Looking at many, if not most consumable products in stores, they have a designated shelf life and an expiration date. Why do they do it? If you really dig deep, it makes a lot of sense. We want things fresh; they smell and taste better, more nutritious, and more valuable this way. Have we ever stopped to think this might be the same thing with cannabis? I don’t know about you, but I’ve bought cannabis from retail stores that was packaged eight months ago, and I didn’t realize it until I remembered to check the labels back at home. And who’s to blame? The business who made the product, or the business that allowed me to purchase a product at such low quality? After all, there is no reason why we should be paying for crispy dry cannabis which seems to be non-psychoactive. I’m sure I’m not the only one with these thoughts and feelings.
At the very least of what we could be doing in the cannabis industry is including a “best by” or “sell by” like Tobacco does. Expiration dates allow store associates to monitor and remove the products from their shelves before a customer purchases a less than quality product. As a producer or processor, that means that if your product doesn’t sell, it gets trashed. Expiration or Best by dates seem logical for edibles, drinks, and products customers typically ingest just like food from a grocery store. But what about cannabis oils, cannabis flower, or prerolls? The worst scenario your business could experience is to have a customer buy your product, try it then say “I’m never buying that again.”
I hate to say that, but it’s expiration dates are something we really need to acknowledge. Stop and think about why we’re making such a strong call for expiration dates; it’s all about quality. You want to ensure consumers are happy and they trust your brand and product. If you have inconsistent product because some stores have not sold your batch from last July, how do you expect to have a consistent level of quality control across all your distributors and product lines? How do you even know if a store has that much of your product left? It’s easy, expiration/ best by dates are the answer. Now, what that means for the industry as a whole is a can of worms I really have not invested much time into to open up and have all the answers. However, how politics and regulations make something like this play out is something I think we should be willing to explore.
But why wait for the government to act? It’s your product and your brand that’s being affected. Here are a few ways that you as a business owner and Cannapreneur can ensure your product is consistent across the board and what to consider when determining the expiration/best by date for your products.
I think it’s really important to mention that how you package your cannabis will go a long way in determining quality preservation and this directly will impact your shelf life and quality of product when the consumers purchases. I’ve seen cannabis come in all sorts of packing from plastic tubes, to plastic and glass jars. I’ve experienced cannabis that was packaged 6 months prior, but in air-tight packaging the flower was great, not falling apart dry, visually appealing, and it smelled great. Alternatively, I’ve purchased flower in packaging that uses more natural/porous materials, again packaged 6 months prior, being almost chalky dry, with no smell, and not really feeling the desired effects. If your product is in the premium product shelf, where I have to spend more money for a better product, and it’s like this… how can you expect me to buy from your brand again.
Some of the best product I’ve noticed comes glue sealed. The very popular mylar bags are popular for a reason, it keeps the product completely sealed until purchase. Do be careful about more ‘natural’ materials like paper packaging, cork or wood lids. They’re a more porous materials and will let air into your product over time, making your buds more dry and less smelly. You don’t know how long it will take
Especially if you’re positioning your brand/product line in the higher end of the market, having sticky and ‘dank’ smelling flower are the details customers look for in a premium product. Your product may have been in that premium category when it first hit the shelves, but 6 months later is it still premium?
Every production is different, each strain is different, so there’s some serious R&D to do on it. The goal is to get to know when your product is no longer appealing to you and when you feel your quality is no longer representing your brand. And be transparent about it! Customers want to know that you care about your product, and if you care so much that you implement your own process to determine your own expiration/best by date, it shows that you’re customer focused and not profit driven.
It will take time. It will take dedication. But it will be worth it, not just for your customers and for your vendors, but for you as a company to closely understand how your product works in the full cycle. You’ll understand which strains expire quicker than others. You’ll understand any hiccups that may happen with your products. You’ll understand more about what the customer experiences with your product depending on how slow it sells at the stores. This way you can fix them before they hit the market, or be aware of any flags that could arise that may become an issue down the road.
A recent find of mine has been cannabis products including terpene labels. These labels are strain specific in order to help determine what a person feels by the terpene percentages and the combinations of those terpene levels. This is by far the most scientific way to find the right product for what the customer is looking for. And for those consumers who are knowledgeable about terpenes will eat it up, and if you’re accurate you’ll get loyal customers over and over again.
It reminds me of a cilantro conundrum. For some people (about 10-14% of the population) they react to cilantro as tasting like soap, while the rest of us enjoy the refreshing light herb. For some people certain terpenes affect them very differently than others. Especially cannabusinesses in the medical stages of cannabis legalization, finding the terpene levels will really help those patients looking for specific terpenes for their ailments. If consumers know what terpenes work for them, this a great, and transparent way, for you to ensure that they’ll enjoy your product.
Unfortunately the industry is so new, that there are no guidelines or best practices, and each production and processing facility is different. Each strain is different, lighting, nutrients, ect. All come into factor in which there are just so many variables for a standard to be established by the states. There’s still so much to explore in order to let the cannabis industry have proper industry standards, and the best way is to have the Cannapreneurs take the lead. Grab the bull by the horns and put your brand in the best light it can possibly have!