This interview was conducted at Accelerate Cannabis in Newark NJ on February 19.
Debra Borchardt, Green Market Market
Michael Markarian’s company Contempo Specialty Packaging is based in Rhode Island. How did you get into cannabis?
Michael Markarian, Contempo Specialty Packaging
Well that’s a great question. So we’re in Rhode Island because our roots are in the jewelry and fashion business and back in the ’70s and ’80s Rhode Island was the jewelry capital of the world for the costume and bridge sides. So we started in Rhode Island, our roots have always been in Rhode Island and we work for with 40 years with the biggest fashion brands. And we started getting calls a little over two years ago from cannabis companies saying, “Hey the same way you brand some of the greatest fashion brands, can you brand us? We don’t wanna settle for generic average looking packaging.” And when we heard that a few times the light bulb really went off and we’ve been full steam ahead building out a separate division within Contempo.
So when you mention that most people think packaging’s they think, “Well you probably just do child resistant caps or things like that.” But you go another step beyond that and you’re really doing branding. So how important is branding now to these cannabis companies?
Branding is a huge part for cannabis companies particularly as markets mature. So I think early on with the markets initially just by being one of the first you can have success. But then what happens is competition comes in and that can creep up on some of the first movers where they lose their advantage. So competitors come in with better branding that connects with consumers and those early people lose their edge. So as the market matures branding becomes far more important. And our goal is just to make that process super simple for people to get beautiful packaging and also compliant packaging because compliance always comes first. Because these people have so many things on their plate so it’s about the standard of excellence in cannabis packaging and making it super simple is the reason that we’ve been having success.
You know one thing that a lot of people are talking about now in the cannabis industry is too much packaging. They come out and it’s just it feels wasteful. What can you do to combat that?
So establish that fine line because there is a perspective where you can do too much and it becomes wasteful. So I’ve been traveling all over the country and talking to different dispensary owners and there’s certain concepts that they look cool and people appreciate on the first stop into the dispensary. But then when they’re making that purchase over and over again it’s like I don’t want all this packaging. So there’s ways to get around that. But something to be conscious of is over packaging and there is a point where you can go a little bit too far with your packaging.
So you’re out of Rhode Island obviously the east coast is coming on fairly strong rather quickly, are you mostly working with clients on the east coast or are you also branched out across the country?
All over the country. All over North America. We do something called the Cannabis Packaging Show on YouTube and we got someone from Nigeria and South Africa saying, “Hey we watched the show and we want to work with you.” So our focus is definitely the northeast but as we launch these novel child resistant products that are also eco friendly, we’re stating to get inquiries from all over the country and that’s probably the most exciting part of what we’re doing.