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On-Demand vs. Pre-Printed Cannabis Labels

When it comes to cannabis labels, there are plenty of decisions to make, from the design to the production. Which label materials should you use? What about adhesives, colors, die-cut shapes and special coatings? What data needs to go on your labels?

There’s another important factor cannabis brands need to consider: Should I order the labels for my product from a commercial printer or produce them in-house?

The answer to this question will depend on your workflow, preferences and available resources. To help you decide between on-demand printed labels and pre-printed labels, here’s an overview of each option. 

Cannabis label printing on-demand

Full-color label printing is a solution that’s tailor-made for cannabis producers and processors. Now, we’re not talking about printing on sheets of paper labels with a standard office printer. A custom-configured solution like this involves using high-quality digital inkjet label printers and special label media to print high-resolution, full-color labels on-demand, as you need them, in the exact quantities that are required.

When does it make sense to print cannabis labels on-demand?


You have products, or SKUs, that change frequently

If you’re producing small-batch craft products, introducing new blends of infused pre-rolls or concentrates, or running new genetics frequently, on-demand cannabis label printing is a smart solution for you. Label prices are always dictated by the volumes that are ordered, with larger orders, say 20K being significantly cheaper than orders of 5K and under. Many times, orders of less than 2K will be rejected or passed on by some printers. This means that in order to get the price that makes sense, orders have to be done months in advance, and in huge quantities. If something happens to the run of flower, or the material you’ve negotiated for falls through, you’re stuck with useless labels.


You have low volumes of units

How many labels do you need? For short runs (think hundreds, not thousands of labels), on-demand cannabis label printing is typically the more cost-effective option. Rather than ordering a large batch of pre-printed labels, you can print exactly the number of labels you need, when you need them. On-demand cannabis label printing puts you in control of your label inventory, so you’re not wasting unused labels.


You need to change variable data quickly and easily

Especially for smaller cannabis operations, flexibility is key. When you print color cannabis labels on-demand for your product and packaging labels, you’re able to make necessary changes right away. Say you need to change your ingredients list or menu. Or, maybe your last round didn’t come out as expected. Today’s on-demand printing technology makes it easy to quickly edit your labels and uphold the quality of your brand.


Another concern is the need to adjust your labels to comply with new and updated state regulations. If you order new labels from a professional printing company, the turnaround could take two to three weeks. With in-house cannabis label printing, you can roll with all the changes and never skip a beat.


Pre-Printed Cannabis Labels

Pre-printed labels are produced by professional printing companies, usually using flexographic (flexo) printing. Unlike digital printing, flexo printing is made for high speed, large-scale orders. The pre-printed labels will arrive with all the information printed on them, including custom graphics, colors and embellishments in any shape, size and material. Pre-printed labels are ready to apply to your product as soon as you receive them.



When does it make sense to order pre-printed cannabis labels?


You have high volumes of units

If you need thousands of labels at a time, it’s is usually more convenient and economical to order pre-printed labels. Buying in bulk can offer major cost savings per label, plus you won’t need to invest in extra printing equipment and software. For large white label processing operations, this is often the best solution.


You don’t have the time (or desire) to manage in-house printing

Label printing isn’t a “set it and forget it” task. The control of in house printing is great, but the trade-off is the time to do it correctly. If you have a lean staff and limited time to devote to managing the printing process, it might make more sense to work with a professional label printer instead of trying to handle everything in-house. Outsourcing label printing can save your team a lot of time and effort, allowing them to focus on core operations.


You want custom coatings, finishings and embellishments

Special label effects enhance your product’s uniqueness and shelf appeal. Flexo printing offers endless topcoating and finishing capabilities, including special inks, varnish, lamination, metallic foils and 3D holographic effects. With digital printing, you’ll have high-quality yet simple labels. If customized, eye-catching visuals are important to you, go with flexo printing.


“Finish On-Demand” Labels: The Best of Both Worlds

If you want the benefits of both on-demand and pre-printed label printing, consider a hybrid approach. With a “finish on-demand” solution, you work with a flexographic printing company to produce the template of a label, including any custom die-cutting, coatings and embellishments you want. When you’re ready to add the strain name and any other variable data to the label, you can feed the pre-printed template into your digital printer and finish the label with inkjet receptive coating. The end result is a highly professional-looking label with all the flexibility of on-demand printing and zero waste.


Make an informed decision

The label and printing experts at Delta9 Systems are here to answer all your questions and help you find the right solution that fits your unique vision, budget and workflow. Whether you’re looking for on-demand or pre-printed cannabis labels, we’ve got you!


Get started today! Give us a call at 1-877-303-8957, or use our contact form and we’ll be in touch with you soon.

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Chris Guthrie
Chris is the General Manager of Delta9 Systems, a division of General Data Co. He is an expert in the cannabis industry, having participated in the birth of the cannabis industry in Washington, and has operated one of the first and oldest medical dispensaries in Seattle. For a decade, Chris has participated in the design and managed the construction of dozens of indoor gardens, and has been involved in cultivation, processing, retail operations, as well as industry activism.
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