For distributors and retailers, cannabis packaging can be a headache. There are myriad compliance issues to contend with including labeling and tracking, and logistical challenges such as shipping units from other countries during a time of COVID-related supply chain chaos.
Packaging must also be child-resistant yet easy enough for patients with physical ailments such as arthritis to open. Cannabis is a well-documented and efficacious anti-seizure medication, and patients experiencing seizures need to have immediate and easy access to their medication.
An industry secret that the average medical cannabis patient may not be aware of is that traditional packaging such as Mylar bags or plastic containers let oxygen and light into the product, resulting in a loss of flower and net weight. Retailers often have to insert additional flower into the package to meet the standards of compliance regulations and customers.
N2 to the Rescue
N2 Packaging Systems, LLC. is addressing some of these obstacles that retailers experience every day. N2 uses a proprietary technology that injects nitrogen into its packaging. This process preserves the balance of moisture and weight of the product while removing the ambient oxygen and moisture that is in the container.
“You are sealing hermetically, the native moisture that exists in that product that sits in the can,” said N2 CEO Thom Brodeur. “So, one of the biggest challenges for the cannabis industry is once you open, once you’ve packaged it, if there’s any presence of oxygen at all, it begins to degrade the product.”
N2 also uses pull tabs and child-resistant, senior-friendly lid apparatuses that combine compliance with accessibility. Most of the 13 patents N2 holds in the U.S., Canada, and 11 other countries center around the locking and connecting mechanisms for the actual lid adherence to the can.
“What we are responsible for is building the better mousetrap,” said Brodeur. “For us, making it difficult for small hands, or young hands, or unsophisticated hands to be able to put pressure points on the lids in the right places and the twists and alignment moments that are needed has been core to the technology that makes our packaging a safer, one of the safest options.”
“But what we’ve also been mindful of is that pressure for adult or senior hands when it comes to pressure points and clicking and locking mechanisms also has to be fluid. And so, we’ve created, sort of, rim systems inside of the cans that allow for easier slides for folks who understand how to use child-resistant lids to make it easier for them to access them.”
Green is in N2’s DNA
Many industries have had to play catch up when it comes to sustainability. The cannabis industry, however, has largely been a leader in the field.
Cannabis companies like N2 are making commitments to organizations like the Sustainable Cannabis Coalition, Sustainable Packaging Technology Group, the ASTM, which decides standards on packaging across a variety of industries.
“We are engaged with those groups because we really do think it’s important that the more voices there are to help shape the policy and the guidelines going forward, A, the regulations don’t become so onerous that we can’t move and do the things we need to do commercially,” said Brodeur. “But B, that there’s some unification and some standardization ultimately in the way that packaging is treated, since it is both a first impression for the consumer and their first experience with a product.”
Brodeur explained that N2 was founded with sustainability in mind from the beginning. Each 2Can with N2 nitro inside is made from recycled aluminum and tin alloys. All raw materials are sourced from recycled or recyclable materials. Anything that has to be manufactured from scratch comes through a composite process.
“One of the biggest things for us is reducing the use of single-use or even multi-use plastics,” Brodeur said.
Big Problems Require Big Solutions
The COVID-19-related supply chain crisis hit the world hard over the past few years. The slow boat from China became infinitely slower, and companies had to adapt or die. N2 chose the former option, moving more than half its manufacturing facilities to the U.S., a decision that has allowed the company to continue thriving in the harshest of economic ecosystems. And if you think reorienting a massive part of a company’s operations to another country is a challenge, you would be right.
“I will tell you it wasn’t easy, and it certainly sounds a lot easier on paper until you get started,” Brodeur said.
One of the most unexpected challenges was managing branding and consumer perception. Nuances in color on the cans from Chinese to American manufacturers are recognized by customers, so a small issue like color-matching can take up more time than anticipated – something we can all relate to.
The benefits have ultimately outweighed the logistical issues, though, as customers never have to worry about running out of supply or whether or not it’s close and can get to them quickly.
“The good news is we have retained 100% of our customers in this turnaround, and we’ve grown the business by 47% since last July when I joined it,” Brodeur said.
In the next 45-60 days, N2 will roll out its “value line” which will not have yet the nitrogen-infused component like the cans do, but will give the company a broader wingspan of offerings for customers.
“We want to also have a broader option for those of our customers who have what I would describe as multiple lines and multiple brand personas they want to put forward,” Brodeur said.
The next generation after that will focus on developing equipment that will allow for nitrogen infusion with Mylar bags and glass jars.
“Even with your commodity packaging solution, you will have a nitrogen-infused option, like you would with our recyclable, repurposable cans,” Brodeur said.