The process of getting high-grade cannabis to consumers is a difficult path. But once cannabis flower makes it to a consumer’s living room couch, what happens next can make a major difference.
“Flower tends to dry out really rapidly in some environments, especially as you're transporting it around. Once it dries out, all those terpenes are evaporating, you're never gonna get that back. You're losing flavor, you're losing effect, you're losing the aroma, all those things,” Claire Erickson, the Industry Programs Manager for Boveda told Rootwurks.
Boveda is known throughout the cannabis industry for its two-way humidity control packets (about the size of a sugar packet) that keep herb fresh well after it leaves the dispensary shelf. They’re also known for their “save the terps” slogan.
According to Erickson, Boveda is also a quality assurance tool that is devoted to “ensuring the end-stage quality and condition of the flower.”
She admits though that “we perform a really basic, kind of boring function. You know, it’s not sexy, and two-way humidity control is kind of an afterthought in a lot of circles but it plays a critical role.”
Erickson described how keeping the relative humidity stable and at a safe level can prevent moisture and stop harmful microbes from forming, helping keep consumers safe. In addition, preserving the terpenes and the freshness of the cannabis can help consumers have a better experience.
For Erickson, coming from the skiing culture of Colorado, cannabis culture was never far off. She described growing up in a small mountain town in western Colorado and living in small ski towns downhill from Aspen. In her mid-twenties, she thought of going to law school but instead went to live in southern Maine before returning to the ski bum life in Colorado, where she said “skiing and outdoor activity has a really rich connection to cannabis and cannabis culture.”
Erickson met her husband and went back to school to get a business degree before working locally for a marketing firm. In 2019 she worked on a campaign for Boveda, and the rest is history.
She described how the science of cannabis is a personal interest of hers, as is her passion for finding ways to create better cannabis experiences for consumers.
“I think it's so exciting because we [the cannabis industry] don't have all these frameworks established and every day we get to do the work to put them in place, to make sure that patients and consumers have access to safe, high-quality cannabis.”
Are cannabis consumers becoming savvier?
If you spend any time at cannabis industry events or just talking to people about marijuana in 2023, it’s clear that the dialogue has changed. No longer is THC the end-all and be-all when it comes to cannabis quality. Instead, a growing number of cannabis consumers know to look at the terpene profile when making their purchase.
In such a consumer landscape, a product that “protects the terps” is naturally going to find an audience.
“Consumers are becoming more sophisticated. And what we're seeing too, just through survey data, is that people want a more consistent experience,” Erickson said.
She added, “when you're going to a dispensary and you're buying a product that hasn't been protected, you're really rolling the dice with the type of experience you're going to have because of things like terpenes. If half of the terpenes have evaporated off of your flower you’re not going to have the same high that you would as if they were preserved and properly protected along the entire supply chain.”
Erickson also said that overall, consumers and the industry “now understand more of these subtle nuances that make cannabis great.”
From Cigars to Cannabis
It may come as a surprise to some Boveda customers, but the brand started out protecting a far different product: cigars.
The company launched more than 25 years ago serving the cigar market. And to this day, the majority of their business is still with cigar smokers.
For Erickson, there are some clear similarities between the cigar industry and cannabis.
“There are strong family ties to these producers who have been doing it for generations and they're both agricultural products too.”
Boveda then branched out into protecting wood instruments, which can be heavily impacted by the presence of water.
About 13 years ago Boveda began targeting cannabis consumers, though even today, the tobacco market still provides the majority of their business.
The company also provides industrial-size solutions for cannabis. These far larger Boveda packets are designed to protect cannabis and maintain a safe humidity level for flow after harvest through trimming, curing, transport, and storage.
Erickson said that Boveda packets can play a role in compliance adherence in that compliance is a system in which every step is dependent on the one that came before it. For Boveda this means controlling for water activity along the entire post-harvest product and processing of cannabis, so that quality is not lost, and microbes don’t pose a safety risk.
When asked what advice she thinks Boveda could provide to cannabis entrepreneurs and businesses just starting she said, “because cannabis is so exciting and the thought of working in cannabis is so exciting a lot of times businesses can get distracted from their core competency and overdevelop the scope of what they’re good at.”
For Boveda, the answer is clear.
“It’s water activity, that’s what we do.”