As the saying goes, change is the only constant. And in the cannabis industry, you can expect unpredictable change at lightning speed for the foreseeable future. With this type of change, regulations, trends and strategies that worked in 2019 may not be feasible in 2021. Cannabis packaging that once stood out as unique and innovative may soon be outdated – or even non-compliant. Here are five cannabis packaging trends to be aware of in this changing market.
Trend #1: Universal compliance
The U.S is moving ever-closer to full-scale cannabis legalization. According to a recent Gallop poll, over two-thirds of Americans support legalization, and more than half the states have legalized some form of cannabis use.
In the past, cannabis manufacturers were mainly concerned with local packaging regulations. But today, as full-scale legalization is in sight, producers are taking the long view and selecting packaging solutions with robust child-resistant (CR) features that are legal in all 50 states. This approach eliminates the need to re-envision packaging when it’s time to expand, protecting against regulatory change, according to the Cannabis Market Report white paper produced by PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies.
Since pharmaceutical packaging technologies and CR-testing standards are well-established, legislators do not need to reinvent the wheel. Cannabis producers expect to adopt many of the same standards now in place for pharma to protect consumers.
Trend #2: Retro-inspired Graphics
Like more mainstream products, savvy consumers are looking for well-branded products, not generic bottles and bags. In response, marketers are increasingly using the type of graphics seen mainly on non-cannabis consumer goods. The ubiquitous leaf symbol of old is slowly fading, giving way to minimalist designs popular in other consumer packaged goods (CPG) industries.
These updated looks target millennials – expected to be a key audience for the cannabis market according to PMMI’s white paper. Look for retro-inspired graphics, under-saturated pastels and clean flat graphics. The use of serif font, bold ampersands and illustrations convey a hand-made artisanal touch.
Trend #3: Sustainability
A report published by Capgemini shows that 79 percent of consumers are changing their purchasing preferences based on social responsibility, inclusiveness or environmental impact shown by a brand – making sustainability an important factor for cannabis manufacturers to consider. Consumer research tells us that sustainability influences purchasing decisions regardless of the product type, particularly among younger people. Recycled and recyclable materials will increase in popularity, as will brands that emphasize their commitment to the environment. According to the Packaging Sustainability: A Changing Landscape report from PMMI, the next generation of consumers will demand less material in packaging and companies need to look at their entire sustainability equation. The findings show that millennials, a key audience for cannabis producers, are sustainability leaders and care most about sustainability than any other age demographic. This group is most likely to seek out sustainable options, primarily by checking packaging labels for information about recycling and/or sustainability.
Trend #4: Product Serialization
Counterfeiters have discovered a lucrative new target: cannabis. When a counterfeit product sells under a brand name (in look-alike packaging), it does more than undercut profits. It damages the brand.
Pharmaceutical companies – particularly narcotics manufacturers – have been hit hard by international counterfeiters. In turn, the FDA now requires serialized codes to verify a product’s authenticity. Technology is available for better tracking with a variety of overt and covert authentication methods. Serialization as a defense against fraud continues to impact all drug manufacturing, and implementation creates challenges beyond compliance at all stages of the packaging process, according to PMMI’s Pharmaceutical and Medical Devices white paper.
These authentication technologies may be easily visible on the package, such as unique source codes, holograms and serial numbers. Or they may be covert techniques that only authorities can reference, like UV-sensitive inks and chips embedded in the actual products. Expect to see an increasing number of these track-and-trace technologies coming to cannabis in the years ahead. Serialization requires a data-heavy approach, but it assures consumers they are getting the real thing.
Serialization can also help with marketing – for example, allowing the consumer to engage with the product when they check a product’s unique serial number online.
Trend #5: The Need to Stand Out on the Shelf
As the cannabis market expands, brand saturation may become an issue, with smaller players finding themselves pushed out of existence. With this in mind, employing strategies such as custom packaging will ensure a brand stands out in the retail environment. Uniquely shaped products catch consumer attention – particularly when the packaging shape matches the product and branding.
Upscale printing is another way to shine — literally. Advanced printing techniques, such as metallic inks and embossing, cost-effectively express uniqueness and create a custom feel.
Additional strategies to get a product noticed include secondary packaging and in-store displays. Secondary packaging (i.e., the shipping box) can sometimes double as an attractive display, making retailers more likely to give these products special placements.
New technologies, solutions and education addressing the changing landscape of cannabis packaging will be on display at PACK EXPO Las Vegas co-located with Healthcare Packaging EXPO 2021 (Sept. 27-29, Las Vegas Convention Center), serving as North America’s largest packaging event. It’s where executives and plant managers, engineers, brand managers and packaging designers come to see machinery in action, connect with suppliers, network and gain the latest perspective on a plethora of industries in over 40 vertical markets. The two shows will bring attendees and suppliers of packaging equipment and materials together. To learn more about the advanced packaging solutions that will be on display as well as the educational, networking opportunities and the virtual component of the show, and to register, visit http://www.packexpolasvegas.com. PACK EXPO is committed to ensuring your safety while providing the same experience you have come to enjoy at our events. Visit the show website for more information on our COVID-19 related protocols and PACK Ready health and safety plan.