Long shelf life is highly desirable for any product type, whether you’re a consumer, retailer, supply chain partner, or manufacturer. When products last longer in storage and on shelves, they’re easier to sell and turn a profit, even when business isn’t buzzing as usual.
That’s why companies in the cannabis industry have begun to prioritize shelf life when creating new products, experimenting with new packaging methods and materials to increase preservation and overall customer experience.
Let’s find out if cannabis can expire, discuss timelines and risks for popular products, and determine the best packaging solutions to take shelf life to the next level.
Can Cannabis Expire? Key Categories and Expectations
Since cannabis products come in many forms, shelf life expectations will vary based on their formulations and other ingredients. Here’s a quick look at the main cannabis product types and how long they typically last before expiring.
When trimmed from the cannabis plant and dried, flower can last anywhere from six months to a year if properly stored and maintained. After that, the viability of the flower can drop off, becoming too dry and possibly losing some of the beneficial qualities of the THC.
Edibles and Beverages
In the broad edibles category, shelf life depends mainly on the type of food or drink product into which the cannabis is infused. More perishable food types like cookies and brownies might last only a few weeks before turning, while hard lozenges and some gummies can last for more than a year when kept properly.
Tinctures, Topicals, and Oils
Cannabis oils tend to remain stable for longer durations, especially when formulated into tinctures and topical with other shelf-life-friendly ingredients. Most of these products will stay viable for over a year before chemical structures degrade and lose some efficacy.
Due to more sensitive structures, wax concentrates don’t last as long compared to oils. They typically lose viability around the six-month mark, but packaging solutions play a significant role in extending their shelf life further.
What Are Some Shelf Life Reducers and Risks?
Time is the main factor in determining the shelf life of cannabis products. Still, brands have numerous other variables within their control, and understanding the main risks can help them develop an intelligent packaging strategy.
We don’t consider oxygen a harmful element when breathing fresh air daily, but for cannabis products, too much of a good thing can turn bad fast. Overexposure to oxygen can quickly degrade the structure of sensitive compounds within cannabis and negatively impact other ingredients comprising edibles and oils.
Cannabis is best preserved in a “Goldilocks Zone” with slightly above-average humidity (just over 60%). Things can get sketchy regarding product stability and the possibility of bacteria growth. Therefore, brands should aim to lock in a certain degree of moisture for their products and use packaging to protect that ideal humidity level throughout the journey.
The “cool and dark place” mantra holds when storing cannabis, as too much light exposure can degrade the look, feel, and efficacy of many products.
This is why brands use opaque packaging solutions, blocking light from entering the container and preserving products fully.
Heat and Cold
High-heat climates are the enemy of any brand producing waxes, concentrates, and edibles in the form of lozenges or gummies.
Freezing temperatures can also harm cannabis flower and other products that come from warm weather areas. Determine the most significant temperature risks for your products and package them accordingly.
What Is the Best Packaging for Each Cannabis Product Type?
Knowing the shelf life hazards that face all cannabis products, it’s time to find the best packaging solution for each type. Remember that format, materials, and specialty packaging features all come into play when maximizing shelf life, so leave nothing to chance.
The bread and butter of the cannabis industry, flower is physically delicate and prone to various atmospheric hazards. More brands are packaging flower in soft, flexible Mylar pouches and bags, benefitting from barrier properties and a premium package experience.
Other brands may opt for cylindrical tin formats with “hard shell” protection for the contents within. This may be more suitable for pre-roll products that need to resist all forms of physical pressure and denting.
With Mylar pouches, cannabis flower shelf life is extended, and brands can deliver a great-looking product for retail settings.
Gummies, Cookies, and Snacks
In the edible department, brands are looking for ways to extend shelf life through solid barriers and high preservation capabilities. Mylar bags and pouches offer both, especially with quality resealable features that keep air and moisture out.
Opacity is also crucial for preserving edibles, so Mylar is an excellent material to block out light and regulate temperatures. Now that consumers are more accustomed to buying snacks and gummies in flexible packaging, they’ll have fewer issues accepting cannabis edibles in these formats as well.
Concentrates and Waxes
Because of their viscous and sticky structures, concentrates can be tough to package in a way that maximizes shelf life. Brands have tested strategies including shallow cylindrical containers (like with skin creme products) and small polyethylene baggies.
However, these formats leave products prone to degradation once opened, so a more innovative package solution is needed. The Twistspenser dispensing pen delivers the optimal amount of concentrate with a simple twist while preserving and protecting its contents for longer.
Concentrates are highly varied, so make sure you have the right package to manage the level of viscosity, stability, and form factor.
Maximize Your Cannabis Product Shelf Life With Dymapak
The array of cannabis products available now is staggering, and packaging solutions are equally varied. Shelf life should be a top concern of any brand looking to make waves in the marketplace since retailers and consumers recognize its importance.
Don’t let your best products lose momentum due to poor shelf life. Dymapak is here to package your products for a long, stable life cycle and deliver the best experience to users and retail partners.
Shelf-Stability Experts Explain How Cannabis-Infused Product Makers Should Use Best-By, Sell-By, and Expiration Dates | MJ Biz Daily
How Does Your Packaging Affect Cannabis Shelf Life? | CannaCon
The Stability of Cannabis and its Preparations on Storage | NIH