Kristi Knoblich remembers the sort of cannabis-infused edibles that once lined shelves of medical cannabis dispensaries in California.
It was 2010—packaging and labeling on edibles were amateurish and potency was a roll of the dice. “There weren’t any edible products we would purchase ourselves or that we felt confident in buying,” recalled Knoblich. Back then, there was nothing, for example, she would buy and give to her mother-in-law.
So, Kiva Confections was born.
“Without testing we really would not exist, because that is the core of the Kiva product.”
Seven years later, it is one of the most popular edibles brands on the market, available in 1,000 dispensaries, with a dozen products to tickle your sweet tooth and deliver a consistent, accurate dose of THC.
For Knoblich, 31, Kiva’s co-founder, it’s about catering to the responsible, not experimental, cannabis consumer. “The Kiva products are targeted at people who have responsibilities and jobs, maybe kids, because they need that reliability,” she said. “There’s a time and place for experimentation, but not when you have a job and you’re trying to keep it together and live an adult life.”
Cultivation to Chocolate
Knoblich and her husband, Scott Palmer, were trying to make careers out of photography when the economy went south in 2008. People suddenly didn’t want to spend money on professional photos, so the couple began growing cannabis to make ends meet.
In visiting dispensaries and seeing the edibles that were available, they decided there was a need for more professional-looking products with consistent potency, something you could eat without worrying about getting zonked off your gourd.
In 2010, they began making chocolate products in their home, with roommates working as volunteers. While Knoblich focused on cultivation, Palmer spent 10 months tinkering with formulas and recipes, finding extracts that would blend well with chocolate. They also worked with an Oakland laboratory to ensure the products had a “certified potency” they could put on the label.
“Without testing we really would not exist, because that is the core of the Kiva product,” Knoblich said.
Sales took off quickly, and within a few months, one of the roommates was on the payroll. Then they moved out of the home kitchen and into a commercial space in Oakland and hired a few more employees.
And so on.
“’Responsible’ is such a boring word, but when it comes to cannabis it is extremely important for people to understand the products they’re about to consume, especially with edibles.”
Expansion and Growth
Today, Kiva Confections has 85 employees. Chocolate bar flavors include ginger dark, vanilla chai, blackberry dark, espresso dark, mint Irish cream, tangerine dark, along with traditional milk chocolate and dark chocolate. Kiva also makes mini chocolate squares and low-dose coated coffee beans and mints.
Knoblich credits Kiva’s success to not compromising on taste while still providing a reliable THC delivery method with potency that matches what is listed on the label.
While chocolate bars are still the mainstay, it is the coffee beans and mints that exemplify Kiva’s approach to infused edibles. The beans are 5mg of THC and the mints 2.5mg, a low dose for a regular consumer but perfect for the cannabis lover on-the-go.
“It gets you the minimum amount without overdoing it, without feeling any of those negative effects of overconsumption,” Knoblich said. “It doesn’t interfere with what you’re trying to get done in your life.”
And while there are many uncertainties ahead for California’s cannabis industry, Knoblich feels Kiva is well-placed to meet what is sure to be stringent testing regulations for edibles.
“The one thing we have here in California I feel like is a very passionate patient base. If those people come out and stand up for cannabis and its responsible use, I think that will be a very powerful way to get the attention of the legislature and that will influence our regulations going forward,” she said.
“‘Responsible’ is such a boring word, but when it comes to cannabis it is extremely important for people to understand the products they’re about to consume, especially with edibles,” Knoblich said. “You can always eat more. You can’t eat less.”