Premium Packaging Unlocks Growth Opportunities for Cannabis Brands

Colors by Cultivar new and improved packaging.
Colors by Cultivar new and improved packaging.

Just as luxury packaging has helped brands in the alcohol, fashion and food space to capture new audiences, recent research shows it is also boosting sales for the cannabis industry. 

Roland DGA has been working with cannabis industry consultants Physis + Agency and Seattle-based Colors by Cultivar on research to examine the business opportunities for cannabis producers who invest in premium packaging as well as its effects on both brand loyalty and price growth.

Consumers Want More Than Just Quality Flower

Aric Mayer, Physis + Agency Principal and Lead Researcher.

The research found that half of cannabis consumers (49.7%) consider premium packaging to be more important when in social settings, with three-in-five (59.7%) agreeing that special branding leaves a lasting impression on their social circles. This trend is particularly pronounced in cannabis users ages 31-40, who were the group most concerned about how others view them when it came to their cannabis product choices. 

“Packaging is even more important in the cannabis industry because of brand and advertising restrictions not imposed elsewhere. What we’re seeing emerge is the opportunity for a new era in cannabis packaging that goes beyond utility to emphasize creativity, collectability, and memorability,” says Aric Mayer, Physis + Agency Principal and Lead Researcher. 

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“It’s not just about flower quality anymore,” he continues. “The combination of flower quality, brand, and packaging stands out as the driving force behind consumer choices, prompting producers to create a captivating showcase for their product.”

The “wow-factor” of stand-out packaging is especially important for those buying at the top-end of the market, the research states. Survey respondents willing to pay the highest prices for an ⅛-oz of cannabis consistently emphasize the social value of product and brand attributes, with 84% agreeing these factors significantly matter in their social circles. 

These findings highlight the interplay between social dynamics, pricing considerations and branding in shaping consumer buying patterns. 

Continued Legalization Brings a Need for Premium Packaging

Because the industry is still so new and many states are in the process of legalizing marijuana, Mayer says specialized branding was never really top of mind. As we move into the legal recreational market, the emergence of luxury brands is both a possibility and an inevitability. 

Daniel Peterson, Head of Marketing for House of Cultivar.

“As a result, you get a high quality product and then great packaging,” explains Mayer. “If a customer loves a brand, then they’ll love the packaging, and hopefully you can work with that to make personal connections.”

Daniel Peterson, Head of Marketing for House of Cultivar, says that during prohibition and the medical legalization boom, people were actually collecting packaging — almost like Pokemon cards. 

“There’s a collective mindset, and as we move into the recreational market where products are getting better in quality, consumers are utilizing reusable jars to bring flower on the road with them,” he says. 

Premium Packaging Leads to More Cannabis Gifting

According to the research, over half (56.7%) of respondents expressed a likelihood to gift cannabis products when packaged in premium branding. This signifies a real opportunity for cannabis growers to create strongly branded packaging to capitalize on limited edition gift runs around major holidays.

One of Washington state’s leading cannabis producers, House of Cultivar, is already capitalizing on the findings of this report — debuting elevated packaging for its new Colors by Cultivar Lobster Roll strain for Valentine’s Day. 

Enhanced with high-end inks, special embossing effects and holographic materials, the strain’s unique jar for an ⅛-oz of cannabis is intended to elevate the overall aesthetic and experience, as stated in a news release. In addition to the eye-catching UV dimensional effects of the label, its contour-cut edges offer peeks into the jar, allowing consumers to see the quality of the product.

Mayer actually asked people to rank how important it is to be able to perceive the quality of the flower through its packaging, and found that it’s extremely important. “Transparent packaging showcases the quality of the flower, and then the labeling and jar that creates a frame or presentation for that is also important. Having both is a critical piece,” he says. 

Colors by Cultivar Lobster Roll.

How to Get Started with Premium Packaging

Aside from finding nice glass jars for your flower products, Peterson suggests cannabis brands should find a local print manufacturer to work with and create cool concepts for your labels. 

“For us, we found a company with fancy technology that gives us more flexibility when it came to creating our labels,” notes Peterson. “We can do different little embellishments in a way that is affordable in short runs. While other partners may expect you to buy thousands of items at a time, short runs are better and allow you to put more time and energy into creating a unique design.”

“You need a printing partner that you can prototype, grow with and use the best of their technology,” adds Mayer. “If you don’t have an in-house designer, work with someone who is creative. There is a talent pool out there that you’re going to want to connect with. See this as an investment in your brand. It can be expensive, but the cost is starting to come down.”