerging industry prefer? For the most part, we see legal cannabis products packaged in 3 different formats:

Viking-Masek-Doy-Style-Bag-for-Packaging.pngStand-up pouches (Doypacks) 

With a flat top and an oval-shaped bottom, these eye-catching, modern bags can stand unassisted and offer a lot of space for branding and labeling. Already known to consumers for their use in the food industry, Doypacks offer familiar comfort to consumers that may be anxious about trying cannabis products.

Offering a sophisticated look and feel, stand-up pouches are great for products with a premium price point like cannabis edibles.

Doypacks look best when they are purchased premade and then loaded onto an automatic weighing and filling machine for packaging.

stickpack-bag.pngStick packs

Stick packs are long, narrow bags that are widely used for single-serve powder and liquid products. Sealed horizontally at the top and bottom with a long vertical seal, stick packs are convenient and small enough to be discretely carried.

In the legal cannabis world, they are used for products like drink mixes and freeze pops.

Stick packs are created on multi-lane stick pack machines.

Viking-Masek-Pillow-Style-Bag-for-Packaging.pngPillow bags

The simplest and most economical of all bags, the pillow bag is like a larger, wider stick pack. Very versatile, this package type is used widely across many industries.

Pillow bags are great for mass production as they can be produced very quickly with packaging automation. However, if you are looking to position your product as luxurious, it may not be the best option (see instead Doypack, above).

Pillow bags can be formed, filled, and sealed quickly and easily on a variety of different VFFS machines.

2. Design and target market

Since being legalized in different areas, cannabis products have reached entirely new demographics that include young professionals, moms and dads, and even grandparents! These consumers may be hesitant to try cannabis because of the stigma associated with the product in the past. Part of packaging’s job is to put the consumer at ease and reassure them that they are buying a legitimate, legal, safe product.

So how exactly can packaging do all that? By imparting a consumer experience of familiarity, luxury, and simplicity. Stand-up premade pouches (Doypacks) have been winning in the cannabis edible market for these reasons. They are a recognizable packaging format with a premium look and feel. Stand-up pouches offer a ton of surface area for labeling and branding, and give the product a small-batch quality that modern consumers love.

However, remember that when creating your cannabis packaging, design choices should not inadvertently appeal to those NOT in your target market...namely children. Bright, eye-catching graphics, cartoons, and use of words like ‘candy’ and ‘cookies’ may feel right from a marketing perspective but could attract the attention of children and may even be illegal in your area.

Sticking with a minimalistic but sophisticated and timeless design will not only position your product well but will save you a lot of hassle and redesign expenses.

3. Legal requirements

Legal cannabis products must adhere to a unique set of requirements that often depend on the company’s location. These rules can mandate things like:

  • Font size required on the package label
  • Legal warnings that must be posted on the package
  • Child resistant closures
  • Tamper evident features
  • Design and branding
  • Marketing that implies certain health claims
  • Packaging opacity and permeability

Because regulations are very specific and ever-evolving, it's vital to devote time to properly research the rules prior to committing to packaging or equipment. Manufacturers of packaging materials and machines will often have a grasp of the laws but it is ultimately up to the customer to make sure their packaging meets regulations.

4. Safety factors

While child-resistant packaging for cannabis products is not required by law in all areas, packaging design experts advise to add it as standard anyway. The laws seem to only get more restrictive as time goes on, so adding child-resistant features to your bags in the first place can save you from an expensive future redesign.

Plus, showing consumers that you care about product safety and minimizing the risk of access to children instills confidence and trust in your brand.

5. Cannabis freshness and potency factors

When exposed to the elements (especially oxygen), the shelf life and potency of cannabis products is degraded. When you are selling premium products like cannabis, you need to make sure customer experience is top-notch. A stale or less efficacious product will lead them into the arms of your competitors.

So how do you make sure your products stay fresher longer? Modified atmosphere packaging (MAP), that's how. Many top cannabis companies use a MAP solution called nitrogen gas flush as part of their packaging process. This technology pumps harmless nitrogen gas into the inside of packages before they are sealed shut. The nitrogen gas displaces the oxygen, thereby delaying oxidation and spoilage.

6. Cannabis packaging process

Will you be manually packaging your legal cannabis product by hand or are you considering automating with cannabis packaging machinery?

If you plan to hand-fill and seal your cannabis bags, packaging experts recommend choosing a bag style with a wide-mouth top to accommodate a scoop or filling apparatus.

Additionally, remember that hand-packing over a long period of time, especially when demand for your product is increasing, is by far NOT the most efficient and cost-effective option. If you already use - or are considering the purchase of - automated cannabis packaging machines, your bag style options are almost unlimited.

Modern cannabis packaging machines can easily accommodate multiple bag styles and sizes. They allow you to speed up production of your product at a moment's notice. When coupled with a high-accuracy multi-head scale, your cannabis products can be weighed to within a tenth of a gram, even at high speeds. Have child-resistant closures? Not a problem with a packing machine.

Need help getting started with cannabis packaging equipment?

Download our First-Time Buyer's Guide for expert advice that will help you throughout the entire shopping, vetting, purchasing, and manufacturing process.

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