Dave McMichael: Professional Packaging Crucial for Dispensaries, Edibles Companies

By Dave McMichael

If we expect a watchful public to embrace the many benefits of our products and accept us as valuable contributors to our community, we need to stop acting like an underground cult and start conducting business like true professionals. Unless you provide meds in parking lots from the trunk of your car, you need to bag the baggies and start packaging your meds and edibles in high-quality, professional-looking, pharmaceutical-grade containers – just like every other medical and consumer products company.

Professional packaging has four main benefits:

1. Increasing customer loyalty – People throw out baggies, but they often keep good quality jars that can be used for a variety of storage needs. Be sure to add a custom label to your packages with your logo, address and hours of operation. If your inventory is lab-tested, also display that fact. (Let’s face it — lab testing and baggies send a distinctly mixed message.)

2. Extending product shelf life – Protect your investment in top-quality inventory by placing it in sealed-cap containers. You’ll dramatically extend product shelf life while demonstrating your commitment to maintaining fresh, high-quality products.  You may also be able to smooth inventory “bumps” that plague some dispensaries by ordering extra stock when it’s available and stockpiling for leaner times.

3. Easier counter service – As the food industry has long known, pre-packaged units make speedier service easier for your counter staff and introduce portion controls even when the supervisor isn’t watching.

4. Meeting state regulations – Colorado is in the process of imposing specific packaging guidelines as a result of recent voter approval of cannabis for recreational use. Specifically, Colorado could become a “baggie-free” state, and professional packaging will be mandated. I strongly suspect that the state of Washington and others that follow will introduce, mandate and monitor packaging guidelines for both medical and recreational use sales. You can get ahead of the curve by packaging professionally now.

The top two material choices for bottles, jars and vials are glass and polypropylene – an FDA-approved form of plastic.

Which is best?

It comes down to cost-effectiveness – glass is by far the more expensive option. Even if you can get a fairly respectable per piece rate for glass containers, shipping costs to your dispensary can put glass over budget because it’s heavier than polypropylene, not to mention subject to breakage.

As we know from MMJ Business Daily’s market research studies over the last two years, many customers care more about product purity than they do cost – especially given their stated preference  for organics and lab testing. Polypropylene meets the needs of these picky patients. It’s federally-approved for use in packing food products and pharmaceuticals, because chemical components don’t leach into contents. Your inventory will stay pure.

Another solid argument for polypropylene plastic is the ecology. It’s 100% recyclable and the gas-phase variety is a natural gas product (not crude oil) so it leaves a much smaller footprint on our eco system. If you select this variety, be sure to post counter-signage to that effect to leave customers with a good impression of your dispensary.

You can get plastic containers made overseas, but you probably won’t know the type of plastic from which they’re made which could easily result in an impure container. In addition, you may be required to buy an entire shipping container’s worth at a time. Which means shipping costs and delivery times can be an issue, especially if you are not near the port of Los Angeles.  For that reason, I recommend sourcing from a US manufacturer.

No matter your decision on which professional packaging to use, here’s my point:  it is time to switch from baggies and other inferior packaging to premier quality containers.  They literally cost pennies, yet they’ll help define you as a wellness professional and differentiate you from competitors.   It’s a key step in growing a strong, loyal, satisfied patient base that will help your company flourish.

Dave McMichael is director of marketing for Earthwise Packaging, which makes containers for the medical marijuana industry.