Brands can live or die by their packaging. All the master growers, rare genetics, THC percentages, charitable donations, social media influencers and celebrity endorsements won’t save a brand without shelf appeal.
It seems unfair, especially in an industry that mandates childproof packaging on top of stringent labeling requirements, that a superior product in poor packaging could be so easily outsold by an inferior product in appealing packaging. But, like any other consumer packaged good, consumers place value on well-produced packaging.
To help level the playing field, Marijuana Venture reached out to leaders in consumer packaging to give readers insight on the many variables of building appealing packaging for retail buyers and consumers alike.
Marijuana Venture: Please introduce yourself and how you became a part of the cannabis packaging industry.
The Packaging Company chief operations officer, Michael Salemi: I’m Michael Salemi, C.O.O. of The Packaging Company and president of Ningbo IMS, our manufacturing facility in Ningbo, China. We have been designing, engineering, and manufacturing packaging for the cosmetics, skincare, and medical industries for more than 25 years. In our years, we’ve come to understand that the buying decision of any consumer is based on perceived value. Regardless of any loyalty, consumers will always consider a competitive brand if there is a higher perceived value of the package than what they were loyal to. When cannabis became a retail item, it was obvious that the selection of packaging available was lacking in innovation in terms of design and function. We knew that this was going to be the next best thing, and we wanted to be the ones to be able to help businesses provide quality products and quality experiences for consumers.
MV: What are the latest trends in cannabis packaging that you find interesting?
MS: Sustainability and environmentally-friendly alternatives are hot in the cannabis industry right now. It doesn’t make sense to consumers to be buying nice, natural flower and having it be packaged in plastics and such. You could look at the state of Pop Tops and other plastic containers that litter the streets next to cigarette butts and plastic bags. There’s a life cycle to products. Currently, the brands who recognize the demand for eco-friendly packaging, which may cost a higher price, are rewarded with higher perceived value, repeated sales, and moral alignment with a large portion of their customer base. The cannabis market has the leading demand, by consumer, for eco-friendly packaging in the consumer market. It is a fact that the cannabis consumer market is more willing to pay for a product if it is packaged with sustainability in mind.
MV: What is a common mistake you see cannabis companies making with their packaging or in deciding what packaging supplier to work with?
MS: There are two categories of buyers that are making moves to rebrand their packaging right now. The first category consists of the companies that have drawn inspiration from other industries where brand names have a lot of influence on the sales of the product, rather than the actual value of the product. In the cannabis industry, there is no leading brand in the market. The only thing we can count on is that the customer base is always new and has little knowledge of what to buy. Here, the brand name doesn’t matter as much, but the value that the consumer perceives your product to have is key.
The second category, which we are seeing an influx of now, consists of growers. These growers are moving away from simply supplying other brands and are beginning to develop their own image and brand identity. This category of buyer is fully immersed in the culture and consumption of cannabis. They understand the importance of premium products and therefore premium packaging as well. This category of buyer aligns well with our philosophy that the packaging should not just be thrown away, but reused and revisited.
MV: What’s an issue that you would like people to know more about?
MS: This is kind of a wild card question for the CEO to address any subject related to cannabis and packaging. The #1 issue is that nobody knows what your product tastes like. You can describe it a hundred different ways, but if the consumer doesn’t want to look at what you’re saying, you’ve lost them. People buy the higher perceived value packaging, even if the one they know is right next to it on the shelf. The higher perceived value your packaging has, the more people will look at your brand. Imagine a preroll plastic container that gets thrown away after a single use. Now, compare that to a reusable, eco-friendly package that people may repurpose to carry matches, rolling paper, spare change, even earrings, etc.. With your branding on that package, they will always be reminded of the lifetime value you provided for them through packaging alone. Imagine what they think your product provides them.