We often write about the recall and regulatory implications of quality and safety when producing and retailing cannabis products, but there also are significant implications related to consumer perception and purchase.
According to a recent survey from New Frontier Data, consumers tend to be quite loyal to specific dispensaries and brands, with 65% stating that they always buy from the same store or delivery service and 52% always or usually purchase the same non-flower brands. However, those same consumers will switch if product quality is not up to par – with 87% saying product quality was their top reason for switching dispensaries.
Such a high propensity to change reflects on the quality of both the cannabis brands and dispensaries, making informed sourcing a critical factor for both the producers and retailers. While the survey did not specifically address product safety, this is inherently an aspect of product quality.
One of the best ways to help ensure both the quality and safety of your products is the implementation of a supplier approval and verification program. It is interesting to note edibles were second only to flowers in preference and frequency of purchase. While edibles are not yet subject to the federal Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), once cannabis becomes federally legal and edibles are approved by the FDA, they will become subject to the rules of FSMA, which include requirements for and a risk-based supply-chain program.
But whether or not your establishment is, or will be, subject to FSMA, you are subject to the impacts of purchasing decisions by consumers which stem from your supplier’s quality and safety practices as well as your own.
So what should a supply-chain program include? The overall purpose of a program is to help ensure that the products or ingredients you receive from your suppliers have been produced in a sanitary environment through quality and safety processes and practices that consider and mitigate potential biological, physical, and chemical risks.
Some of the specific areas that should be included in your supplier assessment are their programs and processes related to:
- The application of good manufacturing practices (CGMPs), which include worker hygiene, foreign material detection and elimination, allergen controls (where applicable), pest control, and pesticide and heavy metal risk management
- Grow and processing facility conditions and the cleaning, sanitation, and maintenance programs that maintain acceptable conditions
- THC potency and accuracy of labeling
- Product sampling for quality and safety as well as potency
- Internal/external lab quality; tests run; accuracy of results
- Any past or current issues with recalls, state regulatory compliance, customer complaints, etc.
In addition to assessing your suppliers, it is a best practice to request information on your supplier’s suppliers, to determine if there would be any potential or actual issues further back in the supply chain that could impact the quality and safety of your products.
Whether you produce or retail oils, vapes, edibles or other cannabis forms, following the CGMPs and supplier management programs of the food industry can be of value in ensuring the quality and safety of your product. And, as has been shown above, your customers not only expect quality, they will switch providers if your product isn’t up to their standards. If you need assistance in any of these areas, give HashTAG experts a call. We can help!