Cannabis Packaging Insights with Thom Brodeur
According to a report that was published by Global Markets Insights Inc., the value of the global cannabis packaging industry was $ 151 million in 2021. This value is projected to surpass $356 million by 2028. In light of extensive, stringent, and evolving regulatory standards that vary between states and countries, the promising industry has not been an easy one to navigate.
Meeting all packaging requirements is an intricate balancing act as most of these are on the extreme sides of the spectrum. For example, cannabis packages need to be child-resistant and at the same time senior- accessible. This almost appears to be a paradox and for sure one that has packaging companies spending millions of dollars to get around, as Thom Brodeur divulges in this interview.
There have been cases of consumers purchasing cannabis products and being unable to open them up. Packaging companies, in a bid to make the packages “child-resistant,” have ended up creating “consumer-resistant” packages. Laughable right?
“Opacity,” a requirement in several states supports the child-resistant agenda but may derail marketing efforts. Add to that the requirements for “full disclosure” plus numerous other labeling requirements and you have created the perfect clusterfug. How are cannabis packaging companies working through this?
Thom Brodeur, the CEO of N2 Packaging busts myths and offers tips on how to win in this game.
My Cannabis: The industry has quite a number of laws and regulations that dictate how packaging can or cannot be done. Does this leave any room for sustainability and how can cannabis companies balance compliance with sustainable practices?
Thom: We believe the rules and regulations around packaging not only leave room for sustainability but are starting to layer in requirements for it, at least at a component level. Lawmakers and policy advocates recognize that revolutionary change is difficult for industries, especially in young industries like cannabis that are just finding their way and growing into their future state. But what we see are more palatable and implementable indicators of evolution in policy coming out of packaging standards organizations like the ASTM or the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, alongside industry trade groups like the Sustainable Cannabis Coalition, who are leaning into partnerships with various stakeholder groups within the cannabis ecosystem to find paths to standardizing sustainability across the continuum. These constituencies often work closely with state legislatures and we're seeing good first steps being taken in states like New York and others. In Canada, where N2 does a fair amount of business, regulatory bodies list sustainability as one of the four key requirements for cannabis operators to comply with across the seed-to-shelf spectrum.
My Cannabis: Child-proofing cannabis packages. Is this really necessary or is it just a protraction of the cannabis prohibition era?
Thom: We feel child-resistant lid or closure solutions should be table stakes in this industry. We've invested millions of dollars and almost a decade building child-proof / senior-accessible lid and closure apparatus in support of these strong and long-held beliefs. Our patent portfolio protects this CR lid innovation in nearly a dozen countries around the world. All controlled substances – and THC and its derivatives fall squarely into that category – should require a way to protect against accidental or intentional consumption of products that can harm children and minors. For us, this is our primary driver in product innovation – building the best child-resistant lid/closure solutions possible and doing so as sustainably as practical.
My Cannabis: With the numerous packaging and labeling requirements that vary from state to state, how can a cannabis company create a brand that has shelf- appeal and stands out?
Thom: Many individuals confuse brand with ‘appearance' and that's where great cannabis producers, growers, or operators who lack marketing experience can be misguided. Sure, a good name, great color palette, and sharp brand mark can all contribute to that aha moment for the consumer, but that's just the beginning. Brands become brands because they make and keep promises to their customers.
Delivering a quality product and an experience that customers value the first time and every time thereafter are both critical components of that promise. What's the saying? “You never get a second chance to make a first impression”? The most progressive cannabis brands and producers that we work with understand that packaging is a critical component of this “brands-that-consumers-love” journey. One of the things that our proprietary 2Can™ with N2 Nitro Inside™ delivers for brands, and ultimately to their customers, is a powerful opening experience that provides a multi-sensory impact (sound, smell, feel) that sets the tone from the first opening and for everyone after that. Recently, Brightfield Group published several reports where both consumers and budtenders were surveyed or interviewed. The findings concluded that the “nose” of the product and the perception and reality of its freshness and shelf life were key drivers in the budtender-to-consumer recommendation of cannabis brands and consumer adoption and repurchase behavior.
Further, 4 out of 10 consumers surveyed said they would switch to cannabis brands that deliver products in nitrogen-infused, sustainable packaging. We believe that the consumer will drive the industry to more sustainable behavior over time, and we're encouraged by what we're seeing brands beginning to lean into this important work.
My Cannabis: Should the cannabis administration and opportunity be passed and cannabis is rescheduled federally, how is this likely to impact packaging laws?
Thom: Our firm belief is that federal schedules and mandates tend to simplify and set “standards” for states to model their rules and regulations against. When you're in the Wild Wild West – and yes, we still are in this industry – states can create whatever rules they like and decide how strictly to enforce them. This makes it monumentally challenging for national brands and MSOs to present themselves and deliver their unique value proposition and promise to the market in a uniform, easy-to-understand, and repeatable way. We hope that federal rescheduling will soon make it simpler for our partners and customers to overcome those obstacles.
About N2 Packaging
Headquartered in Arizona, N2 Packaging Systems is a sustainable packaging company that offers innovative packaging solutions for various industries, including the legal cannabis industry. N2's 2Can with N2 Nitro Inside is a nitrogen-infused packaging solution that has revolutionized the way licensed, reputable cannabis businesses meet stringent packaging regulatory requirements while delighting consumers, budtenders, and dispensary retail associates with a packaging solution that consistently delivers high-quality products through a compliant, sustainable process. N2 Packaging is the trusted premium packaging provider to some of the most progressive cannabis producers, brands, and MSOs in the United States, Canada, Australia, and Israel.