Party Like a Marketer Podcast

Episode 23: Innovation and Sustainability in Cannabis Packaging

Episode Description

Lisa Buffo, Founder, and CEO of the Cannabis Marketing Association sat down with Elizabeth Corbett, Vice President of Sales at AE Global, to discuss Innovation and Sustainability in Cannabis Packaging.

For more information, visit

Read the Transcript

Lisa Buffo  00:12

Hi everyone, welcome to party like a marketer, the podcast dedicated to cannabis marketing, public relations, and authentic storytelling. I’m your host Lisa buffo, the founder and CEO of the cannabis Marketing Association, and you can connect with me on Instagram at leap off or on Twitter at leap off 21 Today’s conversation features Elizabeth Corbett, the Vice President of Sales for EY global, who was on a mission to build sustainable packaging and supply chain programs for cannabis and CBD companies that honor their brand identity, drive revenue growth, protect the product and do so cost-effectively. Canna Beth as she is finally 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 and beauty markets, such as Starbucks, Tiffany, and Estee Lauder. based in Seattle in Miami, Beth is passionate about finding environmentally responsible and sustainable solutions, no matter what the form or substrate. Okay, hi, everybody. Welcome to today’s episode of Party like a marketer, the cannabis Marketing Podcast dedicated to public relations, storytelling, and marketing. Today’s guest is Elizabeth Corbett, the Vice President of Sales for EY global. Elizabeth, thank you so much for being here today and joining me on the podcast.

Elizabeth Corbett  01:33

Thank you happy to be here.

Lisa Buffo  01:34

Of course. Well, first, let’s get started. Can you tell the audience a little bit about who you are, what you do when at global does and just give us a little bit of background on your career history? And what brought you to cannabis?

Elizabeth Corbett  01:48

Sure, absolutely. I actually started out in graphic design and production out of college, and then eventually found my way to a paper mill Nana paper, and worked there for a number of years. And that’s where I really fell in love with packaging and the opportunities that brings and all of the all of the avenues that brings you from a creative side from there, I moved into probably broadening my base of packaging and Nina was more about paper based packaging only. And as I got more in depth with working with large companies like Tiffany Starbucks, Estee Lauder, Samsung, I realized I wanted to be able to help companies develop a more holistic solution. So that’s how I eventually ended up at EY global as their VP of sales. We work with consumer products, good companies, and I in particular really specialize in the cannabis industry to help them develop a comprehensive solution to their packaging and supply chain needs. I’m fortunate because a lot of I mentioned the other companies that I’ve worked with in the past, believe it or not consumer products, goods, things like health, beauty like Estee Lauder, Starbucks, all of those lessons have really helped me in terms of being able to build strong solutions for the cannabis market. Ey global, as I mentioned, is a leader in that space. And we specialize in not only providing solutions, but we have our own in house design that can do literally design almost anything you can think of from a packaging solution in the cannabis market or other consumer products goods.

Lisa Buffo  03:27

And you’re based in Miami now, but where are you originally from?

Elizabeth Corbett  03:31

I grew up in Portland, Oregon. I’m a very proud duck. And I currently split half time in Miami and half time in Seattle. And I never knew that I was going to end up going to work for a company that’s literally as far as you can get from my home base. It’s actually very true now that I think that’s not true. It is it’s about a six hour flight.

Lisa Buffo  03:50

And was the was the paper mill in Oregon?

Elizabeth Corbett  03:54

No, no Nina paper is actually in Wisconsin. That’s where they’re headquartered. So I’ve, I’ve been very fortunate and that I have ended up in more global roles for much of my career. So that’s why even though I live in Seattle, I was working with people like Tiffany in New York, I’ve been fortunate to do actually a lot of work in Europe as well. So I’m actually happiest when geography is not limiting.

Lisa Buffo  04:20

Yeah, I echo that sentiment for sure. So And what year was your first year in cannabis as far as really getting your hands into this industry?

Elizabeth Corbett  04:29

Oh, gosh, like nine years ago?.

Lisa Buffo  04:31

Yeah, Yeah. So you know what’s been going on?

Elizabeth Corbett  04:35

I have I’m fortunate I’m really, really lucky.

Lisa Buffo  04:38

So tell me how and packaging has always been your lens correct of luridly? So what have you seen in those nine years evolve and change with packaging? I mean, what was it like nine years ago? How has it changed and evolve then? What are some things you’ve seen over time? I’ll just say evolve because I know that’s for better or for worse. To some degree, but I do think things are really moving in a positive direction. But just tell me a little bit about how what you’ve seen over the last nine years.

Elizabeth Corbett  05:08

So I fell into cannabis packaging, because a lot of my health and beauty customers were moving into cannabis. And I mentioned that they kind of align, just in terms of such a wide range of products. I think some of the things that I’ve seen that are hysterical are, believe it or not, nine years ago, child resistant packaging wasn’t the rule. It wasn’t, it wasn’t the rule anywhere. Which is kind of frightening when you think about it. And I still remember, you know, all of a sudden, we’re like, oh, wow, we got to find a way to make this child resistant. And we need to, you know, how do we do that? How do we do certifications? It’s, it’s funny in hindsight, because now it’s just now just seems so normal. Right. But nine years ago, it wasn’t required. I think the other thing that’s happened is a number of things. One is such a wide range of kinds of products, right? I mean, like nine years ago, you were talking about flour. You weren’t, you weren’t really talking about edibles, you definitely weren’t talking about beverages. And then you were talking about vapes, and you know, they, you know, in carts, the packaging was pretty limited, then, I mean, people were literally putting blisters and blister cards. That was kind of the norm. It was not sexy, and, and probably not a great customer experience. Nine years ago, nobody asked about sustainability. Nobody asked about is this, you know, what is my package doing for the environment? And when things started to be required from a child resistant perspective, people really didn’t talk about, Hey, what is what does this mean from a sustainability perspective? What happens to my package when my customer is done using it? So that would be a really big evolution. I think the other thing is, and, and it’s funny, because you get to see this real time, right now, as states come up as new states come on board in mature states, like, uh, you know, Colorado and Washington being the, you know, the first and then, you know, you know, Oregon, California, Nevada, you know, now Arizona, but in the states that I consider really like the originals. And California is kind of original only because medical was legal, they’re so early and they got they were more diverse. When you walk into those markets, and you walk into a dispensary. Now, it’s it’s meant to be a great experience, right? And you get to see all kinds of different products and all different kinds of packaging. And it evolved to be more of a consumer environment, consumer products, goods environment, because of the fact that your product has to stand out. I’ll be the first one to say that there are products that I have started that I have tried solely because the package I found the packaging to be kind of interesting, nine years ago that that wasn’t the case. Right? A lot of it was I just, I just need to get I just I have weed, I just need to get it out there. I got to get in a pouch I got to get in a blister. I just don’t think it was. It wasn’t as thoughtful as it is now. I don’t know if you would agree with but those are probably some of the big differences I’ve seen between now. And then. And it’s a great question.

Lisa Buffo  08:10

I would agree. I do think the thoughtfulness has improved. And I do think the intention, the understanding sustainability is definitely a much bigger conversation. And we’re having more nuanced conversations around packaging, because packaging, you know, speak to your earlier point about how we weren’t talking about edibles and beverages. I mean, now we’re talking about nanotechnology and micro dosing. And like, the industry has just evolved so much as far as the products, the delivery methods, patches, tinctures, we have all these different ways to consume, and therefore different packaging needs. And depending on the size of the package, I mean, a wine bottle is pretty big liquid is substantial, but cannabis physically is pretty small, particularly when you’re talking about concentrates or, or things like that. So your packaging space is really limited to put a certain amount of information of which some of it is legal and required. And some you know, you want to leave space for marketing and branding and all that good stuff, too. So there really are so many ways to look at the packaging conversation. And it has changed and gotten more nuanced over time, because it is a consumer packaged good. And it is how, in some degree, the first touch point that the consumer has with the product like yes, they can go see it in the retail experience, but oftentimes it is behind the shelf. And they’re sort of relying on that blood tender recommendation. And then after they purchase they get to interact with the product not always depends on the state but it just does play a really interesting role in cannabis. And I do think it has evolved a lot. And I’m glad you mentioned that there wasn’t child resistant packaging in the beginning because I’m having flashbacks to Colorado where in 2014 edibles were I mean it was like cereal that was sprayed with concentrate, like in a Ziploc bag with a sticker on it and I’m like How was that the first iteration, but it was, but we’ve got, we’ve just come so far in a really long period of time. So it Yeah, kind of brought me back a little bit Um,

Elizabeth Corbett  10:09

You know, one, one thing I would add that just occurred to me is, I also think nine years ago, a lot of people didn’t think about where their packaging was coming from. So when things were getting started, people were just like, going on to Alibaba, or whatever and getting and they just, they jumped, you know, feet first or headfirst, whatever, into getting their packaging and not thinking about, is it coming from China? Is it coming from India, or Bangladesh, or the US or wherever that is, and with everything that happened in the last two years, and actually before then when the tariffs got put in, because those got those have been in place for now, four or five years? People now ask those questions, you know, where is my packaging being made? And I think that those are important questions, too. There are products that we can still only get from China. But I know at a global, we’re really thoughtful about, hey, is there a way for this to be domestic? It’s going to help from a, you know, a time perspective, it’s also going to help seriously not only from a freight, you know, cost perspective, but also what’s your environmental footprint, because your your freights part of that environmental footprint as well. And that’s another thing that I would say nine years ago, nobody asked, we weren’t even thinking about it.

Lisa Buffo  11:22

That’s a good point and I also think one of the things that I remember now happening back then was, folks, we’re ordering huge quantities of packaging. And then, you know, brand new industry, we’re figuring it out regulations change, and now there’s new requirements, new labeling that needs to happen. And so they could have possibly huge amounts of inventory of packaging that is now you know, non compliant. And so I think that that aspect has, you know, shaken out over time. But it is interesting to have you bring up that they were asking questions about where it’s coming from and why. And that just wasn’t the case so long ago.

Elizabeth Corbett  12:03

No, not at all. And you. And you mentioned that you’re right, whenever I’m working with somebody on, you know, building, let’s say, their forecasts supply chain trying to work on that. I tell them all the time, I really only recommend doing three to four months worth of inventory. Because you look at what happened in Michigan right now where where they made a change, and now no longer can have they they decided that bright colors and fruit on packaging for edibles was going to be somehow more enticing. And so they outlawed it. But they did it so fast that they never gave anybody in the state a chance to have a rolling transition. So I think that’s another thing. And there are some there are some states that have been more thoughtful about that. California, when they’ve made changes has been a little bit more thoughtful and working with working with cannabis companies to be like. Okay, so like, kind of what average do you have of months of inventory on hand? You know, can we do this change in six months? Nine months? 12 months? You’re right. It’s a it’s a it’s definitely a process.

Lisa Buffo  13:07

It is processes the word. So what would you say is the number one concern? You see cannabis marketers packaging experts have when it comes to launching a brand and approaching their packaging, packaging? Like what is what is sort of the number one problem you either see coming up or issue you you coach your clients on?

Elizabeth Corbett  13:29

I think I think honestly, the number one thing is timeline. Right? It’s like, like, when do you want to launch this, because I’m working on something right now that’s going to launch on 420. And it’s going to be an ongoing brand. So it’s not a one time only thing. So I’ve had to build basically a plan for this customer of this is what you can have now. And this is what you can have in nine months. Because what they really wanted for their brand was something that I can’t get made that fast. And so I think that that’s always the first question you should ask is okay, when do you need this? Because that’s going to help guide decisions. Nobody wants to be disappointed and be shown something amazing. And be told, yeah, but it’s going to take six months to make this so we won’t make your timeline. And in some cases, somebody might decide, that’s the package I really, really want. So I’m willing to delay my launch by three months or four months. That’s I think one of the the first questions. I think the second question is really what’s your brand positioning here? Is it a? Is it a premium? Is it a reserve? Is it is it is it more of an every day, entry level product? I think those are those are really important features. Most cannabis companies now have kind of narrowed themselves down to I’d say maybe two or three families, if you will, in terms of how they’re positioning in the market. And knowing that is going to help me design the right package that’s going to represent Your Brand well, but it’s going to also be at the price point that you need it to be. Because you’re going to have some things where it’s super reserved, it’s elegant. I designed a package somebody for once. That was for the flower of the Month Club, which was amazing. And it was amazing flower. That was a super high end package. Right? Because it’s supposed to be it’s, it was an eighth of flour. That’s the $150 Well, as my husband likes to say it made it made him see God. But that that’s fair for that much money. Yeah, but that’s not going to be my entry level guy who’s got a, you know, a One Grand Prix role. That’s nowhere near that. But it’s still a great product. So I want it to be in a nice package. But you know, the package I designed for that is going to be completely different. So I think it’s like I said, it’s what’s your timeline? You know, what’s what’s really your, your brand story, right? Is this, you know, who’s your target audience with that, because that’s going to help me decide where what price point it needs to be. And then I know this sounds crazy, but a lot of times people come to us to design packaging, and they don’t really have their product 100% buttoned up. So somebody will come to us. And they’re like, Well, I know, it’s gonna be a free roll. But we’re not quite sure the dimensions and I’m like, Well, I really need that in order to make sure that the package that we’re doing for you fits that perfectly. You know, sometimes people haven’t made up their mind 100% on the cart, right? And on the mouthpiece, and those are things that you have to have in order to make sure that the that the actual fitness pack package fits it perfectly.

Lisa Buffo  16:36

So is it and you see that as So two questions with this, what is that timeline, what’s sort of a reasonable expectation of a timeline from when you approach your packaging journey, if you will, to when you can launch a product. And then, you know, I was fine with projects and managing it’s a little bit of a chicken in the egg thing where you want to start early enough that when you’re, you know, sit put myself in these shoes. If I was an entrepreneur and I was coming up with a vape pen or a pre roll, I would almost in my mind want to work with the Packaging Companies earlier? Because it would help me understand what are my options? And should I have a smaller mouthpiece if it’s going to, you know, make a cost difference as far as packaging, as opposed to coming fully in with, you know, my full vision of this product, like how do you so what’s the timeline? And then how do you ideally work with clients? Or what is that approach? As far as Do you want the full product finished? Or? Or is it? I mean, it hasn’t occurred to me till now. But is it a concern where a product might change based on what is available for packaging?

Elizabeth Corbett  17:41

So earlier is always better, just across the I mean, just period. I think it depends on what level of packaging you’re looking at. So if you’re looking at something where you just want like really nice pouches, and or maybe CR tubes with some sort of matching folding carton, once art is approved as something that’s something I can get produced in three or four weeks. So that’s and that’s domestic, right? Because I mean, there’s really, you know, what’s funny is people were getting pouches offshore, I just recently went through an exercise, there’s almost no price difference anymore. Between doing options or in domestic for pouches. I mean, especially when you think about the just the pain and suffering. But once you put in the freight costs, and once you put in tariffs, something like that on pouches, I would say all day long have that done domestically, there’s really no reason to do that offshore. And it’s something that somebody like a global can honestly turn in like three to four weeks. So those are those are kind of basic, more basic. We have a child resistant folding carton called EZ lock, which is a great option for let’s say, carts, Pens.

Lisa Buffo  18:51

What is the folding carton?

Elizabeth Corbett  18:53

Oh, okay, sorry. That’s a paper based carton, literally. So like, close on topic. Okay. Don’t think of it. Think of think of it as secondary packaging, right when you’re buying cosmetics, and it’s the box around the jar. So, so we have a paper based, child resistant folding carton called EZ Lock. It’s a great product. And that’s something that again, I can turn in like four to six weeks. That’s great. I’m currently working on a project with somebody that by the time we launched will probably be 12 months. And that is with custom jar forms, custom bottle forms. Things that whether or not you’re having that done in the US or in China, you’re dealing with times to get whenever you’re designing something, let’s say new rigid packaging. You’re going through so many iterations whether it’s you know, the drawings, then you’re actually doing 3d models. We currently have two 3d printers You’re getting 3d models, then you actually are going to the plant where you’re manufacturing, you’re doing more 3d molds, then you’re actually doing the mold process. That’s a really long timeline. And I know that sounds frightening. It’s not, it’s just that that’s, that’s just what it takes. And sometimes you can get that accomplished in nine to 12 months, oftentimes, that’s really driven by the customer is how quickly they can make decisions along the path. I, we’ve been able to launch something that was truly custom that way, in, let’s say, four to five months, but it was, and that was the Select squeeze that we did procure leaf. However, in that case, it was very specific customers making decisions very quickly, you can consolidate that timeline way down. But oftentimes, when you’re developing something custom, you’re sending models to the customer, it’s taking three weeks for somebody to, you know, to say, yes, that’s the way we want to go, or no, that’s not the way that we want to go. And I think the pandemic made it harder. Because now whenever I’m doing any kind of prototype, whether it’s a paper based prototype, or a rigid prototype, I’m I’m having to send it to like six people in their homes.


Lisa Buffo  21:09

Yeah, that’s true. I didn’t think about that.

Elizabeth Corbett  21:13

It used to be you’d sit in a room, remember, the room and everybody would get to interact and say, Wow, I like that, or I don’t like that, or can we change that? The pandemic made it so much longer. So I mean, as much as I love to see everybody’s living rooms, I’ll be the first one to say that it has made decision making processes for custom packaging takes longer.

Lisa Buffo  21:35

That makes sense. That’s a that’s a really good point. Okay, so production times depend on the packaging you want. And it does sound like you. Do you guys coach a little bit or consult on the brand story brand strategy? As far as how that relates to packaging? Are you really want your clients to have that figured out?

Elizabeth Corbett  21:55

No, absolutely. Part of our part of our role is truly a consultant, we oftentimes have somebody come to us and say, you know, I’ve got a, I’m gonna do a seven pack pre roll half gram, you know, what are my options? You know, and at that point you’re having a conversation is, is this a premium product? Is it more entry level every day? I don’t like to use economical anymore. I think everyday sounds so much nicer. Yeah. And, you know, what is your thought process about the consumers experience with that product? What’s your brand story? Woody? Or is it Are you all about sustainability? Do you want something that looks feels really earthy? Is it something that’s going to be like, super polished, everybody has a different story? And so yeah, we really look at ourselves as consultants, it is very rare that I have somebody come to me without it with everything’s all buttoned up. Yep, this is exactly what we want to do. That is that is very rare. Which I actually think that’s better, because theoretically, we’re supposed to be the experts, we’re supposed to be able to help you.

Lisa Buffo  22:59

Yeah. And it allows for an iterative, collaborative process, which always, always is better in my mind. So what are some exciting in and I want to get to sustainability in a minute, I definitely want to touch on that, because that’s a big one. But what are some exciting innovations that you’ve seen happening and packaging, like what’s going on in the field that if you’re not in packaging, you wouldn’t know that is cool, and new and exciting? And maybe it is on the sustainability front? We can go there now. But if it’s something else, what would I not know?

Elizabeth Corbett  23:31

I think beverages as a whole are very exciting. And all of the different potential packaging for them is not all of it has been developed. That is something that is definitely an evolution we all want to make. We all want to make packaging that’s consumer friendly, but still child resistant, right. I think the Select squeeze is a really good example of that of you know, truly kind of a tincture slash beverage enhancer, kind of packaging, we have another one that we are just coming to market with called amplify, again, trying to meet all of the customer needs, but also be in a package that is pleasing, right? That you could take out of your pocket. And like I can’t imagine being in a in a coffee shop and taking out my tincture bottle right to get a dropper. That’s I think this is this is meant to address that. And I think that there’s going to be other stuff. I mean, I’ll be the first one to say we have many customers that we’re working with on the beverage front. That’s going to be an exciting Avenue. You’re going to see right now there’s very limited choices in terms of child resistant caps for cans. I think that’s going to change. I think you’re going to see more things that evolve with that. And that whole thing is very think about it’s very consumer friendly, right? I mean, it’s the whole concept, right being able to come in instead of going to your friends with four cans Have Rosae being able to come in with, you know, four cans of some sort of cannabis beverage. I think that that is a really interesting field. Honestly, I will bring up sustainability, there’s more and more things coming up on the sustainability front that I think are pretty exciting. Pouches is an area where you’re finding more options for recycled, either recycled material or recyclable.

Lisa Buffo  25:27

And can you clarify what you mean by pouches? Is that like the zip? Like how do you define a pouch?

Elizabeth Corbett  25:34

Well, a patch can be a couple different things. It can be just especially like you know, with, especially like CBD, you’ll have like the tear, get the little tear tear pouch with a with a hang hole as you’re walking through Whole Foods and you can grab and you can buy two wild has those the wild gummies and you just tear it, it’s got like two gummies in there, I didn’t read Rhodes has those two, or you’ve got your traditional child resistant pouch, which has the there’s there’s like three or four different kinds of zippers. But they all have the same concept. Where the theory is, it’s supposed to be something that a child can’t open, but theoretically an elderly person, hopefully Keihin or they get their kid to open it for them. Yeah. So and those come in all kinds of different shapes and sizes. Those tend to be popular for edibles, like gummies. Definitely for flour, you see it some for vape pens, not as not as much, definitely more along the side of I would think edibles and flower would be kind of the two areas that I see the most in terms of pouches. That’s an I believe pouches, pouches aren’t going to go away. So the key in the industry is then to find a sustainable solution versus telling people not to use a pouch. It’s just too easy for people to do that. And you know, what’s funny is I’m picking behind between a glass jar and a pouch for my flower. Well, I know the glass is recycled, recyclable, but it’s really heavy. It takes up a lot more space. So starting to break it. Right. But even from a sustainability perspective, how much fuel does it take to move that jar versus moving the pouch? Yeah, right. Those are, those are things that I I like to think about, I had somebody teach me a really long time ago that there’s no one way to be sustainable. So I like to think that way. So in terms of patches, I know that there are child resistant pouches that are available now that are compostable, that are from Asia. There are a lot of people believe fully compostable.

Lisa Buffo  27:42

So the zip, the zip aspect, all of it,

Elizabeth Corbett  27:44

Everything, everything.

Lisa Buffo  27:47

I see you’re not in cannabis at all.

Elizabeth Corbett  27:49

Yes, there’s one company that has has them. And there are some other companies coming into it. But all of the film comes from Asia. And so right now and there’s limitations, like you can’t get clearer. It’s it’s just not it’s just not perfect. It’s not a great Not, not a lot of people are going to want to do it yet. It’s it’s evolving. And and I’m not, gosh, I’m not cutting down on any of the people who have have that pouch. Now, it’s just, it’s not a perfect solution yet it’s getting there. So I think it’s like child resistant folding cartons, the first ones that came out were really hard to work with and the buttons cut your fingers and they just weren’t a pleasant customer experience. I think same thing with pouches. So for me, that’s exciting, what’s coming. It’s exciting for me that you’re continuing to see evolution of child resistant packaging, and different forms, whether that be you know, boxes or jars or whatever that is, I think it’s nice to see that the majority of options that you have for child resistant packaging now for primary packaging now is doesn’t look like medicine. And I know some states make you look make like in Florida, they want it to look like medicine, but that was never when it was first. You know legalized in places like Washington and Colorado all the packages made it look like you’re opening a medicine bottle. Yeah, and, and nobody wanted that. So I like to see the evolution of that. And again, I would just say because there are so many fabulous people coming into the market now and a lot of companies are hiring amazing branding firms and you know, having CPG people come in, there’s just a lot of thought now, going behind the overall design of that packaging. And then I’ll bring up a challenge because it’s definitely makes sense for the for your audience. And this came up very recently on a panel I was at. It is very frustrating to be able to build a holistic marketing plan with the limitations that are put on cannabis through social media right now. And that is I had a very funny statement made, which I thought was hysterical because it’s very true. The social media choice for cannabis right now that has given the most leeway, and provide the most avenues is linked in. Yeah, that’s That’s hysterical. Yeah. I mean, that’s really, really funny. And so I think that that’s I have people ask me all the time, what can I do? What can I not do? That’s the That’s a tough area. And I’m hoping that we’ll see more evolution on.

Lisa Buffo  30:33

Yeah, I would agree. And it’s to some degree of a map. I mean, I get asked that as well. And to some degree, it’s a matter of your appetite for risk, because it isn’t so black and white, exactly what is allowed and what isn’t like we do know a little bit about it. But it sometimes it depends on the size of your account, how you know how you walk that line, if the language you’re using, if it’s too marketing, and salesy, and if it’s, you know, not too much that educational space, but it’s really hard for companies and brands to figure out and the fact that paid advertising as a whole is generally off the table. And, you know, we’re having this conversation in context to organic content being posted, is really speaks to the amount and and size of the limitations.

Elizabeth Corbett  31:17

So one other thing that we are seeing coming in, we’re actually working on that we think is really exciting for cannabis, is augmented reality, the integration of augmented reality and packaging, which has been coming along on more of the traditional CPGs, or the alcohol space. And I would say I’ve seen the evolution of that over the last four years. But some pretty cool stuff and technology available now that I believe we’re working on some stuff. But I do think that that is going to be you’re going to start seeing more in cannabis packaging, it just makes a ton of sense. You want to have that,

Lisa Buffo  31:55

Like how what’s the use case? So how was it incorporated?

Elizabeth Corbett  31:59

So I think one of the biggest things that happened in the pandemic is you lost the ability to go hang out, I used to do this. I used to love to go on a Friday afternoon at my favorite dispensary and spend half an hour with my favorite budtender. Right. And I’d be like, I’d be like so tell me what’s good. You know, what’s this product? What’s you know, what do you see happening? I’ve had friends who had have had cancer, and I refer them to my favorite dispensaries and they’ll spend 45 minutes with us, right? Like, what’s going on? What do you need help with? Well, at least during especially the first lady or the pandemic, nobody was spending an hour in your dispensary, right? That’s when you really got that’s when you really got to the point where you’re either using delivery, or like in Washington that didn’t have delivery, you were at least being able to finally being able to buy online and pick up in parking lot. I mean, so you you lost that interaction, right? You lost the interaction with the brand, you lost the interaction with the bud tender with the dispensary? So I think that’s one of the biggest challenges in our market. Right is how do you continue to build on that relationship in your packaging? Does a lot of that, right starts the story starts the conversation. The great thing about augmented reality is that can be an opportunity for your consumer to interact with your brand via the package. So whether it’s educating them about the flour, educating them about your company, educating them about the desired effect, or what they’re trying to, you know, what they’re trying to share about that brand, or that product, I think, I think has an amazing amount of potential, and the pandemic drove. I think that was already there. The potential was already there. But the pandemic really drove that need. Would you agree?

Lisa Buffo  33:41

Yeah. No. And I think it almost forced the innovation because we Yeah, once I mean, that connection was completely pulled, we had to figure something out. So but it is interesting to see that use case from I mean, I guess it makes sense a packaging perspective. Because you know, I hear it on the marketing side is often very heavily digital focus. So it was okay, increase your communications on social, do more newsletters do more interactive, you know, contests or ways to increase engagement with the brand online when you lost that in store component. And everyone was on their phones and screens and computers, because that’s I mean, we were at home for so long. So but yeah, that that augmented reality use case is really interesting. And I think, you know, thinking bigger with it has a lot of potential upside and implications for marketers, when you when customers can have that time and attention at home to sort of have that experience that they want and go deeper into what they’re learning what the products are. And then they’re not necessarily standing at the point of sale for that long or having those conversations which depending on the retail store, and you know how the business is set up isn’t always feasible. So you know, sometimes it’s alright, we’re done. You gotta go. At least I mean, I’m in Colorado or an adult use market and it is often a pretty Quick interaction there. So perhaps it’s a bit different in Florida as well. But yeah, I mean, I think there’s a lot that. I mean, we could do a whole separate episode on that. But that is really interesting.

Elizabeth Corbett  35:11

Well, and it also, this just occurred to me, but it’s really true. So I’m used to Washington, and Oregon and California where, other than some places in Northern California, you can’t touch the packaging, but you can see it, right. Yeah. And it’s like, it’s big, you know, big Plexiglas walls and countertops and everything, but you can see everything. And in Florida, it’s, it’s all behind the counter. I mean, you can’t see anything. It’s all like, you can’t see anything, and it’s all white. So that’s another that would be that much more of a reason to me to be able to have that interaction. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen. Have you ever seen crimes wine, the wine that it’s from Australia? No, I think they were one of the leaders, I think in terms of figuring out how to take augmented reality, and really find a way to interact with the customer in a very fun manner. So every single one of their wines, they’re from Australia, and every single one of their wines, has a picture of some prisoner, and then you hold your phone over, and then that prisoner comes to life, and tells your their story about like, how they because you know that they committed some crime in England and how they ended up in Australia, there’s a whole thing and they talk and it’s amazing. And one of the things I love about that story is it totally got them on the map. All of a sudden, everybody knew who they were and they they grew to be such a big brand, very, very quickly. And the wine market is crowded. That is a hard that is that is hard to break through. So that’s the other way I think of it is that not only can it help build a customer relationship, but I think it could help you stand out quickly as well.

Lisa Buffo  36:51

Yeah, yeah, I like that. I think so too. And I think one of the things, the pandemic, you know, a win for the pandemic was QR codes where we’re not, we don’t have menus anymore. Like we need to figure out how to do the QR code and read things from our phone. So the more natural inclination to pull your phone out at in a retail experience, and have that interaction is something we’ve been trained to do. That was I don’t think the case before 2020 it across the population.

Elizabeth Corbett  37:19

Oh, absolutely. Let’s put it this way. My mother, I didn’t even know Costco. I have an Amazon Prime girl. But my mom was like, oh, yeah, she goes, she goes, Beth, she goes, we get Costco deliveries at least three times a week. And I was like, Wow, mom.

Lisa Buffo  37:34

That’s awesome.

Elizabeth Corbett  37:35

Yes, she’s also a big fan of wild gummies. At 77. She’s living her life, living her life. Yeah, my father at 77 and 79, the wild gummy fans.

Lisa Buffo  37:45

I love that. I love that. Well, I want to go back to sustainability a little bit. So what are some of the big issues we’re seeing around sustainability in packaging and cannabis, and I know we’re seeing. So not only is competition coming up more, but we’re starting to see it be legislated a bit. So I know New York, they introduced a bill that would actually require more sustainable packaging and recycling programs. So we’re starting to see and one of the cool things about cannabis as a whole is that the states and you know, I’m based in Colorado. So Colorado, being one of the first didn’t implement a lot of these progressive policies, because they, you know, they kind of just got out what they needed to get out and 2012 2014. But now we’re seeing states later, like New York, for example, who are implementing social equity later, and these things around packaging, because they’re able to take what what was not implemented in some of these earlier states, and learn from them and kind of get them into policy right away. So what are some things you’re seeing? I would say, What’s the big elephant in the room with packaging and sustainability? How, however you want to define that? And what are some things that we as an industry can do to kind of push that conversation forward. And the last thing I’ll say, just to preface that is when you talked about compostable packaging, but it was coming from Asia, and there’s no one right way to do sustainability. You have to balance these two things where, okay, maybe it’s completely compostable, and the packaging will degrade. So it won’t physically be around in the future. But how much co2 was admitted during that journey? Versus if you got, you know, just to keep an analogy, simple plastic packaging locally. So, yeah, just how to sum that up. How should we as an industry, and companies think about the sustainability issue? What are some of the big issues that aren’t addressed? And then how can we work together to basically advocate for policy that will make it easier for everybody in the supply chain to really address the climate crisis?

Elizabeth Corbett  39:46

I think that so that’s a big question.

Lisa Buffo  39:48

Big question. I know but I got a ask,

Elizabeth Corbett  39:49

And there. No, no, that’s great. And there are some key key things I’ll dial in right away. One of the first things on a sustainability perspective that I tell every customer is the very First thing that we need to be looking at, as is the actual amount of packaging being used on your product. So what I call it right sizing. So we’ve seen plenty of things where they come to us and I’m like, wow, okay, so your box is twice as big as it needed to be. And they were like, well, I wanted more marketing space on there, and I wanted it to make it look better and look bigger. And I was like, it could still look amazing and be right sized, working on a gummy package right now for California, where we’re probably going to be able to reduce the size of the package by about a third to maybe even 40%. and not lose any of the brand impact, because that’s my goal is anything that we do from a sustainability perspective, you shouldn’t lose anything from brandstory brand impact, you know, feeling like it’s really yours. So right sizing is always the first thing. The second thing as an industry is, if at all possible, be putting it in packaging that is recyclable. So if that is, you know, folding cartons by nature, but oftentimes people get a paper based folding carton out of Asia. And it has what’s called a soft touch laminate or matte laminate, which is basically a laminate film over it, because it makes it look better. If it has that on there. It’s not recyclable. So you’re thinking, Oh, I did a paper base package. That’s great. I was like you did. But in the print technology, they made it so it’s not recyclable. So those are things that we should be thinking about whether it’s a paper box, whether it’s a glass, jar tin, anything like that. So that’s for me, that’s a big thing. Is it something that could be repurposed, right, but one of the things I love about tins and jars is I totally can use them for other things. Yeah, one of my, what I there’s a Spice Company that that I love out of Seattle, and everything comes in these great glass jars that now I reuse for all kinds of stuff, for everything from making salad dressing to, you know, using for little containers for other stuff. So finding a way to make it so it’s reusable, truly repurposed, I think is something to think about. I talked about having things that are recyclable. Thinking about and I’ll use paper in this case, not only is it is it recyclable, but what are some other great things about the paper, there’s papers available now that are a portion hemp, let’s say 25 to 30%, hemp, or there’s a paper up from Mohawk paper, that’s actually a high percentage of straw. That that was actually just literally just, it’s like the leftover of the harvest. So that’s a great story, you’re reusing something that was just like a like, yeah, like, hey, it’s pretty amazing. And, and anything that I would be working on with a customer, I don’t want you to make any sacrifices. So if you’re using a paper that has have, or straw, or maybe the gas, which is leftover sugar cane fiber, or recycled fiber, maybe it’s 100%, post consumer fiber, you should never sacrifice in terms of the quality of your sheet right of your product, it’s still going to print well, you’re still going to represent your brand really well. So from a substrate perspective, I think that’s really interesting. There are things coming on the market that are just starting out that are pretty cool. That’s actually putting 25% Hemp into plastic into PE T which is really cool. And I love the fact that from what the things I’ve seen so far, you can actually see the fibers, which I love that are complaining. I was like, No, I want everybody to know that I use plastic that had have been I think that’s way cool.

Lisa Buffo  43:28

And just to clarify what that is, is that basically saying we’re starting to incorporate, even at 25% move more towards hemp based packaging as a whole. Like, why 25% versus anything else. Is there. Is that a magic number?

Elizabeth Corbett  43:43

No, I’ll use paper and plastic. You can’t like it would be really, really hard. I don’t even think it’s possible. I know it’s not possible on plastic. I don’t think it’s possible in paper to hemp has certain features, right? Just like every other fiber has certain features, like the gas, which is sugarcane, you can’t make a paper that’s 100% sugar cane that’s going to perform really well because the fibers are really they’re really rigid and they’re brittle. So if I made a box that was 100%, sugar cane packaging, there’s a really good chance it’s gonna crack, right? It’s not going to perform. So that’s why at the same of the plastic, you can’t make it 100% It won’t work right it’s it’s it’s not going to mold into what you want it to be. There’s also a limited amount of hemp right now. The in order to make hemp based paper, have pulp has to be a has to have certain qualities. Right now all of the hemp paper that’s made in the United States has the hemp coming from Spain. So all of a sudden I added a carbon footprint that’s not amazing. So there’s also some really cool things coming out with recycled plastic. My company a global is a partner in a new company called OSHA recovery group, where we’re actually recovering Plastic from what would be ocean bound plastic from the Dominican Republic, and working that to be able to be repurposed into other packaging or other items. There’s, it’s kind of a limitless thing in terms of what we can do. I’m, I’m I think it’s awesome that municipalities and states are looking at sustainability when they’re looking at packaging for the cannabis industry. I think it’s really, really difficult to dictate an actual fiber because I know in New York, they actually tried to dictate it as hemp. They’re dictating something that doesn’t exist, right? If you tell everybody you have to use hemp based paper in your packaging in your paper based packaging, and the only place to get hemp that works on paper comes from Spain, that that’s that’s not a great solution. And there’s also not enough of it, and it’s really expensive. So I think that long term, there are is a great future for have been our business in terms of packaging, it’s evolving so quickly. Yeah, nine years ago, people used to ask me all the time, you talked about back to our first question, they used to ask me all the time, I want to use hemp for this, and I was like, I, I don’t have any, there’s no choices. So when you look at what’s happening, there’s some amazing things happening. And there’s also some pretty good programs like Canna change coming out, just launching at the end of this month, working with dispensaries to help dispensaries be part of that conduit to help the customer bring their packaging back so that it can be recycled. So that’s kind of closing the loop as well. So I touched on 1000 things, and I can talk about sustainability all day.

Lisa Buffo  46:31

Good. No, I’m glad you did. I know it’s a complex question. But I was like, we can’t do a packaging episode without touching on it. And, you know, that gave me some ideas for more things we can discuss later. And, but it is good to have folks see it from you know, if you’re I work, like I said, I work a lot of digital marketers. So we hear about packaging, and we know what’s going on, and we experience it on the consumer side. But it’s not our area of core competence, competency or expertise. But we touch it often through copywriting or, you know, being a part of the marketing team. So I think that just the more education we can have on some of these nuances and understanding how the physical building of products works, when so many of us are storytellers really helps, you know, build build the whole story of how to how to not only do better by our customers, but by the supply chain by the planet. I mean by everyone, we talked about triple bottom line like it, this is it, and it’s something we just can’t ignore anymore. So that’s a good a good start. Okay, so we’re coming up on time. So just to wrap up, any, any I guess last words, I’ll leave it open. And I like to ask we didn’t have time for this question. But any advice you have for packaging experts in the industry that you wish, like, What did you wish you knew at the beginning of your career in this space? And I know you’re like your thing is packaging. But either as far as your packaging career or your cannabis career? What did you learn the hard way that you wish you knew earlier on? Or what advice would you have for those at the beginning?

Elizabeth Corbett  48:00

You know, one of the greatest things that happened for me, and I think that, and this probably applies to you, too. There are a lot of people who will reach out to me as like, hey, I want to get into the cannabis industry or want to get into cannabis packaging, you know, how do I make that happen? And I was really fortunate, and probably because it was so open, right? Nine years ago, we were all new and pretty open, that I had the opportunity to spend some time at some growers at some facilities, whether it be you know, facilities, making oil, making edibles, even packing out flour, that really, really helped me have a better understanding of the industry and understanding of their needs. Because one of the things we didn’t talk about in terms of packaging is it’s really important to not only build something looks great on shelf, but it’s something that it’s easy for them to work through in their facility. Right? Is it something that takes a minute to pack out? Or is it something that takes you know, 20 seconds? So I think that that is that was a big learning for me, a huge learning. And then I think the other thing was we didn’t really touch on this, whatever you’re developing, is there any way that this package will work across multiple states? Because that’s the other thing we didn’t talk about is it every state has their own legislation. And I learned along with everybody else the hard way as states, the new states came on, and they kept making different changes. It’s easy for me now to have that conversation because I have all this experience behind me. But if you want to get into this space, even if your customer is only in Colorado, if they have a thought that hey, I might go to Michigan or I might go to California, it’s probably worth your time to do a little bit of research and figure out what the rules are in those states and to try to design something for somebody that works As as closely as possible so that they don’t have to do a different box for every state.

Lisa Buffo  50:04

Yeah, that’s a good point. And I mean, you had mentioned about how Michigan doesn’t have child resistant packaging for every product form type like in, you know, if I was in Colorado, I would not know that that would that would just not occur to me that everything wasn’t going to be child resistant. So that is a really good point about thinking long term vision. And you know, we’re talking about CPG, building brands, a lot of entrepreneurs, their vision is to build a national brand, but it is hard when we can be so heads down with we got to start here. And just with compliance and where the laws are at, but it is changing, it is moving forward. And it won’t always be this way.

Elizabeth Corbett  50:40

Whenever I’m working with somebody in Michigan, my very first question is, are you going to go to another state? Because if they say yes, and I’m like, then we should really design your package and you’ll be child resistant, so that you don’t have different packaging and everything.

Lisa Buffo  50:52

Yeah, that’s a good point. Good point. It works both ways. But awesome. Elizabeth, thank you so much for your time. Do you have any contact information you want to share website social as far as how folks can reach out to you and we will put the link to your LinkedIn and to AIG Global’s website in the episode description as well.

Elizabeth Corbett  51:12

Great. Yep. quickest ways to reach me are either on LinkedIn, Elizabeth Corbett, also known as cannabis. And my email address is [email protected]

Lisa Buffo  51:26

Awesome. Thank you, Elizabeth. We are so thankful for your time. Thank you. Thank you for joining us for another episode of Party like a marketer. Check us out on Instagram at party like a marketer and on our website, the cannabis marketing Don’t forget to engage with us. We’d love to hear from you. And be sure to join us in person in June 2020 June 8 through 10th for the annual cannabis marketing summit happening in Denver, Colorado. Check out our website for more details and membership information. We’ll see you next time.

Meet Your Host

LISA BUFFO, Founder and CEO of Cannabis Marketing Association

Lisa Buffo is an award-winning entrepreneur and marketer with a passion for launching companies with experience in both the cannabis and technology industries. Lisa is the Founder & CEO of the Cannabis Marketing Association, a membership based organization focused on education and best practices for industry marketers with the vision of rebranding cannabis at the national level. She was named one of 2019’s 40 Under 40 Rising Stars in Cannabis by Marijuana Venture Magazine in 2019 and named “The Marketing Guru” by Women & Weed magazine and is a featured speaker and media source in publications like Forbes, The Guardian, and VICE. You can find her on Instagram @libuff and Twitter @libuff21.

Become a CMA Member Today!

Join the fun as we host exciting educational and networking events in your community. Engage with your marketing peers and collaborate to solve the cannabis industry's toughest marketing and public relations challenges, all while building community and having a great time!