One-on-One: Nancy Gruskin Warner, CEO of Edibles Packaging Maker AssurPack

Warner offers advice for confectionery companies looking to enter the edibles market.

Growing up, Nancy Gruskin Warner’s father ran Crystal Pure Candy Co. in Chicago. And these days Warner also works in the candy industry — but in a slightly different role. She is the CEO of AssurPack LLC, which makes child-proof packaging for cannabis edibles.
She got her start with 30 years in pharmaceutical packaging before bringing her expertise in package engineering and compliance regulation to the cannabis industry.
Since 2013, the company has been forging a path in compliant child-resistant packaging for medical and recreational cannabis items with its innovative, patented products, helping to shape regulations for an emerging market.
In addition to custom and stock packaging, AssurPack offers materials, packaging components, processes and scalable equipment to meet the evolving needs of our customers.
Warner recently took some time to talk about how her products make edibles safer, how she thinks the industry should respond to cannabis confections, and the advice she’d give to confectionery companies looking to enter the market.

How did you get involved in the cannabis packaging industry? 

Warner: I spent my career in the pharmaceutical contract packaging industry. My family in Colorado got me interested in the industry after legalization in 2014 and some of the scares with edibles in the news. My first reaction was that this industry needs child-resistant packaging.
I started researching and found out that the state required child-resistant packaging. The options were very limited at the time. So, I decided to take my expertise in child-resistant packaging from the pharmaceutical industry to the cannabis industry. Now, almost five years later, we have a full line of child-resistant packaging solutions.

What are some of the types of packaging that AssurPack offers? How do they make the edibles safer? 

Warner:We focus on child-resistant packaging for infused and edible products. This is one the more challenging areas of the industry to find well-designed child resistant packaging that supports the type of branding and marketing that drives the cannabis industry.
I have put together a line of unique packages such as the AssurClam, which is a reclosable child-resistant plastic package manufactured from recycled plastic (water bottles/PET) and is recyclable after use.
We also work with our customers to develop better processes, such as directly pouring candy into our blisters which then are used as the mould and the package.
Our AssurCard provides the child-resistant feature to the blister package. The latest package we launched, AssurTin, is a vertical tin with a child resistant button top.

What do you think the industry should do to make sure edibles aren’t being consumed by children? 

Warner:The industry is very aware of this issue and wants to support the industry growth through responsible practices. Child-resistant packaging is geared to young children who cannot read. Requiring opaque packages so children cannot see the product helps as well.
Older children and teenagers have to be educated by their parents and community to stay away from these adult products — the same way we handle alcohol and prescription drugs. Part of the tax money collected by states from the sale of legal cannabis could be directed for this type of education.

What advice would you give to confectionery companies looking to get into the edibles market?  

Warner: This is a challenging industry with many compliance issues. Each state has their own requirements and you can only manufacture and distribute within a state, so it’s a very different type of business. There is a different level of automation and scale. This will change when cannabis becomes federally legal.
The child-resistant packaging requirement will present challenges and should be considered early during the product development process. Child-resistant packaging costs will be higher than traditional packaging in the candy industry, so consider this in the overall project.

Anything else you would like to add?  

Warner: Infused products in the cannabis industry is growing fast and will continue to be a preferred dosing format. There will be many forms of infused candies, but they are also medicine, which is very different than candy, which is a food product. Adult use is becoming legal in many states and is just what the term implies: products for adults to use.
We all have to work hard to keep these products away from children and teenagers.