I can honestly say that, in more than 35 years in the packaging industry, I have never seen such a diverse and rapidly growing market as the current surge in cannabis sales.
As more and more states legalize the sale of both medical and recreational marijuana, the marketplace has exploded with new products covering just about every vertical market. There are cannabis beverages, edibles of all sorts, oils, lotions, candles, clothing, and, of course, the dried flowers for smoking.
The cannabis industry is exponentially growing with a forecast of $24.5 billion in sales by 2020. That's just a year and half away. As an example of state income, Colorado sales for combined recreational and medical for April 2018 was $124 million dollars. Just a one month total in a state of 5.6 million people.
The packaging requirements are varied by state and often can conflict with each other. Child-proof packaging is required in most states, for example, and Colorado allows child-proof resealable zipper bags but Washington state does not. Some states require single-use packaging even for large quantity items. And edible food products that might be mistaken for non-cannabis products need to have the THC symbol coded onto the product with edible ink in Colorado. These are just a few examples of the range of hoops that manufacturers have to jump through.
Branding has become a focus of the cannabis packaging, especially with products that are trying to attract more affluent buyers willing to pay a premium for products. Up-scale packaging designs are appearing to improve the reputation of cannabis products. But the US Trademark Office (federal government) denies trademark protection to cannabis brands making it difficult to clearly protect your identity.
Despite all the legal issues with requirements and the ever-looming Federal government, the cannabis market has started to thrive. Interest at trade shows from growers, packagers, and retailers has shown us that there is a need for packaging education in this industry.
Production has ramped up to the point where the small companies need to automate to keep up with demand. Label requirements vary by state and can be confusing. After talking to many cannabis folks, we have come up with some solutions that will make their production more efficient and cost-effective.
Labels are very specific to the state laws, and they have different purposes for medical vs. recreational cannabis. Here is a listing of the requirements by state as of May 2018.
Labels for medical marijuana often need variable information for the dispensary's registration number and the amount, strain, and batch number for the cannabis and more. Sometimes labels leave blank boxes to hand-write this info while others choose to automate the process with thermal label printers or even label printer-applicators. The best way to do this will be determined by your package size and production speed.
There are labels available that cover your particular state's requirement for statement info. These labels can be printed inexpensively and are a generic fix that work on most packaging. The problem with this type of one-size-fits-all labeling is that sometimes you need two or three labels per container.
It's better to design a specific label for your product to insure that the right legal info is on the container and that it makes your brand look good in the marketplace.
Recreational labels, on the other hand, need to attract the attention of the buyer. The competition is getting heated as more brands appear and fight for shelf space. Your label needs to position your brand correctly to convey your message: up-scale product, fanciful design, playful puns, etc. There is a wide variety of label materials that can be used to make your label unique and express your brand style.
We have been making all kinds of labels lately and have seen some issues with working with odd-shaped containers. One popular container is the plastic vial for individual cannabis joints or the "doob-tube". Most times this vial is tapered, so your label will need a tiny degree of arc to ensure the label wraps smoothly and precisely. Other containers, like oval-shaped bottles can't use wrap-around labels and require a separate front and back label.
Weber can help you get the right label to both meet your requirements and make your brand look good. Check out more information about cannabis labels here on our web site.
When it comes to automating the label application process, Weber has come up with a couple of great solutions.
For vial labeling, we suggest the PackLeader 521 Wrap-Around labeling system. It can apply labels to vials from 0.3" to 1.0" in diameter at speeds up to 72 feet per minute. That translates to hundreds of vials per minute depending on the vial size.
The PackLeader 521 can label vials accurately and quickly so you can move on to other things. The system is made of stainless steel, has programable sensors for easy set-up, and has counters to keep track of number of vials produced.
For simple round containers, we can supply the PackLeader ELF-50 labeling system. The ELF-50 is a table-top unit that is economical yet is a production work horse.
This labeling system can be moved easily, so you can set up exactly where you’d like. It can be positioned on a tabletop or bench, or moved in-line for automatic or semi-automatic applications – a convenience not found with heavier, more elaborate labeling machines.
The ELF-50 wraps labels at up to 32 feet per minute and can apply labels up to 4.75" high by 11.8" long. This is the perfect system for applying labels to small jars, glass bottles and any other round straight-sided containers.
Weber has a wide range of other labeling systems that can apply labels to two-sides of a container, or that can print and apply labels to cartons for shipping your products. Visit our web site for more options on labeling systems.