Packaging is one of the most significant costs faced in the cannabis industry. Complying with regulations forces organizations to meet a minimum standard, which is beneficial in many ways, but it does increase costs. Many business owners are also concerned with environmental factors and would like to reduce their carbon footprint…which is also expensive.
Fortunately, there’s a shift happening in the industry right now, changes forced upon by COVID-19. Container shipping costs have increased 733% in the last two years because of labor shortages at most ports around the world. Continental shipping has also increased, especially due to the price of gas, but it remains more affordable than shipping overseas. That’s why many cannabis producers are switching to American supplies for packaging and materials.
This article will explore packaging trends for 2022, including solutions and ways to cut costs.
Cheap Options for Packaging
Before fully exploring the packaging options available to cannabis producers, we felt it was important to share some valuable lessons about “cheapening out”. A brand we love from Colorado, and have written about before is Cheeba Chews.
Eric Leslie, Chief Marketing Officer and co-owner of Cheeba Chews has learned that the cheapest option isn’t always the best option. Sometimes, it’s not even a cost-effective option. “Print errors, random defective units, and inconsistencies of appearance are all variables that seem to pop up more often when we work with the cheapest providers available” Leslie continues to advise: “You really have to micromanage the orders to ensure they’re consistently right. Always have a backup option. Sometimes you can see price creep in your orders. As a supplier tries to earn your business with a low-ball offer. They eventually need to gain those pennies back and you’ll find that in small increments on your subsequent orders.”
Keep It Green
Excess packaging annoys consumers, aim to lean out your materials and choose sustainable packaging instead. Not only will it appease your customers, but you’ll also feel better about your business practices.
This guide on sustainable packaging is great to check out. It dives into developing a sustainable packaging solution, showing that to be considered “sustainable” your packaging should meet these four standards:
- Materials are sourced locally/sustainably
- Its disposal options should be recyclable or compost friendly.
- It’s designed to meet industry standards and maintain quality.
- The production expense should also be feasible for years to come.
Read more about the need for sustainable cannabis packaging here.
Trends For 2022
A variety of emerging technologies, combined with shifts in how an average consumer shops’ is leading to more packaging innovations in many industries. Some popular trends that you might start seeing with your marijuana orders include:
1. DIGITIZATION AND AI: Using artificial intelligence (AI) to help improve our packaging sector seems too futuristic, but it is happening. Organizations are using AI to automate their packaging process, creating a more efficient practice, while improving product traceability.
While this new technology is starting to get used by manufacturers throughout the country, the cannabis sector can’t support this AI yet, because there aren’t any software applications that can collect and report the data required by the cannabis industry.
2. CONTRACT PACKAGING: As the pandemic dragged on in 2021, cannabis producers started forming partnerships. These new alliances are largely due to the labor shortages as well as a shift in consumer buying habits.
Contract packaging creates an option for an organization to reduce their packing, shipping, and labor, but aren’t ready to invest in their own equipment. It’s a great option for startups, but also for mature businesses. As Patrick Wlaznak, founder of Soulshine Cannabis in Washington says: “legacy companies like myself get tired of doing everything. You can try to find somebody else who has a better machine or a better system: they can make more joints, or they can process and package your materials faster and cheaper than you can.”
3. A FOCUS ON EFFICIENCY: Most CPG organizations have prioritized efficiency. Speed is a significant factor for many cannabis producers, once again mainly due to the shift in consumer buying habits over the past year. We expect to find what we want online, and after we have, we expect it to be delivered right away.
A great example of reworking current technology for the cannabis industry is potato chips. Chip manufacturers use vertical bagging, because of its precision and efficiency. With vertical bagging, a flexible thin material (chip bag) is formed around those tasty little chips as they drop through a tube, which is how they get the chips and the air in the bag at the same time. Efficient!
Vertical bagging would be a great way for cannabis producers to streamline their process, but such machines haven’t been reworked for the cannabis industry. Ideally, products such as pre-rolls, or single-use grams would use this packaging method.
It’s great to see so much forward momentum when it comes to solving these problems within the cannabis industry. The changes being made are a great start, we can’t help but think though; any significant change that will truly rock and transform the way we package our buds and products is not going to come from entrepreneurs or business leaders from outside of the cannabis industry. We can already see, many of the CPG companies that are entering our industry are more concerned with maintaining the status quo, instead of offering anything truly innovative. So, it seems our best packaging options are still out there and will likely come from a passionate cannabis entrepreneur such as yourself.