Kristi Knoblich Palmer is the co-founder of Kiva Confections, one of California’s most successful and recognizable cannabis edibles brands.
We recently caught up with Kristi to talk about Kiva’s progress and successful expansion into a multi-state enterprise. Check out the interview below to hear her opinions on developing new products for the cannabis marketplace, why innovation is so important for edibles manufacturers, the explosive popularity of microdosing, and a whole lot more!
If you like the written interview below, be sure to also check out Kristi’s appearance on the Ganjapreneur.com Podcast!
Ganjapreneur: Over the eight years since its launch, Kiva Confections has grown into one of the cannabis industry’s most recognized edibles brands — what are the biggest factors to which you attribute that success?
Kristi Knoblich Palmer: We have always been extremely passionate about making high quality and delicious cannabis edibles for people to consume. We absolutely love to develop cool, new products that will solve a new problem for our existing consumers, and attract new ones. We strive to create products that people will fall in love with. Kiva’s CEO and my husband Scott Palmer is our secret weapon; at his core he is a genius engineer, always thinking up the next big idea. We have one cardinal rule — don’t release a product until its perfect. We pour our heart and soul into everything we make.
Edibles are often flaunted as the industry’s biggest untapped potential — does that sentiment still ring true to you, and why or why not?
There is an incredible opportunity for innovation, which is one of our favorite things about cannabis. There is no shortage of great ideas, which means many more exciting new things to come from Kiva. With regulation comes investment in the industry, and we’re seeing companies sink resources into innovation like never before. We are at the very beginning stages of significant cannabis innovation. There is no shortage of great ideas, which means many more exciting new things to come from Kiva and edibles in general.
In the year since adult-use launched in California, there have been some hiccups. How has the market matured under the new regulations and how has Kiva reacted to maintain sales?
2018 was action-packed, no one would argue against that! For the very first time, newly licensed operators are running businesses in compliance with strict regulation. The market is adapting at an astonishing pace to meet demand. Its fascinating how quickly companies can pivot to capture the opportunity.
To maintain sales this year, we worked tirelessly to launch a new brand, Camino Gummies. Coming out with what we feel is our best product ever during one of the most difficult years in cannabis has really helped reinvigorate our team internally, our retail customers, and our fans. When your business is your baby, you everything in your power to protect it. You get the most passionate, brightest minds together and you come up with solutions. Get it done. That is one of the Kiva core values, and we practice it every day.
Kiva is based in California but, since its launch, you have expanded into several other state markets. What has that process been like and do you plan to pursue more markets outside of California?
Moving into other states requires participation from just about every department at Kiva, as well as the operating partner — its a group effort with significant resources required. With goals to be a national brand, we will continue to launch in key, strategic markets with a measured approach.
Edibles are a huge contributing factor to the popularity of cannabis microdosing — could you speak to the trend’s importance and what it could mean for the industry as it becomes increasingly mainstream?
Edibles and microdosing make the perfect couple. Microdosing requires precision dosing to deliver a consistent experience time and time again. It is imperative that people who are new or returning to cannabis can control their dose and not overdo it on their first try; otherwise we’ll scare them out of the category and probably out of cannabis altogether.
Edibles offer that unique ability to deliver a small amount of THC to the consumer. This makes edibles increasingly approachable to new audiences.
How has Kiva’s business model changed during the transition from a wellness-minded medical market to California’s new adult-use regulations?
In a medical or recreational market, Kiva’s mission remains the same. It has always been our goal to create the highest quality, most consistent and best-tasting cannabis products for the most discerning people. We’re seeing wellness as a major trend in consumer goods and people are turning to cannabis for sleep, relaxation, as a replacement for alcohol — all as part of a healthy lifestyle.
Kiva will always make quality products that are appropriate for those looking for relief from chronic pain, or to help loosen up them up at a social gathering. Its up to the consumer to choose their use-case knowing they can always rely on our products.
Have there been projects you wished you could pursue but couldn’t due to regulatory restrictions or another obstacle? If so, what were they, and what would you suggest to someone who is facing such issues?
A difficult thing to let go of was our most effective marketing strategy: free sampling to consumers. It worked great as a way to help introduce people to Kiva. In 2018, that’s no longer possible so we have to think outside the box and come up with fresh, new, equally-as-effective strategies to bring people in to edibles. We love to be creative and we’re up for the challenge.
What was the biggest obstacle you have overcome, and what has been your biggest success or proudest moment?
The year 2018 offered a new surprise around every corner. I think the biggest obstacle was the July 1st transition. It was absolute chaos while the industry phased in new testing requirements and phased out old product that wouldn’t meet the regulations. As an industry, we were way out of our comfort zone. That was a true test of character; we were under immense pressure to keep business moving forward while the landscape was changing hour by hour right under our feet.
Yet, even with so many hurdles, this year has still produced some incredibly huge wins. We were able to seed our new Camino Gummies into nearly half the retail stores in our network in the first 4 weeks of the launch. This proves that people really believe in the Kiva brand, and demonstrates the reach and relationships with retailers that our distribution organization possesses. We are really proud about that and have to give credit to the entire Kiva team for making it happen.
Where do you hope to see Kiva Confections in the next 5-10 years?
In 10 years? We have only been around for eight! When that day comes, I hope that when we survey consumers around the world, they say Kiva is the cannabis brand they love most. That to me, aside from all other metrics, would mean that we truly accomplished what we set out to do.
Lastly, what advice would you give to somebody who is looking at founding or developing a cannabis edibles company?
I would tell them to get super excited about their products. If they aren’t so excited they can’t sleep yet, then its probably not ready to launch.
Thank you, Kristi, for taking the time to answer our questions and for sharing your experiences as a cannabis entrepreneur and edibles pioneer!
You can learn more about Kristi Knoblich Palmer and Kiva Confections at KivaConfections.com.