Kiva’s case for innovative edibles

By Alex Halperin
Jan 8, 2021

Kris Krane, president of multi-state operator 4Front, recently made the case to WeedWeek that “a gummy is a gummy is a gummy.” Specifically, he discussed how the company’s strategy is to streamline manufacturing so it can produce and sell quality edibles at lower cost than the best known brands. 

Customers haven’t yet developed deep brand loyalties, he argued, and are more than willing to experiment with lesser known competitors, especially when they cost a few bucks less. The approach has enabled 4Front to produce seven of the top 10 edibles brands in Washington state. 

Kristi Knoblich Palmer, CEO of Kiva Confections, one of California’s leading edibles brands, respectfully disagrees, and thinks consumers agree with her. “I guess it depends on what your goals are,” she said. ”If you’re just looking to play in the gummy space and not hoping to be a major player, you can get away with that strategy.” She described Kiva’s gummy brands, Camino, and new entrant Lost Farm as highly differentiated. 

In an interview with WeedWeek, she explained why Kiva invests in product innovation, and discussed the most exciting opportunities for novel products. 

Fast onset edibles

  • Palmer described fast-acting edibles as “really interesting.” Kiva is working on this and has done internal testing, but she conceded the company has yet to perfect it. 
  • To be credible, she said about 65% of consumers need to notice an effect in 15 minutes, which would “tear down one of the barriers” for new consumers and make edibles a more reasonable alternative to inhalables or alcohol. 
  • Accelerating the “offset” or come down would be interesting as well, but Palmer suggested that’s further off.
  • Leveraging various technologies, numerous companies claim to have cracked the fast-onset nut and Palmer said the products are selling well. Do they work as promised? She isn’t sure. 

Rare cannabinoids

  • For years, insiders have been buzzing about the benefits and market opportunity for lesser known cannabinoids like CBG, THCV and THCA. Now they’re finally trickling into the market. 
  • They’re still not easy to find. Kiva sources CBN, for a product in its Camino gummy line, from growers who need several generations to breed plants with sufficient quantities of the compound. “It’s sort of where CBD was in 2013/2014 Palmer said.
  • Kiva promotes its Midnight Blueberry Camino gummies as a sleep aid. “It works really well and you don’t need a lot” Palmer said. “It’s important to use in moderation because it can make people groggy.” Each gummy contains 1 mg of CBN and 5 mg of THC. WeedWeek asked Palmer to share her data on the products’ efficacy and will update this post if she provides it.
  • Consumers clearly dig them. As of December 31, the product is the best-selling edible in California, according to Headset. 

The rise of infused beverages

  • Among other new products, Kiva is exploring cannabis infused beverages. 
  • Consumers are drinking less alcohol which makes the opportunity very exciting. If cannabis drinks were to replace 10% of the alcohol market, sales would be roughly equivalent to the entire U.S. legal cannabis market in 2020.
  • Kiva distributes the trendy cannabis beverage brand Cann. Palmer described the “clean and trendy flavors” — such as lemon lavender — as more appealing to women and less experienced cannabis users rather than “cannaseur/budtender” customers. The same seems to apply to beverages generally. 
  • But challenges remain for producers. Among the issues Palmer cited: 1) A cannabis beverage costs more than a beer, and a lot more than a gummy per mg of THC. 2) The lack of interstate cannabis commerce makes it hard to scale manufacturing and reduce prices. 3) Infused beverages are also a lot less visible than alcohol. They’re not available at 7-Eleven.
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