There is an incredible synergy between chocolate and cannabis. Both contain the “bliss molecule” anandamide that signals the brain to feel joy. Coda Signature, founded in Colorado in 2015, is a brand of chef-crafted cannabis confections capturing this synergy. Coda’s flagship line of chocolate bars is joined by pates de fruit made with all-natural ingredients and dusted in aromatic sugars and spices. Each product is crafted with intention, using quality ingredients to build a flavor profile that goes deeper than simply tasting good. But they do, in fact, taste good.
Co-founder and Chief Innovation Officer Chef Lauren Gockley, the mind behind Coda Signature, sat down to speak with Ganjapreneur about the brand, developing new flavors, and her plans for the future. “Chocolate not only spoke to the science side of my brain but also the creativity side of my brain, it kind of struck this really beautiful balance where chocolate has very clear guidelines but it’s an incredible medium to work with as a craftsman,” Gockley said. “Chocolate not only is a phenomenal ingredient, it has a very rich history from the Mayans and the Aztecs, it can be molded in so many form factors, and kind of at its core, it’s something that brings joy to almost everyone. Chocolate became my love language.”
The chef’s interest in food developed early alongside her grandmother in the kitchen but before pursuing a career as a chef, she explored a profession in music. Music wasn’t the right fit, and Gockley transitioned into pastry where she appreciated the defined rules of baking science. She began working as a raw Vegan chocolatier, using medicinal herbs and ingredients that weren’t traditionally accepted as tasting “good”— chocolate was her preferred medium for self-expression. The experience of crafting tasty confections with medicinal herbs gave her confidence with cannabis as an ingredient that she could embrace rather than try to hide its natural flavor. Strong, engaging flavors became a mission for Coda, and the team began to develop the brand.
Music has always been a presence in Gockley’s life, and it became the language of the brand. If you look closely you’ll find small nods to music theory in the branding. “It’s an intimate connector the same way the culture of cannabis is — we’re sharing a joint and experiencing a high together. The music helps me and the team to communicate,” Gockley said.
Each edible flavor is built to communicate an experience to the consumer, like Coffee + Donuts which Gockley formulated to bring you right back to your neighborhood donut shop’s hard-backed booth with a squeaky vinyl cushion, where you’d enjoy a pink sprinkle and a cup of hot black coffee. The chocolate bar doesn’t contain donuts; instead, she takes a concept (like coffee and donuts), breaks it apart, and puts it back together using layered flavors to bring the consumer into a moment. Rather than just adding nuts to milk chocolate, she ventures to add an element of surprise, something that has deepened the consumer relationship with the product.
It takes a village to taste test and build new innovative flavors, starting with non-medicated taste testing for a wide swath of their team, friends, and trusted advisors. Once they tweak that recipe, they introduce cannabis sourced from trusted extractors. Originally, Coda set out to do all extraction in-house but as the industry developed and the brand grew into new markets, it was necessary to find an extraction artist to take the reins of that portion of the work. “We are great at making confection so let’s let the brilliant craftsmen and the extractors shine in what they do,” Gockley said. From cannabis to chocolate, every ingredient in Coda edibles is intentional and finely sourced, and Gockley’s culinary network came in handy as they sought out a chocolate partner.
During her culinary career, Gockley worked with French chocolate brand Valhrona who recommended Coda work with Ecuadorian chocolate company Republica de Cacao. Both Coda and Republica de Cacao were in their infancy. Before settling on their chocolate partner, Gockley visited the factory, their cacao fields, and the farm in the Andes mountains where cows are milked by hand. Now, six years later, the company has built a chocolate specifically for the cannabis brand that matches their preferred flavor profiles- highlighting the cinnamon, hazelnut, and butterscotch in the milk chocolate and earthy dark chocolate that compliments the flavor of cannabis.
The Colorado-born brand learned as it expanded that each market has a particular palate. In Colorado, Coda sunsetted products that played with sweetness and spice like Pineapple Jalapeño and Fire and Orange, but consumers elsewhere loved the spicy chocolates. Cream and Crumble, a new white chocolate bar that plays on flavors of a lemon cheesecake, caters to Coloradans’ sweet tooth. The bar features a tang of sour cream with the crunch of a cinnamon streusel, layering a flavor experience that always evokes noticeably joyous surprise, and watching people enjoy that crescendo simply tickles Gockley: “That’s worth a million bucks.”
As Coda enters new markets — as it did most recently in Massachusetts, and as it plans to do in Illinois later in 2023 — Gockley is proud that the brand has maintained its mission of crafting fine confections, “That was a priority when we were starting the company, this was going to be a flavor-driven brand with quality ingredients with chocolate at the forefront.” And they’ve done exactly that.