Cannabis packaging—a snapshot-3

Views: 4     Author: Site Editor     Publish Time: 2018-02-06      Origin: Site

Celebrity branding
Athletes For CARE (A4C) is a 501 (c) 3 not-for-profit organization that was founded by a group of professional athletes who have united together to raise awareness on issues such as addiction, chronic pain, access to alternative medicines, mental health, CTE, and traumatic brain injury.

These athletes have rejected opioids to treat their pain and depression and are exploring alternatives like CBD oils and other cannabis treatments utilizing hemp. Now, some of these retired athletes are launching their own brands.

Marvin Washington, for example, retired after 11 seasons in the NFL and launched ISOSport™, a hemp-based line of high-performance products—hemp water, protein powder, and cooling cream—designed to support the unique needs of professional and “prosumer” athletes.

Greta Gaines, an internationally recognized pro-snowboarder and fly-fishing devotee, has launched The Hempery. It sells hemp-based cosmeceuticals for skin care, offering benefits that include moisturizing without clogging of skin pores. Anti-aging and anti-inflammatory benefits are also touted.

Selected 39th overall in the 2009 NFL draft, Eben Britton spent four years with the Jacksonville Jaguars followed by two with the Chicago Bears. He retired from the NFL with a laundry list of injuries including a dislocated shoulder (torn labrum), herniated discs, and sciatica, as well as a handful of concussions. Eben suffered unimaginable muscle, joint, and body pain as a result of enduring years of abusive injuries and then continuing to play with those injuries. Britton used cannabis as a preferred method of pain management during his football career and is now employing non-narcotic hemp extracts with his line, Be Truˉ Organics™. Started by Britton, along with Sean Entin and Julie Wilson, Be Truˉ Organics™ nourishes mind, body, and soul with Gummy Chews, Oral Spray, and Pain Relief Cream.

This is hard work
Roy Arms is a hard-working entrepreneur. He first applied for a retail license to sell cannabis in Washington State, but he lost a randomized lottery and so pivoted his focus to production and processing instead.

He and his brother built Boggy Boon, with its seven greenhouses for growing cannabis, all by hand. There are indoor growers and outdoor farms, but Boggy Boon is a “hybrid” grow operation. They use natural sunlight as much as possible but are able to completely control the environment with supplemental lighting, heating, evaporative cooling, etc.

A family-owned and operated Tier 3 producer/processor in central Washington, Boggy Boon is a good three hours from Seattle. Arms uses a third-party delivery service (another ancillary business supported by recreational marijuana) that comes two to three times each week to pick up his finished, packaged product for delivery to retailers all over the state, hundreds of miles away.

Chelan County has more than 40 growers, and many are fighting for the right to stay in production. Boggy Boon, located in a fairly remote place, is working with the county on its recent ordinance that requires the greenhouses to convert their facility to meet “indoor” building criteria. Members of the community are protesting about the strong smell of cannabis from farms closer to their own properties, and the county has taken action that will force many of them to either move or shut down. This is just another illustration of the changing regulatory landscape that comes with growing cannabis for recreational use.

Arms currently is growing high-end strains with solid margins, but he’d love to start two or three outdoor farms so he could serve the low end of the market as well. Genetic selection is critical to success. Each strain started out with one full row in each greenhouse (approximately 280 plants), but keying in on retailer feedback, Boggy Boon now devotes three rows per harvest to their most popular strain, Death Star.

Rather than describing the product in any technical terms on the packaging, Arms focuses on the user experience that he feels the consumer cares about. Each strain lists its specific effects such as “Relaxed, euphoric, happy,” on the flexible packages. Each package has a see-through Sasquatch window so that consumers can view the product prior to purchase.

Showing off his product is essential to capturing consumers, but pre-rolled joints are still packaged in opaque plastic tubes. “I’d really like to find good, affordable transparent tubes for these,” he says.

Most of Boggy Boon production is by hand—trimming, weighing, bagging, sealing, and labeling. Arms did purchase a joint filling machine, which resembles a candle mold but with smaller chambers. He also offers infused joints, where machine-filled joints are manually coated with CO2 oil and then coated with keef (a fine THC-laced powder). The infused joints are then loaded into plastic tubes by hand. The work is labor intensive, and there is always a help wanted sign outside Boggy Boon’s door.

Arms is still trying to figure out the best way to expand. He tried oil cartridges for vape pens, but found many leaked. An alternative cartridge did not leak as much, but failed after minimal use leaving unused oil for the consumer. Arms estimates about 10% of all cartridges fail. Imagine buying a vape pen for a destination bachelor party and discovering your product failed to work. He did not want to risk his reputation with retailers, so he backed off.

A businessman, Arms knows his crop yields, prices, and expenses. He even tracks each employee for number of plants harvested, buds trimmed, or number of completed packages per hour. He knows he has to start exploring some packaging automation options to control his labor costs. He is currently investigating labeling machinery, and seeing his determination, it’s a good bet he’ll figure it out.

The science of freshness
“You wouldn’t leave a glass of wine out all night and expect it to be fresh or taste the same the next day,” says Serge Chistov from Honest Marijuana Company in Colorado. Chistov sounds like a scientist as he discusses perishability and the chemical changes over time that degrade cannabis.

“Marijuana, like most plant and animal matter, is perishable,” says the company’s website. “That means that it is likely to decay, go bad quickly, or lose inherent properties that are important to the product. To put that in perspective, think about a 2-liter bottle of soda. When you first open the bottle, if the product is good, the carbonation is still a big part of the experience. The soda is fizzy, and that’s fun.

“But now think about that soda two days later. No matter how tightly you turned the cap, the carbonation has escaped and the drink is no longer fizzy. The soda has gone flat. Though it’s still safe to drink, an inherent property that is important to the product—and the experience—has disappeared. That’s perishability.”

Light, oxygen, humidity, and temperature all combine to degrade a flower, joint, or concentrate after repeated openings. Why is this degradation bad? Because it minimizes “the entourage effect,” says Honest Marijuana’s Web site. That is, it’s a combination of THC, CBD, terpines, etc., that contribute to the effect marijuana has, and if one component of that entourage is degraded, the overall effect is negatively affected.

To preserve this “entourage effect,” Honest Marijuana comes packaged in an easy-open steel can with a ring-pull end and a snap-on plastic lid for reclosure purposes. After the cans are filled they are placed beneath a liquid nitrogen dosing unit from Vaccum Barrier Corp. that adds a small amount of nitrogen (see video). Then the ring-pull end is placed on the can and the can goes through a conventional seaming unit. The liquid nitrogen gases off and displaces residual oxygen content, reducing it from somewhere in the range of 25% to less than 4%. This greatly extends the amount of time the product stays fresh. The can supplier is n2 Packaging, and that firm’s partner GreenTek Innovation provided the machinery that’s involved (see accompanying sidebar below titled "Unusual C-R can end").

Honest Marijuana has also just launched two- and six-count blunts in a packaging format very different than the round cans from n2 Packaging, though once again nitrogen is involved for shelf life extension. The primary package is a tin container from Keenpack Ind’l Ltd. that holds either two or six blunts. The tin is placed into a thermoformed blister produced one-up on a Nano 60 thermoform/seal machine from Mactec. The 12-mil-thick forming web used is a PVDC-coated PVC material from Tekni-Plex. After an operator places a can in the formed cavity, it’s taken through an evacuation and nitrogen backflush chamber before lidding material is heat-sealed in place. Supplied by Glenroy, the lidstock is a seven-layer construction that includes a layer of foil for barrier purposes as well as an easy-peel component that is compatible with heat sealing to the tray. According to Mactec’s Mike Castaldo, the finished package qualifies as child-resistant because the only way to get through the materials is by way of a scissors. Also integrated into the Mactec machine is a Markem-Imaje X60 thermal-transfer printing system for imprint of lot and date code on the lidding material.

Honest Marijuana, by the way, features one of the best Web sites in the industry. Consumers are curious, wanting to experiment with different delivery methods, in the hopes of connecting with a brand. Found on the Web site are sections like “Organic Marijuana: The Definitive Guide.” Another section is on growing, including a list of necessary supplies. Yet another section, “Preservation and Perishability,” is a deep dive on the science of freshness. This company tells an engaging story of thought leadership.

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