Thinking Outside and Inside the Box

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Warneke Paper Box Company brings 100 years of experience to making products pop.

“You only get one chance to make a first impression.” That’s how the saying goes, and it’s true. For products, packaging means everything about how your brand stands out on the shelf and evokes consumer response or point-of-purchase appeal. You’ve got to think outside and inside the box, like Warneke Paper Box Company has been doing for more than 100 years.

“If you think about shopping in general, for food or cosmetics or whatever it may be, the packaging is what sells the product,” said Chief Executive Officer Stacy Warneke. “The better the packaging looks, the higher perceived value it has. Our customers not only want to build brand awareness and loyalty through their packaging, but they also need something that grabs the consumer’s attention. This is what we do best. We’re experts in creating something unique for each of our clients.”


Founded in Denver in 1907, the family business is a world-class one-stop for entrepreneurs, product marketers and corporate clients. From concept to completion, Warneke specializes in custom designs and has produced packaging materials for dozens of international brands. Cannabis is just the most recent industry to utilize their special touch.

“Warneke is very diversified in the products we package. We package everything – from medical devices to pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, food and beverage, cosmetics, software, home goods and now, cannabis,” Stacy said.

In 2003, Stacy became the fourth generation to join the company her great-grandfather and great uncle co-founded. Her grandfather, father, uncles, cousins, and other family members have worn every hat while building the business into a global company.

Warneke Paper Box also pioneered modern print and die-cutting processes through the company’s decades-old relationships with printing technology giants. Current production can accommodate 12,000 sheets an hour, with a single system–the Sprintera—handling the entire manufacturing process, from cut to print.

Packaging and labeling standards for cannabis products require additional compliance features, making it important for the company to stay updated on fast-changing regulations that vary from state-to-state.

“We expect to see the regulations change often as this industry evolves,” Stacy explained. “The most common regulations currently are that the package must be child-resistant, or it needs to leave the store in a child-resistant exit container or exit bag. The packaging has to be opaque. It must be closeable, if not intended for a single use, and it must have the universal THC symbol/logo.

“Our customers are currently packaging their products in a vial, tube, or jar with a child-resistant lid and then putting that in an eye-catching box,” she continued. “We’re working on solutions to help eliminate some of the inner child-resistant pieces.”

Other than childproofing restrictions and special labels, though, cannabis products inspire as many packaging styles as there are new products coming to market. Packaging trends that are hot right now? Think all the brand-defining bells and whistles.

“The market leans towards high-end packaging. It’s an emerging market, and our customers want whatever it takes to make their package stand out and start to build brand recognition,” Stacy said. “Everyone wants something different, but it’s all very premium.”

California-based Bloom Farms went to Warneke when it was time to design the packaging for their Highlighter line of vape pens and cartridges. In collaboration with Bloom’s designer, Mike Hester at Pavement, they developed a sleek, luxurious look that also is accessible and understated. Stacy said team members had fun with the project, being able to combine several print processes and refined details.

“This package was designed using many techniques to produce a very unique look,” Stacy said. “The lid and base sleeves were created with two different papers, which helped this package stand out from the rest. The bases were created with specialty paper that varied in color, so the consumer can easily identify with the type of product [sativa, indica, hybrid]. A special pattern was debossed over the entire base to give it texture and feel.”

Attention to details can make or break a consumer’s user experience. Remember how you felt the first time you opened the box for an iPhone or other expensive tech gadget?

Most manufacturers and marketers right now, she said, are focused on standing out with noticeably high-end touches and evocative design, whatever the product may be. “We do see an increase in packaging for smoking accessories, edibles, and oils, although packaging the actual flower [also] is on the rise,” Stacy said.

“Another creative and fun project has been working with Dixie Brands. They use a variety of specialty techniques on several projects we produce for them. This company has hit the ground running, and it has been a pleasure partnering with them as they grow to national levels.

“These specific mint boxes stand out, not only with their use of bright and inviting colors but also with the special use of gloss and dull UV coating—a technique we call ‘strike through,’” she continued. “The gloss is used in specific areas on the front panel including, but not limited to, the product name, flavor, and logo, while the remainder of the box is dull.

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The technique allows for the gloss area to stand out, grab consumers’ attention and help build brand loyalty and identification. Different colors in the graphics allow for the consumer to easily identify the flavor of mint.”

If packaging sounds a little expensive and you don’t need a big order (yet), Warneke will work with orders of 1,000 pieces or more and, of course, they provide estimates.

“Budget can vary drastically depending on what type of package is chosen and the quantity they need. Warneke does work with many startup companies and small businesses,” Stacy said. “So many factors can affect the price of the package, from size, to style, to printing, to special coatings. It’s all so variable.  We’re happy to provide custom quotes for any company seeking a general cost.”

In Colorado, the Rocky Mountains sky is the limit, and that’s been true for Warneke since the early part of the twentieth century. With an eye toward innovation, the multi-award-winning company has helped to establish technologies in the global printing industry, and now Stacy sees the opportunity to work with another emergent industry and influence its direction—or at least the packaging designs used to take it next level.

“The cannabis industry has been a very good customer for Warneke Paper Box,” she said. “Being in one of the first states to legalize marijuana, we are in the prime location to meet with our customers and help them create a package that will differentiate them from the competition. It’s a very exciting time, because we have the opportunity to shape the industry for unique package design in this market.”

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