Legal cannabis and hemp based products is the fastest growing industry in the United States and its growth is exponential as cannabis consumption in various forms becomes more mainstream through further legalization. To date, 11 states have fully legalized cannabis for medical and recreational use and an additional 33 for medical use generating a projected industry net worth in excess of $46 billion by 2025, and a 24% CAGR. As more states continue to embrace and legalize both cannabis and cannabis-related products such as hemp and CBD, the industry will continue its expansion, developing innovative products and utilizing new and more sophisticated technologies for production and packaging.
As with any consumer product, maintaining safety and quality throughout the duration of the products shelf life are key concerns when developing packaging materials for commercially packaged marijuana and CBD products. Additionally, as a relatively new mainstream market segment, developing a rollstock structure that meets all key requirements for barrier performance and shelf-life expectations, while providing opportunities for customization to enhance brand differentiation and awareness is key for emerging companies looking to earn consumer loyalty.
Continue reading to learn more about some of the key considerations when developing rigid packaging materials for marijuana & CBD products and how ICPG can help.
What are the barrier requirements?
Identifying and determining the shelf-life and organoleptic requirements of the product for marijuana and CBD applications are essential components of the package development process taking into consideration aroma barrier, freshness, moisture protection, supply chain, consumer appeal and intended use. Different materials and material structures provide a variety of potential considerations ranging from critical food contact, sealability, taste and odor, shelf-life, top-load, sterilization, filling process and ultimately product safety.
One of the primary elements to achieving target shelf life for custom cannabis packaging solutions is understanding the required OTR (Oxygen Transmission Rate) and MVTR (Moisture Vapor Transmission Rate) specifications, then developing a material structure with the appropriate barrier characteristics to protect the product throughout its desired shelf-life performance. Development of high barrier structures for extended shelf-life performance and product preservation can be achieved through a multi-layer coextrusion process leveraging materials such as EVOH to achieve the required OTR requirements.
Additionally, opportunities to refine the material structure through the use of enhanced barrier materials and precision capabilities can enhance the overall performance for marijuana packaging. Materials such as ICPG's XPP™ Enhanced Barrier Polypropylene offer up to 80% improvement in OTR and MVTR over traditional polypropylene materials before the incorporation of EVOH, ensuring that only the required amount of materials are used to achieve the desired shelf-life expectations, eliminating the need for over-engineering. Further control of the material structure can be accomplished through ICPG’s proprietary processes utilizing innovative technologies such as the visionX system, which allows for monitoring of individual layer thickness to ensure the exact amount of EVOH required to achieve barrier requirements is used.
What is the processing method?
Whether using pre-formed containers or rollstock for form fill and seal applications, understanding the processing methods utilized in packaging marijuana and CBD products directly correlates to material choice and target package performance in order to protect the product from damage or degradation, maximize line efficiencies in large grow operations, provide product safety and ultimately a higher level of economic value.
Thermoformed CBD & marijuana packaging solutions can be used with processing and techniques such as modified atmosphere packaging, hot-fill and ambient fill packaging and processing, and form fill seal packaging to extend product shelf life without impacting the natural benefits associated with the product.
What is the best material choice?
Today there are more choices than ever when considering the best material for marijuana & CBD products. With increasing industry pressures on sustainability and concerns with Proposition 65, ICPG provides material solutions using traditional substrates such as polypropylene with enhanced performance and protection for direct food contact and extended shelf-life requirements.
Additionally, the type of packaging and processing method as well as the product’s target shelf-life can affect material structure design. Take for example a commercially packaged line of edible products. The barrier specifications would determine whether a lower barrier laminated polypropylene or a high-barrier coextruded PP structure with EVOH would offer the best performance. Both structures are offered in clear, tints and opaques with a variety of additional customization options to increase brand awareness and differentiation.
As with all extended shelf-life food and medical products, shelf-life requirements vary by application and product. Developing the best rollstock structure for packaging can add significant value to deliver the expected level of barrier protection to maximize shelf-life. As the industry continues to evolve, packaging of cannabis and CBD will become increasingly sophisticated to cater to both single serve, bulk packaging and high-volume production enabling increased distribution and reduced waste to safely deliver the expected level of benefit for the product.
What customization options are available?
ICPG's capabilities allow for a vast range of customization options for marijuana and CBD cannabis packaging options from barrier properties, to aesthetics, to material choices. With capabilities in extrusion lamination and multi-layer coextrusion, ICPG is able to develop and produce custom roll stock structures with custom barrier properties that extend product shelf-life and promote product freshness and preservation.
On the materials side, use of innovative material options can further enhance packaging performance and sustainability. Today, with advancements in barrier material technology, ICPG is breaking new ground with performance sustainable solutions, driving development for the next generation of materials and container design for the marijuana and CBD industry. ICPG offers material structures for marijuana and CBD packaging applications developed using our XPP™ Enhanced Barrier Polypropylene solutions to offer a simplified material structure, that continues to deliver on performance, while being 100% recyclable using the polypropylene RIC #5.
Further customization for enhanced packaging aesthetics to increase consumer loyalty and brand awareness / differentiation can be accomplished using custom colors, clarifiers and clear tints, and custom designed decorative laminations.