A group of compounds collectively referred to as terpenes are what provide the characteristic smell and flavor of cannabis. There is evidence that terpenes are also responsible for some of the pharmacological benefits of medical cannabis. These compounds are very volatile, however, so as soon as the plants are harvested, these molecules evaporate into the air–especially during drying and storage.
Vireo Health International Inc., a physician-founded, science-focused multi-state cannabis company, signed an exclusive licensing agreement with eBottles420–a supplier of high-quality packaging for the cannabis market–to manufacture and distribute Vireo’s patent-pending, terpene-preserving packaging system to keep the product consistent.
How the system works
This system is designed to preserve cannabis flower by inhibiting the gradual loss of terpenes within jars–made from any standard material, such as glass or plastics–by including a source of volatile terpene compounds within the package itself. These will resupply the headspace equilibrium, meaning the terpenes in the flower won’t have an equilibrium drive to fill the air space.
Using a 12-cavity injection mold, eBottles420 created a basket– made from a proprietary blend of recyclable plastics to ensure material compatibility with terpenes insofar as those compounds can have some incompatibilities with some plastics–that fits into the underside of the jar’s cap, which hangs down slightly into the jar’s headspace. Inside the basket is the matrix that cannabis producers impregnate with the terpene compound.
The process method is dependent on the producer–it can be done with a robotic filling system or by hand with a dropper.
These efforts are meant to ensure the terpene levels in cannabis products are preserved throughout the distribution chain–from greenhouse to the customer home–so that consumers can have a robust and consistent flavor profile.
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“From a medical point of view, we are focused on consistency,” says Eric Greenbaum, chief science officer at Vireo Health. “We want to make sure that when customers buy the strain that they prefer, a month or two months from now it’s the same.”
While the system is designed to work with most any materials, Vireo does encourage the use of recyclable materials and is working with eBottles420 to ensure that materials used in the company’s initial offerings are recyclable.
Vireo says there are no special labeling requirement with their packaging. As the company is multi-state, the label content changes based on the state program overseeing production. The company uses a two-part labeling system, with the main label displaying the brand name and the product type. The supplementary label contains the lot number, the specific testing results, and any kind of state-specific content.
Future plans for cannabis packaging
The current packaging system is only for cannabis flower in jars, so Vireo is working toward making it available in bags as well. The company is also experimenting to test whether or not the system works with concentrates. Another future endeavor is to add a temperature and humidity controlling system in the packaging.
Vireo recently established a subsidiary called Resurgent Biosciences to house Vireo’s portfolio of intellectual property and related initiatives in a non-plant-touching entity meant to broaden potential partnership opportunities or other strategic outcomes. Technologies like the terpene-preserving packaging system have a variety of potential applications in many industries beyond cannabis, says the company, including food & beverage and health & beauty products.