Flower is — and continues to be — the primary category sold at dispensaries. According to Flowhub data, flower made up 58% of total sales in 2020.
But how it’s sold isn’t consistent.
- Deli-style = flower is weighed out from a clear storage container for each purchase
- Pre-packaged = flower is weighed out and packaged ahead of time
Continue reading for 4 reasons why cannabis dispensaries choose to pre-package flower.
1. Pre-packaging reduces risk of contamination
Pre-packing your flower provides a clean and quality product for your client. The more cannabis is handled, smelled, and examined — at every stage of the supply chain — the more susceptible it becomes to contaminants, like mold and mildew.
Think about an average transaction taking place in a deli-style dispensary:
- A customer asks to look at a certain strain of flower.
- The budtender opens the jar for them to see.
- The customer puts their nose into the container to smell it.
- The budtender reaches into the container to pick out some nugs. Sometimes they use chopsticks (that have probably touched countless other surfaces).
- Repeat until the jar is empty.
- Wash the container (ideally, but not always), refill it with new flower, and repeat.
This is a common scenario, but a basic understanding of germs makes it less appealing. While it’s unlikely that viruses or bacteria will be transferred from flower, it is likely that the quality of the bud will be impacted.
The quality of the product is dependent on your employees and their cleanliness, but also on how the flower is processed, shipped, and stored.
With deli-style, most dispensaries clean and reuse storage containers. You can’t promise that you’re providing customers with a safe, unaltered product if you’re reusing containers.
Pre-packaging — when done with stringent packaging and sealing processes — can help ensure customers receive a clean, uncontaminated product.
Finally, pre-packaging helps ensure compliance with cannabis packaging and label regulations. In many states, marijuana flower must be sold in opaque, child-resistant, resealable packaging. Labels must include specific details, such as warnings, ingredients, and expiration date.
Choosing to pre-package means every package is labeled and handled according to state regulations, reducing risk and taking human error out of the equation.
2. Pre-packaging seals in the flower’s freshness
With deli-style, containers are either left open, or continually opened throughout the day to let customers sniff and/or actually package up the bud. Exposure to air makes the flower dry out faster, which will impact quality.
Pre-packaging flower seals in humidity and preserves the desirable compounds that give cannabis it’s aroma and flavor.
Research has shown that exposure to light and air can degrade cannabinoids and terpenes over time.
Pre-packaging also improves the shelf life of your flower. This means less spoilage, which impacts your bottom line.
However, how products are packaged and sealed is vital. Many brands are choosing child-proof glass containers, packaged in a box to block out light, and include humidity packs to keep the product fresh, similar to packaged foods.
Part of sealing in freshness is also sealing in scent. For dispensaries that wish to create a more clinical or upscale retail environment, controlling odors may be desirable.
In addition to freshness, there’s an opportunity with pre-packaging to expand your brand identity with stunning visuals and curated experiences. Much like the joy of opening a new iPhone, modern dispensaries create experiences for customers through their packaging, often with a nod to eco-friendliness and sustainability.
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3. Pre-packaging improves inventory control
Cannabis flower naturally loses weight due to moisture evaporation. This impacts customer satisfaction and bud quality, but also causes discrepancies in your inventory.
Shrinkage and loss prevention are big issues for dispensaries. According to the 2019 National Retail Security Survey, shrinkage rates in 2018 were 1.4%.
If your dispensary does $1 million in sales per year, a 1.4% shrinkage rate equals $14,000 in loss from theft or errors.
If you buy bulk bud by weight, you’ll automatically have lost revenue because the weight you paid for and the weight you ultimately sell won’t be the same. You will also have to account for what happened to that lost flower in your state track and trace system.
With deli-style, you’ll also have loss from weighing heavy, dropping flower, human error, etc.
Pre-packaging flower prevents weight loss, especially in drier climates. It also prevents loss of shake and kief due to handling.
Beyond loss, managing bulk flower is just more complicated — especially in Metrc states — because you can’t mix flower from different packages.
If a customer wants a quarter, but you only have an eighth left in the container, you either have to go get a new container (and risk having two of the same strain open on the floor) or split the sale into two transactions to account for a separate line item for each package. If it’s messed up, you’ll go negative in Metrc.
Pre-packaging reduces the likelihood of selling from the wrong package.
Managing and moving inventory is also more efficient with pre-packaged.
Instead of constantly reweighing and handling the product, and also worrying about crushing or dropping the flower, you can simply scan the barcode and move onto your next task. Auditing and reporting are also simpler, quicker and significantly more accurate.
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4. Pre-packaging saves time and increases efficiency
Pre-packaging flower can help your dispensary be more efficient, leading to increased revenue and decreased cost.
As the cannabis industry consolidates, prices fall, and competition increases, it’s imperative that you streamline operations.
One immediate efficiency is in the transaction process. Rather than spending time hand-selecting, weighing, and packaging bud for each customer, budtenders simply grab the product, ring it up, and collect payment.
This means more customers can move through your store in a given day, without sacrificing service or education.
For popular dispensaries or those with small stores and long lines, a switch to pre-packed could make a dramatic difference in daily sales. The time spent packaging bud could lead to lost sales down the line.
The downside of pre-packing flower
While pre-packed bud is great for dispensary operations, not all customers like it.
The primary complaint is not knowing that they got what they paid for. Or in the case of dispensaries without sniffer jars, not knowing what they’re buying in the first place.
Another issue is quality. Until customers get home and open the package, it’s difficult to know if it's a high-quality bud or mostly shake and leaves. Though it doesn't necessarily show quality, watching a budtender pull nugs out of a glass jar helps customers feel confident in their purchase.
Not every customer will be happy if you switch to pre-packed cannabis flower, but if you’re focused on high-quality bud and packing processes, they will notice the freshness and value.
Pre-packaged flower is becoming increasingly common, especially at large dispensaries, so many cannabis consumers are already familiar with the process.
A switch to pre-packaged flower may not be as disruptive as you think.
There's also a middle ground. Consider a hybrid model where some bud is pre-packed, and some is available for deli-style. At a minimum, allow customers to see and smell small samples of your flower.
Is pre-packaged cannabis right for you?
While it may seem beneficial to allow customers to look at, smell, and pick desired nugs, the negatives of the deli-style process are beginning to outweigh the benefits. However, pre-packaging weed may not be the best solution for all dispensaries.
The dissenters teach us that quality and reputation are everything. Prove to your customers that your pre-packed cannabis is as good as, or even better than, the deli-style option and you’ll find the sweet spot of streamlining operations and improving customer experience.
Interested in other tactics for streamlining dispensary operations? Read next: How to Increase Dispensary Efficiency to Earn More Revenue