The Innovations in Expanding an Edibles BrandNeeding a solution to an unforeseen issue when expanding, one company engineered its way out of a sticky situation.
Building a clever swabbing system to combat humidity’s destructive force on their fruit chews released Cheeba Chews from their packaging woes.
Legacy cannabis edibles brand Cheeba Chews has been loved for over a decade by its Colorado consumers for its reliable dosing as well as its consistent flavor and texture. But, challenges began to arise when the company started expanding into new states. When they tried to pop a taffy out of its packaging - they were stuck.
Due to Colorado’s notoriously dry climate, the humidity was never a factor when removing a dense taffy-like confection from its blister packaging. The dry atmosphere never posed an issue for the edibles brand. In fact, it was to their benefit, allowing the pieces to remain intact and easily removed while retaining the state-required cannabis marking. Unfortunately, once they began shipping their taffy to new markets in other states with very different climates, it became apparent that something needed to be done.
“Going from walking to running as a brand was a major challenge that we turned into a scalable opportunity,” said Eric Leslie, Chief Marketing Officer and Co-Owner of Cheeba Chews.
Cheeba Chews goes across state lines
For Cheeba Chews to sell their wildly popular taffy in various new markets such as Massachusetts or California, they must first send batches of their pre-made base taffy along with its well-known packaging to the new edible confectioner. From there, the local manufacturers must source their own THC product to add to the taffy base, then dispense accurately dosed portions into the packaging to be sealed and sold.
Immediately upon making the first batches outside of Colorado, the problem was evident. The fruit taffies were getting stuck in the packaging. Furthermore, the climate varies in different parts of each state, so each kitchen has its own specific humidity level. Any baker or candymaker who has moved to altitude can attest to the frustrations of relearning how to make their favorite treats.
In addition to all of this, individual states’ laws vary greatly regarding cannabis and edible requirements. Some require that each individual candy be marked with an indication of the presence of THC. For Cheeba Chews, this added to their sticky situation. When pulling a stuck candy off the packaging, the embossed THC mark would become illegible, no longer meeting state requirements.
How does a company decide to solve its own packaging problem?
Having zero debt, zero investors, and zero reliance on financial institutions, how does a cannabis company go about correcting such a significant packaging problem? By engineering the solution themselves. CC Cheeba Chews dove directly into the heart of the issue, seeking a way to unstick the stuck.
“Dave Maggio, Cheeba Chews’ Chief Operating Officer, and our ops team went back to the drawing board on our taffy formulation, tweaking the recipe to be more resilient to the climate variations we were faced with. But we knew we could do more to help our partners produce to our high internal standards,” says Leslie.
Developing a proprietary swabbing station that could directly apply a thin layer of a food-grade glazing agent to the blister packs. This automated in-line system is attached to a highly pressurized canister of glazing agent that is also attached to a motorized arm featuring 12 individual sponges to coat each well in the blister pack, just before the taffy is deposited.
Packaging Problem Solved, Right?
Almost. The other problem to consider was whether or not this coating would prevent the child-resistant lidding materials to their corresponding tray edges. Fortunately, Constantia, CC Cheeba Chews’ lidding supplier, had been working on this problem in other applications and had a new product ready and waiting. Working only with an OEM, and after just a few short months of R&D, testing glazing agents and various packaging materials, an effective combination was found. Co-developed in 2020, the swabbing stations were added to the manufacturing process.
By going through the trials in research and development and working directly with a manufacturer, Cheeba Chews has managed to keep the cost of their packaging solution down and keep it scalable for any U.S. market while remaining compliant with each state’s regulations.
“As a small business competing against well-funded MSOs, our agility is our advantage. Being flexible and adapting to market trends as well as challenges has to be our calling card to build deeper ties with our partners and local cannabis consumers,” says Eric.
Smaller markets mean more steps but not more of an investment
Smaller states with smaller markets still want Cheeba Chews products, but can they get them without emptying their wallets? Fortunately, that is also now available. While the market in New Mexico might not be of the same scale as California or Colorado, the demand is still there.
Cheeba Chews is currently implementing a smaller, semi-automatic manufacturing process in Missouri that will allow licensees to offer their line of products without such a heavy investment. While it may require a bit more physical work and creativity, it won’t require six figures to get it in-house. This development by CC Cheeba Chews will allow smaller markets to operate at scale alongside the larger markets with wider consumer bases that require fully automated systems.