How You Can Build Trust Into Your Cannabis Products

You’ve created an amazing cannabis product…. Now what? What does your label need to include? What regulations do you need to follow to certify your claims? Do you know what it will take to scale and create consistent products?

If you’re asking any of these questions, you’re going to love our session. Merril Gilbert, Co-Founder, and CEO of TraceTrust, will be joining us to share her answers to these questions — and more!

In this episode, you’ll learn:

➡️ Why building a great label for your cannabis products is more than just making it look pretty

➡️ The regulations cannabis producers need to follow to certify and validate claims (like organic or non-GMO)

➡️ The importance of third-party audits and certifications

Welcome to Cannabis Marketing Live – All Puff. No Fluff! 

With attitudes towards cannabis changing worldwide, consumers are now more interested in the quality and purity of their cannabis products than ever before. Everyone is eager to know where their cannabis came from and how those cannabis plants were grown.

There’s no doubt about it: the cannabis industry has a significant role to play to ensure that cannabis products are safe and trustworthy. 

The Need for Transparency in Your Cannabis Products

That’s why your business must appeal to your audience’s desire for transparency by establishing authentic and responsible practices. 

The question is: how exactly can we do this? 

How can we have safe products that everyone can enjoy? More importantly, how can we make sure that our cannabis brand and our products are trustworthy? 

In this episode, let’s explore some of the ways you can build trust into your cannabis products with TraceTrust Co-Founder and CEO Merril Gilbert.

Merrill shared her insights on everything: from the best cannabis manufacturing and distribution practices to the importance of making your product’s labels compliant with international standards. 

Getting to Know Our Featured Guest: 

Merril Gilbert, Co-Founder and CEO of TraceTrust

Merril Gilbert has 25 years of experience guiding companies in the food and beverage industry from product development to launch. She now helps cannabis and CBD edibles elevate their standards by achieving certification for transparency, accuracy, and good manufacturing practices.

You can find Merril at:

About our host:

Kendra Losee, Founder of Mota Marketing, helps cannabis and hemp CBD companies jumpstart their brand and accelerate their sales. With more than 20 years of award-winning marketing experience, she specializes in creating and executing marketing strategies that help companies grow. Kendra hosts a Facebook Live show, Cannabis Marketing Live, All Puff, No Fluff, and regularly teaches graduate-level social media and marketing courses.

How did you get started with TraceTrust? 

There’s a need to be able to develop real systems that encourage acceptance in every other industry. We realized that our expertise was much more needed in the expansion of these legal markets.

– Merril Gilbert 

TraceTrust Co-founders, Merril Gilbert, and Rhiannon Woo, started their company in the year 2015. The following year, that same company became TraceTrust. 

“We both come from the beverage industry. I have a heavy background in operations and sustainability that’s also very focused on the future of food, technology, and the overall ecosystem,” said Merril.

On the other hand, Rhiannon came from agriculture science that’s more focused on the auditing and compliance side. 

Together they created TraceTrust to focus on building trust in cannabis products through:
  • Transparency
  • Quality assurance
  • Traceability
  • Safety

On top of that, they developed a “True Dose” for cannabis and HCMP for hemp-derived products. They also began working on establishing international standards that are ahead of the FDA. These processes include constantly validating the sources of a cannabis product’s ingredients, corresponding life cycles, and the manufacturing processes involved.   

What does TraceTrust do for cannabis products?

We look at the label. What is it telling you? How easy is it for you to understand when you open that package? That’s what we do. We like to say that we make edibles credible because we focus a lot on it.

– Merril Gilbert 

Good manufacturing, best practices, certifications – are you starting to see these in the cannabis industry? 

There’s definitely a shift happening. According to Merril, more and more cannabis manufacturing facilities are getting good manufacturing practices. Brands even go as far as obtaining several certifications, like non-GMO, kosher, organic certifications, to name a few.

Besides, cannabis brands can’t sell in grocery stores without proof of good manufacturing practices. 

Cannabis may be unregulated on the national level, nor does it fall under any other FDA guidelines, but people nowadays want transparency — and they’re willing to pay for it.

“Building trust with your customers is crucial, especially with everyone paying more and more attention to what we’re all putting into our bodies.”

– Kendra Losee

How do you see the future of the cannabis industry in terms of best practices and certifications?

No one wants to buy anything that isn’t safe. If there are claims on the label, there should be certifications to support those claims. 

That’s why Merril emphasized that brands can’t just sell anything in the grocery store, and you can’t in a dispensary. Distributors need to have a chain of command over these products, just in case of a recall. Certifications and proper labeling allow distributors, like grocery stores, to trace the products and their source. 

But that’s not all. With the full blockchain just around the corner and more cannabis medical research coming in, there’s going to be a need for full blockchain transparency – and things might get a little confusing if the labels, standards, and procedures for THC products are not in place. 

Merril said that these standards and procedures don’t just focus on what products you’re producing. It’s basically a complete audit of all the product’s documents, including production, storage, and even information about the cannabis plants.

Some of the most common questions that might be asked during audits are:

  • How are your products and ingredients stored? 
  • How are these products utilized? 
  • How do you manufacture these products? 
  • What Quality Assurance levels must they complete before they get distributed? 
  • Do you have safety protocols in place?
  • How is your training and onboarding process? 

Keep your SOPs updated

Merril also said that SOPs and other guidelines would have to be updated. If there’s a change in the manufacturing process, companies must also update these documents. 

Besides, insurance companies will come and look for product liability anyway, so it would be smarter to update the documents than to deal with real financial damage. 

When it comes to certifying claims, what regulations do cannabis producers need to know? 

Merril explained that everything needs to start with you and your cannabis brand. What are your brand’s values? Who are you trying to reach?

How would you like your product to be known for? Gluten-free? Sugar-free? Kosher? 

Once you’ve completed that step, you need to figure out the manufacturing and engineering.

If you don’t own a facility, one thing you can do is to partner with somebody who:

(1) Can match your product’s claims;

(2) Holds the certifications you need; and

(3) Reliable enough

“As someone who’s very allergic to many foods, I look really closely at the labels, and I’m not alone. Consumers are now smarter and paying more attention.” 

– Kendra Losee 

About 3rd-party audits and certifications – where do these fit in? How important are they? 

The first step towards building trust comes from having an independent third party verify your claims. This way, consumers won’t question whether or not your claim is valid because they’ll see that another reliable source has verified it. It’s like the “certified Non-GMO” icon you see on many products in grocery stores.

How does an audit work when you manufacture cannabis products?

“Depending on what is getting certified, there are certain procedures that need to get through. Once you’ve done all the document and physical reviews, there’s a correction period. Before you are given the final certification, you need to correct all those things. And it becomes a really valuable educational tool for any business to go through.” 

– Merril Gilbert 

How do you choose the levels of certifications to pursue?

Merril thinks that it all comes down to how well you know your consumer. 

“So again, you have to first figure out who you’re trying to reach and what you’re trying to do. How are these people going to use your product?”  

– Merril Gilbert

She also added that the intended use of the cannabis products might be different from one person to another. For example, if the person intends to use the product in a special way instead of using it every day, that same person might even pay more. 

“Knowing who our customers are and what their hot buttons are, is going to make a difference in terms of knowing what they care about and what options are available.” 

– Kendra Losee
"Knowing who our customers are and what their hot buttons are, is going to make a difference in terms of knowing what they care about and what options are available." 

The available budget is also a factor, but Merril added that people are now willing to pay more for cannabis products that offer transparency, integrity, and authenticity of the ingredients. 

“If you have a value system that you’re trying to create, that’s where this becomes very important. The rest is just a minimal amount of regulatory responsibility.”

– Merril Gilbert 

Why do you think companies must secure certifications? 

One of the reasons why Merril feels that companies should consider pursuing certifications is because they help establish credibility. They signal to potential partners, vendors, investors, and others that you take quality seriously. It makes them feel safer when dealing with you and your brand. 

Pursuing certification for your cannabis products establishes credibility.

In addition, she stressed that nothing costs more than when brands or manufacturers have to either destroy a product or pull it off the shelf just because it didn’t meet the testing standards. When that happens, not only will the brand lose resources, but it will also lose credibility. 

“Why set yourself up to fail? Just because you don’t want to spend anywhere from $2,500 to $8,000 to have somebody make sure that you’re making a good, safe, reliable product.”

– Merril Gilbert 

What are some of the mistakes cannabis companies make on their labels? 

According to Merril, it’s essential for people to know what’s in the cannabis product – be it an edible, a cannabis beverage, or vape – how potent it is, and how soon the consumer will experience the effects. She said that many times, companies miss the opportunities to educate consumers through labels. many times, companies miss the opportunities to educate consumers through labels.

Here are some of the mistakes companies make when labeling their cannabis products: 

  • Not informing customers about possible effects.  

Some companies include information regarding dosage amounts in their labeling, while others leave this part blank. This leaves room for confusion among users. 

  • Using misleading terminology.  

In one example, Merril pointed out that it says it’s from California in the label, but in actuality, it was purchased in Massachusetts. This information alone can mislead consumers into thinking that this product is legal in California. 

  • Cannabis packaging design that kids might find appealing.

Some brands market their products towards adults without taking precautions against accidental consumption by young ones. Even though there are regulations regarding child safety, parents still need to keep an eye on these packages so that children don’t get access to them at all. Such designs include bright colors, cartoon characters, and other items that could appeal to kids.

Tips on how to make labels more compliant 

TIps for making your packaging labels more compliant.

Merril has a few recommendations if your company wants to comply with current laws. Here are some of them:

1) The labels need to be of a specific size that is relevant to the package. They should be clear as well. 

2) Make sure that the weight shown on the label is accurate. If the label says 6 fluid ounces, it cannot measure 5.9 ounces. If the label on your edibles reads 30 grams, it needs to be 30 grams.

3) The logo should be clear and consistent.

4) The label should be designed in such a way that the consumer could read it, especially if it’s something they will be using in the dark like an edible or pre-packaged joint to relax before bed.

5) Consider adding scannable labels or QR codes to your packaging! These labels allow consumers to learn more about your product before purchasing it. 

6) Include labels where your product is legal. A little triangular CA stamp, for instance, indicates that the product is not illegal in California. 

7) Save your consumers time by specifying and marking the recommended serving or dose. 

One frequently asked question is what products can you make from cannabis?

There are many different types of products that are manufactured from the cannabis. Many larger brands manufacture more than one type of product for their audience. All of these products require lab testing in the legal market and are the broad array of products that Merril is referring to that require more oversite, good manufacturing processes and standards, and SOPs.

Some of the most cannabis products on the market today include:

Cannabis oil: Cannabis oil is a popular product that is used for a variety of purposes. It can be consumed orally, or it can be applied topically.

Cannabis edibles: Cannabis edibles are another popular type of product that is created from cannabis. These products can take the form of baked goods, candies, or even drinks.

Cannabis creams or topicals: Cannabis topicals are products that have been infused with cannabis extracts. These products typically do not contain any psychoactive elements, but they instead feature cannabinoids that can penetrate deep into the skin.

Cannabis sprays: Cannabis sprays are yet another type of product that is created from cannabis. In most cases, these sprays contain either CBD or THC extracts which have been diluted in a carrier oil.

Cannabis tinctures: Cannabis tinctures are another type of product that is created from cannabis. These products usually feature a high concentration of CBD or THC extracts that have been diluted in an ethanol-based solution.

Cannabis beverages: Cannabis beverages are drinks that have been infused with cannabis extracts. These extracts can be either CBD or THC, and they are often diluted in a carrier oil. Cannabis beverages are becoming increasingly popular, as they offer a convenient way to consume cannabinoids. Some of the most popular types of cannabis beverages include coffee, tea, beer, and wine.

Cannabis water: Cannabis water is another type of cannabis beverage that is becoming increasingly popular. Cannabis water is made by infusing water with cannabinoids such as CBD or THC. Additionally, the amount of CBD or THC in cannabis water can be customized according to your specific needs.

Vape: Vape pens are another type of product that is created from cannabis. These products typically resemble e-cigarettes, and they often heat extracts so they can be inhaled. They’re also popular among individuals who want to consume the substance discreetly or avoid smoking.

And more. The types of products aren’t limited and the innovation in cannabis continues to grow! But as Merril says, it is up to us in the industry to provide trust and be the light. We don’t need to wait for Federal and more state regulations, instead, we want to lead the way.

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