6 Best Practices for Cannabis Packaging

No matter what kind of product you are selling, packaging is crucial to ensuring marketability, brand loyalty, and compliance. Cannabis products are unique in that they are not federally legal and each state has different packaging and labeling requirements. This adds an additional element to the cannabis packaging design process, but when done correctly, can also provide opportunities to rise as an industry leader. 

Best Practices for Cannabis Packaging

Despite differences in mandates and consumer demographics, there are some general concepts to take into consideration that can help ensure that your product is the one that consumers reach for. 

  1. Authentic Branding

  2. Standing Out in On The Shelf

  3. Packaging and Labeling Compliance

  4. Strength of The Product 

  5. QR Codes

  6. Sustainable Packaging

Authentic Branding

If you are a new brand, you have the ability to start your identity from scratch. Consider other brands currently in the space, the voice of your brand, and your target demographic. At a basic level, your brand should have recognizable fonts, imagery, and colors that will allow potential customers to recognize your products and differentiate between those and others on the shelf. 

Consumers have plenty of options at their fingertips. The following statistics cited by Inc demonstrate how difficult it is to retain customers. 

  • 61% of people switched brands in the past year
  • 77% of people retract brand loyalty faster than they did 3 years ago
  • 78% of millennials say brands have to work harder to secure their loyalty

An established brand needs to take into consideration its current image with every new product. A drastic change to cannabis packaging could be confusing to consumers, and that is the last thing you want in an industry that is continually changing. 

The concept of brand authenticity can even go one step further. A cannabis brand that prides itself on values such as organic-only ingredients, would be doing its existing customers a disservice by adding synthetic ingredients to new or legacy products. Part of developing brand authenticity is understanding how you are viewed by consumers and what your values are. These should be clear in your cannabis packaging design. 


Standing Out On The Shelf

There are entire areas of study dedicated to consumer purchasing habits as well as the emerging concept of neurodesign. This field focuses on the subconscious ways people are drawn to one study versus another. The fact that this field even exists implies the importance of packaging design. 

One study concluded that packaging is the most important resource in the marketing of any product. It helps a brand communicate with its audience and directs consumer purchasing behavior. Packaging is the first tool for attracting consumers and it builds a perception in their minds. 

Research from the Secretariat of the Seoul International Color Expo found that 92.6 percent of people said that they put the most importance on visual factors when purchasing products. Some of the most important factors include:

  • Color
  • Layout and typography
  • Effective graphics
  • Size and scope of packaging
  • Quality of packaging material
  • Innovative design

Setting yourself apart is crucial in the competitive cannabis market. It is important to understand the relationship between your target consumer, packaging design, product, and price point. This will also drive where your product is shelved in the store.

Cannabis Packaging and Labeling Compliance 

As of today, the majority of states have legalized marijuana sales in some form. Each state has its own unique governing body that oversees cannabis compliance, including cannabis packaging and labeling.

State laws may stipulate:

  • Cannabis terms that can be used
  • Milligrams of cannabis per package
  • Font size
  • FDA warning statements 
  • Ingredients 
  • State certification language
  • Expiration date
  • Usage instructions 
  • Company contact information
  • and more 

Most states do not allow any medical claims on cannabis packaging. The FDA has not approved any natural cannabis products for specific treatment. Therefore, any medical claims are deemed “misleading” despite any existing research or anecdotal evidence. 

Childproof cannabis packaging is a concern for many states. This may limit or deter the use of cartoonish or child-friendly images. Some states will not allow cannabis edible packaging to look like candy or allow edibles (ie, gummies) to have shapes like animals or fruits which could be mistaken for regular snacks. 

Unfortunately, failure to adhere to all cannabis packaging design and labeling guidelines could result in fines, lost product, or even license suspension or revocation. Check with your state governing body and any states you may ship to, prior to approving your cannabis packaging design. 


Strength of The Product

Though this may actually fall under the category of compliance, the strength of your product is crucial enough to have its own section. One of the biggest issues for many newer consumers is not understanding the strength of their cannabis product and how much to use. 

Cannabis edible packaging that states “10mg per dose” of a chocolate bar must be very clear about how big a dose is and how many doses are in the entire edible. The lack of consistent labeling requirements and consumer education is a continual concern. 

Nearly every cannabis user has had or heard of an experience where they or someone they know misunderstood the strength of their cannabis product and had unintended side effects. It is one thing to have the strength listed somewhere on your cannabis packaging design, but it is another to make it extremely clear. 


QR Codes

A quick response (QR) code is a type of barcode that can be easily read by digital devices such as smartphones. These squares contain scannable pixels that lead to a link or website with additional information about whatever is being scanned. 

According to a study by The Drum and YouGov, 75% of consumers have said that they plan to use QR Codes moving forward.

This concept is not exclusive to cannabis package design but is becoming increasingly desirable for both wholesalers and end-use customers. QR codes often link to third-party testing results or to additional information that the brand could not fit on the box, but may be relevant to the consumer. Indiana, Texas, Utah, Florida, New York, and Oregon currently require QR codes on cannabis products. 


Sustainable Cannabis Packaging

Stereotypically, cannabis purchasers have an appreciation for natural solutions and sustainability. The vast majority of cannabis packaging is not made up of disposable plastics. That is generally because the market does not have an appreciation for materials that are not biodegradable or reusable. 

A recent report on consumer behavior by IBM found that nearly 6 in 10 consumers surveyed would change their shopping habits to reduce environmental impact, with 8 in 10 indicating that sustainability is important. Over 70 percent indicated that they would pay more for brands that are environmentally responsible. 

Cannabis in itself is highly sustainable as an agricultural crop with a very small carbon footprint. Consider using recyclable and/or materials such as paper and glass for your cannabis packaging.


The Competitive Landscape of Cannabis Packaging Design

The global cannabis packaging market is expected to experience a CAGR of 24.3% over the forecast period from 2021 to 2026 in conjunction with increased legalization and consumer acceptance. 

It is increasingly important to choose a meaningful cannabis packaging design for your brand. The efficacy of the product will always be the most important factor in product development, but your cannabis packaging is what will ultimately convince most consumers to make the initial purchase. 

Our expert cannabis marketing team can create a range of custom print and packaging designs for your business. Make sure your brand is in good hands and contact us today to get started on a Print & Packaging project.