“What's the most sustainable thing I can do [about packaging]? And I always like to say there is no one thing. There are many, many little things that you can do along the way.” - Elizabeth Corbett
In this episode, Shayda Torabi welcomes Elizabeth Corbett of AE Global Packaging as she shares her observations about packaging and the framework for sustainability. She uncovers the truth about both the opportunities and barriers to CPG and how the players in the cannabis industry can navigate for better brand positioning.
[00:01 – 05:47] Shayda on Brand Redesign versus Brand Refresh
[05:48– 13:18] Primary and Secondary Packaging in Light of Diversity and Regulations
[13:19 – 24:33] The Power of Customization and the Path to Sustainability
[29:33 – 44:38] Child-Resistant Cannabis Packaging for and the Framework to CPG
[44:39 – 49:09] The Impact of Packaging and the Opportunities for Production
[59:54 – 01:01:23] Food for Thought: What and when do you think of your packaging?
Elizabeth Corbett, VP of Sales for AE Global, is on a mission to build sustainable packaging & supply chain programs for Cannabis and CBD companies that honor their brand identity, drive revenue growth, protect the product, and do so cost-effectively. “CannaBeth”, as she is fondly known, entered the Cannabis industry more than eight years ago after spending the first part of her career developing packaging solutions for significant players in the retail and health & beauty markets such as Starbucks, Tiffany, and Estee Lauder. Based in Seattle and Miami, Beth is passionate about finding environmentally responsible and sustainable solutions no matter what the form or substrate.
Connect with Elizabeth
Shayda Torabi has been called one of the most influential Women in WordPress and now she’s one of the women leading the cannabis reformation conversation building one of Texas’ premier CBD brands. She's currently the CEO and Co-Founder of RESTART CBD, a female-run education first CBD wellness brand. And has formerly held marketing positions at WP Engine and WebDevStudios. Shayda is the host of a podcast for cannabis marketers called To Be Blunt, where she interviews top cannabis brands on their most successful marketing initiatives. When Shayda's not building her cannabiz in Texas, you can find her on the road exploring the best hikes and spots for vegan ice cream. Follow Shayda at @theshaydatorabi
“It is very rare that I have a conversation with a customer talking about brand new packaging or looking at their existing packaging and they don't mention, like, ‘What can I be doing from a sustainable perspective?’ ” - Elizabeth Corbett
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Elizabeth Corbett 0:00
The majority of folks that I work with are really looking for some level of customization. If you look at mature markets like Colorado, Oregon, Washington, California, it's become much more of a consumer product, good experience. You walk into a dispensary and there's a lot to pick from. It's not like Illinois, or even Michigan to a degree where you're kind of limited to like what was even available, so you don't have as many choices. It's all about wow, I have 50 Gummies to pick from what's really speaking to me. I'll be the first one to say that there are gummies that I have tried or there have been products that I have tried because the first thing I thought was oh, wow, that's a really cool pouch. Or look at that artwork. What's that about? There's a edible in Washington called pioneer squares. Very first time I ever tried it was solely because I liked the package and by the way, that is the package that earns me the name cannabis.
You're listening to to be blunt, B podcast for cannabis marketers, where your host Shayda Torabi and her guests are trailblazing the path to marketing educating and professionalizing cannabis light one up and listen up. Here's your host Shayda Torabi.
Shayda Torabi 1:29
Hello and welcome back to a new episode of The to be blonde podcast. I'm your host Shayda Torabi, cannabis business owner and brand marketer. Now I'm slowly and also feverishly trying to go through a brand refresh both with my own personal brand, the Shayda Torabi, but also with the podcast, too. You may see some updated graphics rolling out and I'm excited about the overall brand refresh because I think it's always a good idea to keep a brand evolving. Sometimes the tweaks are bigger, like a website redesign or a completely new logo like I'm doing for to be blunt in this instance. But I also want to take this opportunity to clarify the difference between a brand redesign and a brand refresh for anyone who might be a bit confused on what each entails. While a rebrand is a total reset the exercise of a brand refresh allows a company to highlight its unique position in the marketplace, reinforce its value and gain a new perspective for what lies ahead. A refresh can keep or update recognized visual elements, or introduce a new look, tone and presentation of the overall style to bring fresh recognition. And a brand refresh maintains a visual connection to how the brand identity was seen before. As I continue to evolve as a person as a host. And as an entrepreneur, there are different things that inspire and motivate me to keep going, especially as the cannabis marketplace evolves. One note that I'm leaning into is this podcast is becoming so much more than just talking about marketing. As you can tell, it is a major passion of mine. And I love diving into the brand identities and tools that these marketers and business owners employ. But we've also gotten really deep on the show into regulation and legislation, the science behind all of it and certainly underpinned by education. And so I wanted to update the to be blunt brand to be reflective of that. I still stand by that as a marketer, you need to understand the law and the science so that you can effectively take a brand to market. But again, I want to broaden my approach to tackling these blunt conversations by refreshing the to be blunt brand with this expanded view. So I just wanted to invite you into this journey as I refresh things and continue to work to make this podcast a professional exploration of how to do cannabis business successfully. And remember, success is defined by you, not the industry. On top of that there are many nuances to regulation and legislation that as things currently stand what works for one brand might not work for you. So you have to do what is best for your situation, which dovetails into today's guests episode nicely. I am joined by Elizabeth Corbett, a packaging powerhouse who is the VP of sales at EY global a custom packaging solution for the cannabis industry. Elizabeth is on a mission to build sustainable packaging and supply chain programs for cannabis and CBD companies that helps honor their brand identity, drive revenue growth and protect the product and all doing it so cost effectively. Cannabis as she is fondly known, entered the cannabis industry more than eight years ago. After spending the first part of her career in developing packaging solutions for significant players in the retail and health and beauty markets, such as Starbucks, Tiffany and Estee Lauder, She's based in Seattle and Miami, and is passionate about finding environmentally responsible and sustainable solutions, no matter what the form or substrate. In this episode, we dive into the world of cannabis packaging, which is the key P in consumer packaged goods. And what options are out there how supply chain issues affect packaging timelines, how this aspect of the industry addresses sustainability, and when to start thinking of packaging for your products. So with that said, let's get straight to the episode. Please join me by lining one up and let's welcome Elizabeth to the show.
Unknown Speaker 5:48
My name is Beth Corbett. I'm the Vice President of Sales for a global. We are a company that's headquartered in Miami, we specialize in developing comprehensive packaging and supply chain solutions for the cannabis and CBD industries as well as other consumer products industries such as alcohol, health and beauty. I have been in packaging for more than 20 years. It's something that I kind of fell into I was working in the more in the traditional print production space on the paper mill side for about 17 years. And while I was still there ended up becoming a lot more involved with what you would consider like retail companies I worked with Tiffany I developed, I worked on the custom blue paper for them. And in fact had the opportunity to work on only the third time they changed their embossed pattern in their history. So that was a pretty amazing experience worked with companies like Estee Lauder, Starbucks, Samsung. And then because I was so involved in the health and beauty industry, one of my larger health and beauty customers went to work for what at the time was one of the largest cannabis companies in the world. He called me on his first day there and needed some help. And I joke that he and I learned how to package weed together. It was when Washington a lot of people always think it was Colorado, but both Washington and Colorado passed legalization of marijuana at the same time. And so it was a pretty crazy time I learned a lot. It was truly drinking from the firehose, but found that I absolutely loved the industry on so many different levels. A I believe in the power of the plant. And I believe all the good things that it can do. But it's also just an incredibly fun industry. It's so much fun to work in an industry that's growing really fast, really diverse, diverse range of products, some really specific challenges that I don't think any other industry experiences in the world, and is just really fun. About six years ago, one of my customers named me cannabis and it stuck.
Shayda Torabi 7:55
I really appreciate that introduction. And obviously packaging is so integral in the cannabis industry. And I feel like it's one of those aspects of, in general, any industry, when you think of consumer packaged goods, obviously packaging is part of the consumer packaged goods conversation. But with cannabis, it's something that I don't think is always as aware of a need until like It's like we we sell we write and so you don't really think oh, we need to be put in this pretty package. It's just I sell weed. And so now as cannabis is going more mainstream, you're seeing the adoption of very high end textures, and just different types of displays that they're actually packaging the products in, which is why I'm excited to have this conversation. This is actually the first packager that I'm getting to have on the podcast, which is shocking to me, but also an exciting opportunity, because I think that it's just something that again, everybody needs, but there's not a lot of understanding around it. And from my experience, running my own brand and having navigate packaging, there's really not a ton of options in the packaging space in terms of, I guess materials or different types of like shapes. Like it's pretty standard from what I've understood, but that's where I'm excited to kind of open the box with you. So to kind of kick things off, I'd love to understand from your perspective, when we talk about you know, packaging, what is packaging, from your perspective and maybe like a step back from a global what is the breadth of types of packaging that you really work on or put together for clients?
Unknown Speaker 9:30
Sure, I think I mentioned that one of the things I love about the cannabis industry is how diverse it is in terms of range of products. And the only other industry that I can think of that's anywhere close to this would probably be you know cosmetics, right? Can you imagine being L'Oreal and you're trying to develop something for lotions or mascara or lipstick or foundation I mean they're all very different structures right? And a little bit like that almost everything in cannabis has a price Primary package and a secondary package. So the primary package is, well, let's say it's a topical, right, let's say it's a topical with your lotion or an oil, you know, that's actually going into some jar or into some bottle. And then oftentimes that is going into a course or a corresponding box. And there are a lot of different reasons for that. And you just think about, again, I talked about the wide range, you've got edibles, but edibles can be cookies, it can be gummies, it can be mince, it can be beverages, every single one of those is likely going to be put in a different kind of package. Another part of the challenge is that every state has different regulations. So if I'm a company that has an amazing gummy, that is really has a percentage of fruit juice like wild, you know, their packaging has gorgeous fruit on it. And it has a really amazing, cool box, they can't use that same artwork in Michigan, because Michigan has passed a law that says you can't put fruit on the box. So those are I mean, but again, I think that's one of the things that's kind of crazy and fun about the industry is that there are so many challenges, and so many differences. What we do is, you know, we sit down with a customer, I'm working on a brand new launch for somebody who's launching a number of products in Michigan for for 20. And so we sit down with them. And that conversation really starts with what are the products, and there may be something like a vape pen that there might be two or three different options for how we could package that. Part of that is sustainability, thinking about what's the most sustainable packaging that I could be picking, whether it's recyclable, whether it's recycled? Is it something that can be used again? And then what's your brand about right? Is it supposed to be elegant? Is it natural? Is it premium? Is it entry level? Is it every day? Those are all things that Global's design team sits down with the customer and somebody like myself and says, let's find the right solution. And the other thing that's kind of crazy and so difficult, is this particular one I'm talking about has nine different products, I have to find a way to make those nine different products and nine different packaging looks like it came from the same company, right? Make it look like it's all from the same brand. So that's challenging, but I think in a weird way, it's a lot of fun. It's certainly not boring.
Shayda Torabi 12:15
No, it's definitely something that, you know, again, when you think about, I have a product I want to sell is then how do I'm going to put this product in a package, it's going to end up on a shelf, and the consumer is going to select my product from that shelf. And so I guess a follow up question I have where my brain is going is when you're working with clients, and maybe this is more just like insight into packaging in general, my experience has not ever been anything really truly custom. Like I look at the customization coming on the labeling or maybe the external box that the jar is going into. But when you're looking at jars or tubes, like let's say a tube for a joint, when you're working with clients, are you coming up with custom shapes or nuances to it? I mean, obviously, you mentioned to there are certain types of actual, like plastics that might be used. But how much of it is the customization and how much is it? There's, you know, let's say 100 different types of base packaging, and then we can put those together and make something that looks unique for your brand. But it's not maybe necessarily custom,
Unknown Speaker 13:19
you'd be surprised. I think the majority of folks that I work with are really looking for some level of customization. If you look at mature markets like Colorado, Oregon, Washington, California, it's become much more of a consumer product, good experience. You walk into a dispensary and there's a lot to pick from. It's not like Illinois, or even Michigan to a degree where you're kind of limited to like what was even available, so you don't have as many choices. It's all about wow, I have 50 Gummies to pick from what's really speaking to me, I'll be the first one to say that there are gummies that I have tried, or there have been products that I have tried because the first thing I thought was oh wow, that's a really cool pouch. Or look at that. That about there's a edible in Washington called pioneer squares. Very first time I ever tried it was solely because I liked the package. And by the way, that is the package that earns me the name cannabis. Did you do their packaging? No, because I had too much fun having the edible. So all very true. There's two pads. One is sometimes somebody doesn't have the budget or they don't have the time and oftentimes it's more of the time to get something super, super custom. But even on like a pop top tube, you can customize the top you can customize to have the logo of your company in Boston, the top of the pop top two, you can do custom shapes in terms of folding cartons, global developed the Select squeeze bottle, which is very customized, and that's something I would say if you're going to look at something custom, whether it's a bottle jar to what Whatever that is, whatever you're gonna do, the more complex it is, the longer it's going to take, right? It could take four months, it could take 12 months, oftentimes part of that's also on the customer, right? The client going back and forth and figuring out in that decision making process. But you'd be surprised, I would say more often than not, I've had three different meetings with clients today, and two out of the three ended up with us deciding that they really want to go the route to do custom. So I think if they can afford it, if they have the time, most people would like to go that direction.
Shayda Torabi 15:31
No, that's very fair. And again, just something that you know, I think, from my personal experience of trying to navigate packaging, it's, well, where do I begin, and then you think, oh, custom sounds good. But like you said, it's time it's the investment. Sometimes it comes down to how many SKUs you have or like for us with our brand, we recently decided to switch up packaging. And we realize that our Packager is coming from overseas, which is traditional for most packaging, but the tariff that they're then charging us for the packaging is like astronomical and some brands are or aren't charging that and so it comes down to then we thought we were getting a reasonable price for the packaging, but then you're adding on the tariff, and it's taking packaging up to a different degree of a price tag. And so those are things that again, I think, maybe larger businesses have, they're buying more in volume, so they can afford that initial cost. But for maybe a small business or small brand, that might not be the first route that they're taking, when it comes to packaging, they might look for something a little bit more standard for them to go select to maybe change the label or logo or whatever the case may be on the external of that packaging device. But I want to kind of dive into a little bit. I know we were talking about CPGs. And my audience is very familiar of looking at cannabis as a consumer packaged good, but especially with your background coming from I mean, some really marquee brands, Tiffany's obviously very iconic, their color their brand, their packaging, Starbucks as well. Samsung like these are very traditional industries. What similarities or what differences would you say there are from that to cannabis slash? I'm curious from your experience, especially working with clients? Do you see clients looking at traditional industries and being like, oh, I want a package like Estee Lauder, you know, has their lipsticks and like, how much of what we see in other industries? Do we kind of, I guess be inspired by and bring into the cannabis industry. And I see it happening in states like California, like, the packaging is off the charts, right? Like you're just looking at these things. And it's looking so high and so custom. Like, it could be a makeup too, but then you open it up and there was a joint in there. So just kind of what has that experience been like for you both coming from that more traditional side of the packaging industry to now obviously, representing some big cannabis clients with their packaging?
Unknown Speaker 17:53
I think there's a couple of things. One is the desire to have sustainable packaging that you've seen growing particularly in. Most people don't realize, but all of Tiffany's paper is 50% postconsumer. They probably it's they don't even probably talk about it. But I was on the team that helped make that happen. So I would say sustainability is an area where whether it's L'Oreal, Estee Lauder, Tiffany, traditional CPGs Procter and Gamble, that Unilever would be another great one. That's a big driver in terms of all of their decision making. That's definitely come over into cannabis. It is very rare that I have a conversation with a customer talking about brand new packaging, or looking at their existing packaging. And they don't mention, like what can I be doing from a sustainable perspective? And that could be a lot of different things. It could be the substrate, it could be the design, is it recyclable? Whatever? Or is it reusable? I'm working on something right now where it's a special tin, I won't say who it's for. But one of the things that we've done is to make sure that the label is reusable so that somebody can reuse the TIN for something else. So that to me is very CPG, right, just in terms of mindset is very, very similar. Another areas again, the whole, how is this going to look when it's on shelf? Right? That's a very CPG minded, right? What do I need to do in terms of design to have my product that's going to make it work in that environment, even to the point where when I'm working with them, and we're talking about doing like a not every state allows us but some states like California, Washington let you do like a point of purchase display, right? And then helping them figure out, okay, looking at your retail price, here's the way I think that you should pitch it to the dispensary. I think you should only put six in there because that's less of a fun that they have to come up with. Versus they're like, oh, I want 12 And I'm like they're not gonna be able to afford that. So helping that customer think that way, which again, is definitely more of I think of a consumer product good perspective. I've worked with a large multi state operator and one of the things that they talk about is normalizing and professionalizing the cannabis industry and I Think of that in terms of the packaging as well. Then seeing that elevate, you don't if you look at what everything that I'm working on now, it's definitely you wouldn't necessarily know that it's for a cannabis product. Absolutely. It's, it's got a premium feel, or they're talking about different textures. Just as much as soft touch coatings are a big deal in let's say, supplements. All you have to do is go into like a vitamin shop and half the packaging, the folding cartons that you could see there look almost the same as a folding carton now in a dispensary. So I see that the from the print treatments, how they're looking at the branding, and you've really seen the evolution of branding of marketing. You don't I mean, I know that sounds terrible, but eight years ago, you still saw stuff with like women in bikinis and guys on Harley's, you know, on the packaging, and you don't see that very much anymore. Now it's something that's definitely you want to have it so you could bring it to somebody's house, right? I definitely have friends that when they say bring dessert, well I know exactly what I'm going to bring it I'm going to make sure it looks nice.
Shayda Torabi 21:04
Bring couple little edibles and a nice little package tin and, you know, get nice label and branding on it. Now I totally get what you're saying. I mean, just my experience getting to travel and be in the cannabis industry and the capacity that I've been able to be in it. I mean, I would say my audience knows this out of anything like my favorite, like focus topic is branding. And so like with that the extension of I like you like you're sharing, you know, I will go to a dispensary. And sometimes I'll know about the brand. But sometimes I'm attracted to the package the display the way that they're setting their product up, which can sometimes be deceiving, right? Like, I'm not going to name names, but I have a very well known cannabis brand, and their packaging is beautiful. And then I open it up and I'm like, oh, but your gummies are just kind of like you know, lackluster, but your packaging is really good. Your packaging is kind of what got me. So obviously, sometimes that's not exclusively the case, there's still really great products that are inside really great packaging. But you mentioned sustainability. I think it's a really hot topic in the cannabis industry for a myriad of reasons, which all kind of, you know, tee up for you right? And then you can speak to it. From my observation, just from the conversations I've been having with my podcast guests. I remember really early on, I was fortunate to interview a woman who is the CEO of love's oven, which is one of the original edible companies coming out of Colorado. And in her episode she was reflecting on the laws were changing around labeling so fast that they couldn't afford to do their labeling outside of the company because it was just constantly changing. And so they decided to buy a printer that they could do their own labels in house. I know that's not all packaging is rights label that goes on the packaging. But that same mindset has always stuck with me of oh my gosh, how frequently are laws changing? I mean, you mentioned even to just like certain states, allowing you to have certain imagery on your packaging. Some brands, yes, it's a label, some are actually printed on like Mylar bags where it's all embedded in the packaging. So when it comes down to sustainability, you have the regulations and legislation that feels like it's constantly changing. It's obviously changing state to state. But we have all this excess of product sometimes because we're making packages, and we're changing packages. And so I'm eager to hear from you, not only just the options or opportunities of like types of, I guess material, right. But I would love to learn more about that, too. You touched on a little bit of the types of more sustainable material. But how do you see packaging playing a role against all these regulations that are changing. And the final thing I'll share? Another guest interview I just did was with a gentleman from a dispensary in California called airfield supply Co. And he was bringing up like a packaging recycling program, which I've heard has been implemented in a couple states, I haven't really seen anything really bolstered or taken off. And so I'm just curious from kind of, you're actually on the side of the table of the packaging. How do we as an industry do the best we can do and what more can we be doing? Is it picking better packaging, you know, materials? Is it implementing recyclable programs? And how does that kind of counterbalance when the laws seem to be changing and dictating what we can actually put on the packages at the end of the day?
Unknown Speaker 24:34
So I grew up in Oregon, so and I went to the University of Oregon. So I joke that sustainability is in my blood. I'm really fortunate that having grown up in the northwest and living a part time in Seattle things like I mean, I don't have to think about composting, it's the law, which is great. And it just makes it so easy. One of the things that I found when I joined a global was that they had a very sustainable mindset. which was great. And one of the things I've always said is I would I've had clients ask me this for 20 years, well, what's the most sustainable thing I can do? And I always like to say there is no one thing. There are many, many little things that you can do along the way. And they all add up to the big things. So one of the first things, it's probably the very first thing everybody should do whenever you're looking at packaging, whether or not it's for cannabis or not, is is it right sized? How many times have we bought something from Amazon and you get the box, and whatever you bought is in like a third of the carton. And I don't feel good about that. Nobody feels good about that, right. So that's one of the very first things I'm working with a customer right now we're going to be reducing the size of their edibles, packaging by probably about 40%. And that was huge. And there are a lot of lot of things. First of all, everybody's gonna feel better about that, right, you're actually going to spend less money, you're gonna use less substrate, so you're going to spend less money, and consumers going to feel better about it. Because again, nobody likes to open up a package and go, Whoa, look at all this wasted space, and your dispensary wins too. So everybody wins, right? Your dispensary has to use, they get to use less space, they get to have more product out every week. And I like to say that a lot of times through sustainability, you can actually save money. So what a what a bonus, it doesn't always have to add money. So that's the very first thing. The next thing is really think about the substrates that you're using. And that can be plastic, Mylars, paper, glass, tin, whatever that is, and certain things. One I talked about reusability repurpose, repurposing. I think that's actually one of the greatest things you can do from a sustainability perspective. There are a lot of things that we can do with a glass jar or a tin, you know, large containers small, where it's something that you can actually reuse it for something else. I love that idea. In the case of Mylars in terms of pouches, pouches aren't going to go away. They're just honestly too easy for people to use. And not just in cannabis. Right, I'm talking about in everything. So I think what the good thing is that the industry is responding to that. So there are some great things coming out now from whether it be recyclable, compostable, biodegradable, we're not all there yet. And right now, a lot of those options, they're not as easy to get and they are more expensive. If I were a betting person, I bet within 12 to 24 months, it's going to be so much easier for somebody to make the right choice. And then they only have to spend maybe 10% more. And to me that's doable, to ask somebody to spend 50 to 70% more when the margins in cannabis are pretty compressed, especially in states like California that has such a high tax structure. That's a lot to ask of somebody who wants to do the right thing. So that's part of our responsibility is to help find a way to make it easier to do the right thing. And then, if possible to use something like that's truly, you know, truly compostable, recyclable like a paper based product. And not only in a paper based product, finding maybe something that already has recycled fibers, there's some really cool stuff coming now that has hemp in it, a percentage of have a straw, there's a company called Mohawk that now has a hemp and a straw paper, which are great. There are some companies that are really close, they're launching some small products, but a lot of stuff coming with hemp, and plastic. That's pretty cool. That's still recyclable, where you can use like up to 25% hemp, which that's such a cool story, right. And the other thing is, you can see the fibers in the plastic, which I think is pretty cool. So I guess I've touched on a lot of things. Our industry has a couple of things that make it hard child resistance by nature makes makes it so you're using a lot of packaging. From a political legal perspective, whatever. I 100% agree that edibles should be child resistant. I just think that that you know whether it's gummies chocolate, cookies, beverages, whatever that is, absolutely should be a child resistant packaging, I'm hoping is that our industry evolves, that we can move to the point where flour based products do not need to be in child resistant packaging. I think that's really just a waste. You end up just having more packaging. child resistant packaging by nature usually uses some sort of plastic. It has to in most cases, or there's just a lot more packaging then you probably need but you know that's a that's a personal opinion. I'm finding that there is a growing group of people like me who think that we'll see what happens.
Shayda Torabi 29:33
Now I'm glad you touched on all of that because it is something that I think the industry is very aware of certainly but how do you start to make headway on it and how do you actually start to make choices that can be more sustainable and I love seeing more hemp packaging being introduced and percentages of hemp being introduced. Not only you know, obviously representing a hemp CBD brand where or it is exciting to see him becoming more popular just like as a plant, but being able to then go take it into specifically some of these applications when it comes to fiber, or plastics, or even grain and things like that, and being able to, like kind of bring it full circle, right, like create this economy where we're actually using these products for multiple purposes. And it can be something that we can work for better or worse, it's like I agree with you to on the child packaging, it's like, we need this. But what is the you know, cost or the trade off. And so that's where it comes down to maybe if we can be more mindful and thoughtful of the types of sizing of boxes, packaging, which again, I know, is something that at least with our business, we were just having that conversation, you know, we sell a mint, and we were buying multiple sizes of packaging. But that's because we wanted the right package for the right product, and not to look like we're sending this massive, you know, bottle with a little tiny, you know, mint in it, or a couple of minutes in it. And so those are definitely things that I think, you know, for better or worse, you kind of start to navigate through as you're in the industry. And you're thinking about how can I make the most not necessarily economical from a price point, but obviously, like, you know, ethical and sustainable approach as well for the betterment of the industry. And so I again, I know, it's just like a hot topic, because I think we all want to do good, but then like finding the right avenues to go and actually execute again, seems to be a little bit challenging sometimes. So kind of with that in mind, let's put the kind of hat framework on have, I'm starting a new brand. How and when do I think of packaging? Like let's say I'm making a new edible company? Where do I think of packaging? And kind of what does that approach look like, from your perspective, when a client comes to you? And they're like, hey, I need this, you know, how do you begin that process with them?
Unknown Speaker 31:57
I think the biggest answer is as soon as possible. By the way, this is not just cannabis, right? This is everything. This is I've seen it in spirits and wine and retail. Oftentimes, people it's like they forget about it, right? And then all of a sudden, they're like, oh, yeah, I need packaging. I had a meeting with somebody on Monday, who wants to launch a bunch of products on for 20. And I said, so. Okay, the clock is ticking right now. And I said is your branding gonna go home? Now the branding is not going to be done till the end of February. I was like, Okay, so I'm stressed for you if you weren't already stressed out. And now we have to figure out how to make that happen. There's a couple of big things, like I said, the sooner the better. The other thing is, the earlier you can start talking about your packaging, the more choices you have. And we talked about that, if you wanted to do something custom, because a lot of times something custom isn't necessarily that much more expensive. It's that you have the timeline for it. And I think that that's really the biggest thing. The other thing is, and I have had this happen, I can't really do anything until I know what I'm packaging, because I'll have people say, Oh, well, I've got a vape pen. I was like, great. Do you have a sample? Oh, well, we don't have the sample yet. Well, do you know, you know, do you know what the you know, diameter is you know what the length is gonna be? Well, we don't we don't really have that yet. It's hard for me to design the package because I'm going to be designing it around it. Same thing, you know, with an edible, you know, whatever, whatever that is. We want to be involved early, we want to help you in any way possible. But the biggest thing you know, the two biggest things that you get out of starting early are you're likely to pay less, and you're likely to get exactly what you want.
Shayda Torabi 33:49
Hello, just want to take a quick moment to thank my sponsor and full disclosure, my company restart CBD, restart. CBD is a brand that I built with my sister. So we are family owned and women owned, we do operate a brick and mortar in Austin. So if you ever find yourself in Central Texas, we'd love for you to come say hi. But we also ship nationwide and we carry a wide range of CBD products. We really care about this plant, we really care about educating our customers, this show would not be possible without their support. So please go check us out at restart cbd.com and use code to be blunt for $5 off your next purchase. Thanks. And let's go back to the show. I would say kind of going off of that too. I'm curious, just with everything going on with COVID Obviously causing shipping delays. I'm sure you saw the Kiva article that has kind of gone national international right now, which they seem to do, you know, a nice pivot of taking an item that was delayed and I believe it was as their 10s, or 10s, were custom done. And they were stuck at a cargo holding ship in Los Angeles, I believe. And that was supposed to be a holiday packaged item. And now they're releasing it, you know, early February. And, again, they were able to use it to their advantage, I think it ended up giving them a lot of press, which maybe they obviously weren't anticipating it. So like kudos to them for making something out of it. But time you keep talking about time, obviously, that in general is something to be considered. I've been trying to navigate packaging, but how has COVID and kind of the supply chain challenges added to that complexity for customers who are looking to navigate packaging so that it gets here in time for, let's say, a 420? Launch? or something, you know, equally important in the industry?
Unknown Speaker 35:49
Yeah, I think the Kivas story is interesting, because they chose to wait, they chose to wait until the tins got there and then relabeled them and what are they calling it like the supply chain special or something like that? Yeah, I saw that I saw the pictures and the imagery. I think in that case, personally, and I don't know what they discussed. I, you know, you have dispensaries who were waiting for the product to add. So in that case, I think another option could have been to come up with packaging, that wasn't necessarily their desired 10. But another option that would let that product get into this, because the product was made to get into dispensaries. And honestly, in that case, it could have been something like there are socked in sometimes that you get their stock jars, you could do a custom pouch, you could do a custom car pouch, that would get an even say, like, temporary or make it a special edition. You know, special edition, you know, pouch, you'll never see this from us. Again, I think that, you know, whenever we're designing, another good example I can give is I'm working on a custom beverage delivery package. And that's a big thing right now the whole kind of beverage enhancer movement. And we have a global has a brand new product that we're launching called amplify. And in this case, I'm going to work with the customer. And we are going to launch in amplify, which is my stock product. And behind the scenes, we're also going to be working with them to develop a custom package. So that long term, the custom package can be what that transitions to. So they're able to get the product in the market, which is really important to them, and they want to have their product in the market, May June timeframe. And so the safer path is to go into my stock product that I can do right now that I have available, we'll label it will make it look beautiful. It'll still be representation, you know, representative of their brand, but then longterm we're behind the scenes getting the custom product ready to go. And I think you just have to be really honest with your client in that process. And I think it's really smart to almost say, hey, right now, this is what I recommend, I remember I recommend the dual path. And and you also have to have, you know, have your customer be willing to, you know, make some decisions. You know, I'm working on a custom item right now out of China where we've presented to the customer and they we've agreed that based on their launch, the safest bet is to airfreight it, and it might make it in time if we ocean if we did ocean freight, but we just felt that it was too risky. And the most important thing for them is to be able to launch the product on the date that they want it to. And and they they make the decision, right? They can say yep, no, it's you know, it's worth the risk. It's fine. If it launches right late, it's fine. Or if it's for a certain event, like Mother's Day or something, then then you make then you make the decision. I think it's just it's a lot of communication, a lot of open communication. And I think having multiple solutions to be considered. And everybody be open minded and creative.
Shayda Torabi 38:55
Yeah, no, that's a really great tip, I think for people to just like, you know, obviously talk in the back of their mind and just being really realistic with launch dates and maybe pressed that they try, you know, try to line up for specific timing of things to happen, and also just the reality of the state of the world. And when people are going to realistically get things and having a good kind of contingency plan. And I think, you know, it's, it's ideal, but I also I feel the empathy as I'm sure you do with all the types of clients that you interact with have, sometimes they don't have the package, the item is going to go in the package just quite yet. I don't know, you know, all the different pieces and so it's kind of like you're trying to build this orchestra with you know, some instruments missing. And at the end, you know, hopefully you can make a great song out of it. I am curious just because I think that it's a relevant you know, aspect of things and I just curious like to frame it for myself and certainly for the listeners to does the majority of packaging, whether it's custom stock, it sounds like it's probably all of it again from just my observer. ation of things is coming from overseas is any packaging kind of at a mass level being produced in the United States? Or does it all kind of come from overseas. And so that's really extra that timing is so important. I just don't even know if people really realize, and I bring this up, because similar to the vape conversation, I had a friend, he's from Roanoke, and vapes. He's a guest previous episode, and we were talking about vaping. And I remember hearing, like all the vape, cartridges, they all come from overseas. And there's very few that are actually manufactured, if any, that are manufactured in the United States. And so people just don't realize sometimes the dominant some of these other international markets have over certain aspects of our industry. And obviously, packaging is universal. It's not just cannabis. So it's just something that I'm curious if that's validated, or if there's a split or and what that kind of looks like
Unknown Speaker 40:53
I would tell you that maybe let's go back six or eight years ago, huge percentage came from China. And there's definitely been, there was already movement before COVID. Part of it was timeline, part of it was especially when the tariffs got put in, honestly, I think that that was probably so the tariffs have been in for maybe four years, five years believer, it's been a while now. So it's been at least four years, when the tariffs were placed in, that's when you started seeing people really start to look at, oh, wait a second, my tin just got 25% more expensive. And I mentioned before in cannabis, some items have a pretty lean margin. And so you know, your packaging cost of goods is has a has a real impact. So I think that that's kind of when that started. There are certain items that are very hard to get anywhere other than China glass is China, China and Taiwan. For the most part, there's some glass out of Mexico but not not meaningful. I think there will be someday just not right now. Rigid boxes depending on what they're for. More so China still just because of the evolved so much handwork and tin is almost 100% China, I had somebody once refer to it to me as the tin mafia, I thought that was a great, a great description, it just means there's just not a lot of options. However, things like paper based child resistant folding cartons are easy lock carton is 100% made manufactured in North America, there are some other options as well that I know have moved to the US people have some pretty good options for child resistant, folding cartons, folding cartons themselves, very much so have definitely moved to the US. I'm seeing that more and more and especially you look at tariffs, and then also the freight. Even ocean freight has just, you know, a container used to be $3,000. And sometimes now they can be anywhere from 18 to $24,000. you amortize that over the product that's in that container, it's not worth it. Something that used to maybe add a penny to your box is now adding 10 cents to your box. Now you start thinking about it. And then you also start thinking about, well wait a second, I'm also going to have to wait three to four months to get my product, that's three to four months that my product isn't on the shelf. That's that's a cost of doing business also. So labels pretty much, you know, a lot of people were getting pouches from China. And I'm seeing that really reversing where pouches are coming here are being manufactured in North America again, part of its cost a lot of it is just, you know, I know multiple people who ended up having to reprint their pouch in the United States, because their pouch from China wasn't here yet. Didn't know when it was gonna be here, and they had to launch their product. So I mean, that's a that's a huge cost of doing business. So I think there's just there's a lot more transparency, it's very hard. In the case of Kiva, their 10 is stuck on the water, you don't know when it's coming. And and and I don't know who their manufacturer was or their broker, but their broker can't tell them because there's literally nothing you can do. We personally have moved manufacturing of a number of our plastic items to the United States. So the majority of our I think almost all of our CR do tubes are all now manufactured in the US in California and the Southeast. And we're not alone. Right. So I think, I don't know what the percentage is it is but I bet at least half of cannabis packaging is made in North America now. And that's only going to continue. Whenever I have whenever I'm working on something with somebody. That's their first question is this. This is us, right? You guys make this in the US? I can't wait. I can't airfreight anymore. I can't be at risk of not being able to have my product on shelf.
Shayda Torabi 44:39
No, I appreciate the transparency from you because I think it is one of those things that until you're sitting which realistically is every buddy who's working on a package product that is intended to be sold right specifically in our industry. It's like you have to have that packaging conversation at some point but I think you don't realize the degree to which the timeline or tariffs or just like other nuances of procuring that packaging can actually impact business. And so I only imagine like your highlighting, it's going to be brought back to the States more and more frequently. And in volumes because we're producing it. And people want to support, you know, local made in the USA as much as possible as well as they want their products without having to incur those additional shipping or freight or tariffs as well. And so it's something that I observed also just kind of like in the hemp space, you know, there's a big demand for more hemp paper or more hemp clothing, and then you kind of step back and I kind of went down this like dark circle hole of, well, I want to wear more hemp clothing, and then you realize, well, there's not a lot of people who are actually, you know, able to manufacture those fibers. And so then that comes into the actual infrastructure. And so I imagine that there's a big opportunity for people to set up manufacturing of any one of these, you know, types of products that you were, you know, sharing with us of maybe getting the actual tin might be a challenge for businesses, but setting up the manufacturing to go manufacture tin packaging seems like there's a huge opportunity for another country and maybe United States to take that on. So I agree with you. I think things are evolving. And we're only going to see more of that, especially as these large businesses who are spending millions on their packaging are looking at, you know, their options. But yeah, kind of presently, it's like, oh, wait, I assumed I could just get that here. And then you're like, oh, wait, I can't or I can't get everything that I wanted here. And so how do you kind of go down that pathway? So obviously, very fascinating. I was just curious, I appreciate you entertaining me and helping provide some context to that one. But you've talked a little bit too about some of the different stuff that you've seen state to state. And so I'm curious kind of what else comes to mind in terms of maybe certain packaging, laws or regulation, or just things that you're seeing are more I guess, adopted or successful, kind of like, where my brain is going a little bit too, we were touching on like, California, to me is really driving a lot of innovation when it comes to having brands that are sitting on shelves that look like they could be insert any name, beauty brand, or you know, high end health or wellness product. And then you look at some markets, I'm not going to name them, you know, but you see, they're maybe not as mature from a packaging perspective. And I wonder if sometimes that's because the brands haven't been innovating or thinking to innovate in that regard? Or if it's really the regulations are, you know, kind of preventing them from doing that. And then kind of the, you know, follow up to that would be knowing that there are brands that let's say operate in both California and Colorado, and how do you navigate brands that are multi state operators with packaging, like I know, just from personal experience, I spoke to some people at Juana, and they were sharing that some of their packaging, you know, like you're saying you can't have fruit imagery, or you know, showing the actual cartoon or the gummy or whatever, on some states packaging. And so I'm just curious from your experience and expertise, kind of what it's been like working with brands, who are multi state operators, and just operating in different states in general.
Unknown Speaker 48:19
I think one of the things that we ask upfront, anytime we're working on something is like, I'm working with somebody right now, who's only in Michigan right now, but they're getting ready to go in a number of other states. So my very first thing I said was, so whatever we designed, let's try to design something that's going to work in as many states as possible. And it may not work in all of them, right? You may have you may be in 10 states. But if I could get to the point where I have kind of two standard structures per SKU, or three, so that you can order in larger volumes, it's easier to for you to manage your inventories. And then maybe at that point, the only thing you're having to do is, you know, have different labels on the back of every let's say folding carton so that now that works in Massachusetts, or that works in Michigan, or it works in Colorado. So that's one of the first things that we try to do. You have certain states where Florida would be a really good example. Florida is very, very limiting. It's a nice way to put it, isn't it?
Shayda Torabi 49:17
We love Florida, we love talking about Florida, they're an interesting state. They are from
Unknown Speaker 49:21
a cannabis perspective. So they're very limiting about what you can have on the package, the primary package everything. So I have developed a number of custom packages where it was like, Okay, this custom jar is for the rest of the US and Florida gets its own jar. And that's an you're just gonna have stuff like that. But on the other hand, Florida is a huge market. It's a huge market, just medical. There's over a million people who have their med cards here. And so, at that point, I'm like, it's kind of okay that Florida has its own thing because again, at least you're going to be producing and large enough volume volume of it. Yeah, that it's Okay, sometimes there are ways to address different states legislation through things like extended labels. So an extended label is the time you know, when you pull it up, and there's stuff on the back. And And also, there's a, there's still a piece of it that that's on, let's say the jar, a lot of times, you can do something like that in a state like Massachusetts, or Pennsylvania, or Ohio, where it helps you still kind of right size your product, but then you are able to get all of the language that they're required. So there are things like that. I also see, Illinois would be a really good example. When Illinois first launched, I literally had somebody say to me, doesn't matter what the packaging looks like, they're gonna take whatever they can get, right? You know, they're just happy they can get weed. And I told him, I was like, two years from now your branding is gonna be really important because everyone's going to catch up, there's going to be enough marijuana, you're going to have to be able to be, you know, stand out on shelf. And now that's happening. And so that's the other thing where the California or Washington or an Oregon have, you know, beautiful dispensaries, right? Places that you walk into that you would not know, it was a dispensary, right? It's a great, wonderful experience. Illinois is definitely catching up. And that will happen as states transition from medical to rec, you'll see that in New York, you'll see that in New Jersey, I think it's a natural transition, as your market becomes more saturated and more competitive.
Shayda Torabi 51:32
Yeah, no, I definitely agree with that. And I think the observation of regardless of what you know, status your states and you should be considerate of what is that brand experience? And absolutely, I mean, you have to think about when the customer, again, is walking into a into a dispensary, or even seeing a photo of your packaging, maybe they can't actually touch or feel it, but they're looking at social media, you're doing the teaser posts, like people are gravitated towards that. And that is important, and certainly something for consideration. And so, yeah, I mean, I think it's obviously a really relevant conversation that I don't think it says much attention when you think of like, Oh, I gotta build a brand. I gotta, you know, think of how I'm going to package my business up. But packaging is very important in that equation. Kind of final question I have for you. I'm really curious what your advice would be for, I guess, like, is there any difference between launching a hemp or CBD based product where you don't have as I'm not redundant as much, but any requirements in terms of childproofing versus a marijuana brand and state, maybe agnostic, but obviously, a CBD hemp product, as long as it's hemp derived, you can make a item, put it in a package and ship it across state lines, and your brand obviously, can be distributed much more broadly with not as much regulation compared to a marijuana branded product. And so I'm just curious, would you kind of coach the same? Like sides of the industries the same? Or is there a different approach you take for him versus marijuana from packaging perspective?
Unknown Speaker 53:15
So that's a really good question. Nobody's ever asked me that before. I have people. So I have a number of CBD companies, at customers clients, I have some that everything is CR and I have some that nothing is CR. And I really look at it as an kind of an individual choice. I don't know what's gonna happen in the industry. I'm like, I know that all my supplements, all my vitamins, I do gummies. It just makes it easier than that, if I found that I'm actually really good about taking myself supplements, if I make them gummies. And those all have child resistant caps, all of them. And so there is a part of me that thinks that long term, it's probably a good move. But, you know, I'm not going to tell somebody what to do. But you know, long term, I think CBD is going to be a supplement, just like anything else. I really do. And at that point, it does kind of make sense, particularly if you're, I'm not talking about like a little two pack, right, you know, the the two pack that, you know, in a pouch on the way out of the store. I mean, that's easy. Nothing's gonna happen with two gummies. But if somebody's buying a jar with like, 30 or 60 Gummies I think it probably makes sense to make that a child resistant jar. I don't necessarily think that topicals need to be child resistant. I don't even know why they're child resistant in cannabis when you get down to it. When was the last time you saw a child sit down and eat a jar of lotion? That's kind of gross. Although I'm sure it's happened, but I mean, not even THC. I'm just talking any lotion. Absolutely. Yeah. So I could see in the case of like a true topical like a lotion, that that doesn't necessarily need to be child resistant, but gummies edibles that kinds of thing I could see especially if it's a large outright, I don't think it needs to be for a beverage or a soda. I just don't, I don't think that there's enough there that would be harmful for anybody. My big thing on CBD is to make sure that you're not making any claims just because of the fact that it is still theoretically illegal, then the FDA has been very busy with other things, instead of dealing with something that should have been dealt with a long time ago. I have had clients, I had a client from the UK, who was coming into the US. And she had all kinds of stuff on the packaging that I was like, you can't see any of that. And she was like, What's no problem? And I was like, No, it is and I literally gave her the connection to a lawyer and said, Please, I suggest, just talk to him. I don't, I don't want you to get into trouble. And I can see all kinds of things on here that will get you into trouble. So that's my, that's my big thing, you know, is just make sure that there's no claims on there that are gonna get you into trouble. And that's probably the most important thing in terms of CBD.
Shayda Torabi 56:00
Yeah, you definitely hit the nail on the head. I think my like, you know, platform that I tried to articulate as much as possible to people especially in the hemp side of things is like operate like you are selling a legal cannabis product. And I think it's getting even murkier. Now. I mean, I don't really think obviously, CBD gummies if a child ate a whole bottle of those, they'd probably you know, have a really good night's rest. But now you have the introduction of Delta eight THC. In certain states, you have thc v, which I personally love, but it's still intoxicating if you have too much of it. And so I think that's where I'm really keen to kind of watch the hemp side of things, where it's much more unregulated, even though we have some regulations. And to your point, everybody who makes a edible or beverage in the hemp space, it's like, technically, the FDA hasn't come out and said that that's legal for you to do. But go ahead. Let's do it, you know, ask for forgiveness, not for permission. So I think there's a lot of things that we have to navigate through despite the inconsistencies or the murkiness of laws, but yeah, it's just, it was just an interesting, you know, thought perspective to have, you know, how do people start to navigate these industries, because I imagine a lot of people who are operating in the hemp CBD space would love to also be in the cannabis space, especially in states like Texas, where we don't have a legal marijuana market yet. And so, I certainly know a lot of my peers are waiting the day for them to you know, flip their product labels and flip their manufacturing and be able to manufacture high THC based products. But I always love to, you know, not and my episodes by having my guests kind of, you know, think future forward. So what excites you, or inspires you the most about the future of cannabis?
Unknown Speaker 57:45
I believe in the power of the plant. So not to sound hokey, but I do, I believe in it, and went to a conference a number of years ago, where somebody started, there's a long time ago, so like six or seven years ago when he was talking about cannabis. And he said that he viewed it for, like three purposes. There was he said, entertainment, you like kind of partying. So entertainment, kind of what he called relaxation. And then he said, medicinal. And I think what's the most exciting thing about that right now is there is a gigantic percentage of the United States, something like 75% of the United States has not tried cannabis, but are open to it. That's huge, right? That's a that's a big, big number, like of the 75%, like 75% of them are really open to try and cannabis. And it's more for things like stress, sleep, pain relief, both my parents are 77 and 79. And they both take wild gummies because it helps them with their arthritis and their sleep. And that's awesome, right? So instead of taking a horrible, you know, pharma thing that's addictive, addictive, and costs a lot of money and is putting a lot of things into a whole different level of machinery. It's just Papa gummy. That I just think that's amazing, right. So that gives me a lot of hope. I don't have a lot of hope that cannabis is going to become legal federally anytime soon. But what I do have hope for is that it's going to be legal in one way shape or form that a large percentage of the states. So if we can get to that point, and have the state's work together and figure out how to regulate it the best and make let's say the law is consistent from state to state. I have a lot of hope from that perspective. It will make it a lot easier for people to sell the product grow the product, have the right packaging. I have a lot of hope for that. I see. I see that path versus federal legalization anytime soon.
Shayda Torabi 59:54
When it comes to packaging, what and when do you think of it when you've already figured out Your product or do you think of packaging as part of how you're going to bring that product to market? Elizabeth certainly shared her insight and expertise on when she thinks it is best to think about packaging. But on top of that, the lead times for really any type of packaging, I know supply chain issues are happening for every industry and cannabis has sometimes multiple aspects of packaging to consider whether it's the label on top of the bottle than it is packaged into a box and if you're a dispensary, you might have to think and consider exit bags. There are really so many touch points when it comes to packaging, especially in our industry. And I hope this episode gave you some thoughtful insight into things to consider as you navigate this aspect of your go to market strategy. As always, thank you for keeping it blunt with me. I will be back next week with another episode every Monday and encourage you to keep championing cannabis in your community. Thanks, y'all. Talk to you next week.
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Transcribed by https://otter.ai