Thanks to changing norms, new laws and the hard work of talented design and packaging agencies, marijuana is finally moving beyond pot leaves and Woodstock-era hippies and getting a much needed branding makeover.
“People are getting tired of the High Times, Cheech and Chong stereotypes, and ready to bring brands out with their own ethos and narrative,” says Zack Darling, co-founder of the The Hybrid Creative, a Santa Rosa cannabis creative agency. Headquartered in Santa Rosa, California, The Hybrid Creative—recently acquired by Kush Bottles—specializes in insightful brand storytelling, savvy market strategies and custom web applications for the cannabis industry. Darling, a self-proclaimed “brand therapist,” and his team are largely responsible for elevating cannabis packaging to appeal to today’s cannabis consumers. And just who is today’s cannabis consumer? The answer is everyone: moms, senior citizens, fitness enthusiasts, pet lovers and foodies.
Laurel Gregory, creative director at The Hybrid Creative, recommends brands use a method she calls “Be, Do, Say” in order to remain authentic and avoid common pitfalls.
Be - “Be the authentic brand you know you can be. Embrace your idealistic self and set the standards you believe in.”
Do - “Do the things necessary to ensure you’re truly walking your talk. Set guidelines with your employees so everyone feels safe and respected. Reduce that carbon footprint. Raise the quality of your product. Go get that certification of high farming standards. Donate to good causes. All of this will deeply grow the value of your company and the pride you take in it.”
Say - “Then, and only then, do you Say. Tell the world about how high-integrity your brand is. Pull out the fancy words and graphics. Stand on the mountain top and profess to the world how awesome your brand truly is. When you have your ‘Be, Do, Say’ in order, your brand is ironclad and bulletproof.”
Maximizing ‘mini’ packaging for cannabis concentrates
Most cannabis consumers don’t want to be responsible for bulky packaging that can’t easily fit in a purse, backpack or even in the pocket of a pair of jeans. In today’s on-the-go lifestyle, convenience is key. Since the majority of products are shifting away from traditional dry plants, new options make it more important to have smaller packaging. Smaller packaging also means that brands lose out on available space for printing its logo and marketing message. All design elements must be on-brand in order to compensate for this.
Since cannabis consumers will need access to their products on a regular basis, the quality of the box is key. Reusability and being reclosable are also major factors to consider when finding the right packaging for edibles, tinctures and concentrates. In other words, downsizing to a smaller size shouldn’t reduce the precise design and functionality of the packaging. Being easy to open and easy to store are important in creating packaging that is functional and secure. The aesthetics of the package also must maintain the brand message, despite being opened (potentially) dozens of times throughout the product’s lifetime.
CANNABIS TREND FOCUS: EDIBLES
Edibles are on track to become a profitable market for brand owners. Consumers in California snacked on more than $180 million worth of marijuana-infused food and drinks last year.*
Other states are also seeing a growing edibles market. Sales of cannabis-infused treats increased 121% in Washington state last year, where recreational marijuana is legal, according to cannabis analytics firm Headset Inc.
And since Colorado first allowed recreational marijuana use, sales tripled from $17 million in the first quarter of 2014 to $53 million in the third quarter of 2016.*
What makes them so popular? Edibles attract first-time users and more female consumers than concentrates and oils. Edibles also appeal to people who prefer not to smoke. With such a large demographic to market to, BRANDPackaging asked full-service printing and packaging solutions provider JohnsByrne to offer insight on what to consider when packaging edibles.
3 PACKAGING RECOMMENDATIONS FOR EDIBLES
by Pate Gustafson, PARTNER & EXECUTIVE V.P. at JohnsByrne Company
1. Luxury design
Cannabis edibles are the newest and most convenient way to ingest cannabis. While the market has no shortage of edible products, edibles are considered more of a delicacy. Just like ordering dessert when eating out, it’s considered a treat. This makes room for brands wanting to showcase a more luxurious image. It also means that other brands need to focus on getting their packaging presentation right if they want to compete in a crowded edible marketplace where brands are striving to convey a simple elegance.
2. Provide Instructions
With many varieties of edibles, tinctures or concentrates, the products must be designed to educate the consumer right on the box. Since products and dosage requirements may change significantly from brand to brand, it’s imperative that companies find a way to package smaller items that still impart the necessary product directions to their consumers.
3. Be Discrete
Most cannabis consumers (medical and recreational) require discretion. People typically don’t openly share which prescription pills they take, nor do they want their medical history to become public knowledge. These same privacy constraints are felt by cannabis users, and companies should always aim to err on the side of caution rather than being bold in their packaging.
Making products with ambiguous yet refined on-trend designs can help consumers feel more comfortable when purchasing cannabis.
California Drops Proposed Permanent Cannabis Regulations
On July 16, three days before BRANDPackaging went to press, all three agencies (Department of Public Health, Department of Food and Agriculture, and the Bureau of Cannabis Control) overseeing California’s implementation of MAUCRSA dropped proposed permanent regulations that will eventually replace the readopted emergency regulations that are active now. The below regulations are just proposed; they are not in effect and they won’t be in effect until after the 45-day public comment period so long as the agencies move to adopt them without changes. Highlights regarding packaging from the three agencies include:
Some notable changes to their definitions of certain cannabis terms. For example, the term “concentrate” now includes inhaled products (such as shatter, dab or wax) and “edible cannabis product” and would include “a cannabis product that resembles traditional foods or beverages and cannabis products that dissolve or disintegrate in the mouth.” They’ve also proposed the terms “infused pre-roll,” which would mean “a pre-roll into which cannabis concentrate or other ingredients have been incorporated” and “orally-consumed concentrate” to mean “cannabis concentrates that are consumed by mouth and are not otherwise considered edibles.”
Edible potency limitations are staying the same (no more than 10 mg of THC per serving and no more than 100 mg per package), but “orally-dissolving” edibles can have up to 500 milligrams THC per package, if: (1) The cannabis product consists of discrete servings of no more than 10 milligrams THC per piece; (2) The cannabis product is labeled “FOR MEDICAL USE ONLY;” and (3) The cannabis product is only available for sale to a medicinal-use customer.
You can’t manufacture, prepare, package or label cannabis products in a location operating as a retail food establishment or as a processed food registrant, and you can’t do the same in any location licensed by the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.
You can’t manufacture, prepare, package or label any products other than cannabis products at a licensed premises. “Cannabis products” also includes packaged cannabis, pre-rolls and products that do not contain cannabis, but are otherwise identical to the cannabis-containing product, and are intended for use as samples.
There are now increased packaging and labeling requirements for pre rolls and dried flower, and the labeling requirements generally for all products have increased.
Use of the word organic (or any variation of that word) on any product label is now going to be false or misleading unless the National Organic Program (the federal regulatory program governing organic food) “authorizes organic designation and certification for cannabis and the cannabis or cannabis product meets the requirements for such designation and certification.”
Child-resistant packaging would be eliminated, but tamper-evident packaging would still be required for cannabis products.
Retail exit packaging has to be resealable, child-resistant and opaque.