Packaging professionals working in the cannabis industry may have a tough time chilling out, as the booming industry is expanding geographically and booming monetarily. In 2017, North Americans spent $9.2 billion on cannabis, according to Arcview Market Research; by 2027, they’re predicted to spend $47.3 billion.

In the U.S., 33 states have legalized cannabis in some way, including 10 states (and Washington D.C.) that have legalized recreational cannabis. Within some of those recreational states, there may need to be packaging changes between the cannabis products sold to recreational consumers and those sold to medical patients. In Colorado, for example, medical and recreational cannabis packages must have similar but different symbols.

Then, there’s the growth of cannabis across the world. More than 40 countries have legalized medical marijuana to some degree—including South Korea, a country that’s usually strict in its anti-drug laws. With so many countries legalizing some form of cannabis, companies will need to navigate different laws, different languages, and different cultures to ensure they’re meeting regulations while appealing to consumers with unique product packaging.

Newly Legal

This expanding, booming cannabis market means plenty of revenue opportunities for businesses, but the shaky legal status of cannabis also means adhering to strict laws and regulations – which specifically impacts the product packaging process and speed-to-market.

Cannabis’ packaging regulations are different from state to state and country to country; cannabis is still illegal at the federal level in the U.S., so each state has drafted its own laws and regulations about what information needs to appear on the label and artwork. This is where packaging managers and designers can have their buzzes killed—if they don’t adhere to the appropriate label regulations, they may have to design and print new packaging, leading to loss of revenue and delay to shelf.

Companies that create cannabis packaging need to be nimble with the changing regulatory guidelines, and that’s exactly what packaging management software allows them to do. Being a  semi-legal industry can cause some headaches; for example, Peter Vogel, chief executive of LeafWire, tells Forbes that cannabis remaining illegal at the federal level presents unique challenges, such as shipments between states being held up or confiscated and marketing campaigns being denied by law.

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Cannabis packages are also at the whim of these legal challenges, so packaging managers must be agile with their label and artwork packaging strategy. For example, CannalawBlog reports that California regulators made changes to label regulations that had “almost no grace period for compliance.” These changes include putting information on both the packaged product and the product itself and prohibiting edible cannabis products from having photos of the product on the package.

How Packaging Label and Artwork Management Software Can Help the Cannabis Industry

Let’s say that a packaging manager has a cannabis product that the company wants to release in every state that allows cannabis. That will mean dealing with 34 unique regulatory bodies, including Washington D.C., and creating at least 34 variations of the package to meet nuances set by each regulatory body. In a manual packaging world, this kind of project is what nightmares are made of: Project management by way of Excel spreadsheets, the potential for incorrect label and artwork files, and slow approvals by way of email.

But, with a packaging label and artwork management software, even a 34-part packaging label project can be simplified. With Esko WebCenter, the entire supply chain can collaborate through workflows to create, view and approve each of the 34 variations of the label and artwork in one centralized location. This allows senior leadership, marketing, design, and regulatory teams stay organized, the entire process is visible, the right files are being used and each design remains compliant.

With label and artwork management software, packaging teams won’t have to worry about having their labels getting rejected from a local market — the packaging design process is kept on track and the products can be shipped on time, ensuring that even the most stressed moment is mellow.

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