When I moved to the Bay Area a few years ago, I was a cannabis novice. If anything, I was a bit afraid of the herb.
It wasn’t that I’d had my Mandatory Edibles Apocalyptic Nightmare Rite of Passage (that was yet to come), it was simply a world that was foreign to me: I didn’t know how to roll a joint, I didn’t know a sativa from salvia, I didn’t know whether 5 milligrams would be a joy ride or knock me on my ass.
The pivotal moment came when I discovered the Petra Mints, from Kiva Confections. They came in a classy and un-intimidating tin, with just 2.5 milligrams of THC in each mint. Slightly sweet, with a hint of green tea matcha to accompany the minty zing, they were my gateway to a positive relationship with cannabis: perfect for hikes, for seemingly endless afternoons on the shores of Lake Merritt, for listening to music and making music and everything in between.
In the intervening years, Kiva has continued to grow in leaps and bounds. This August, they announced an enormous, coast-to-coast multi-state expansion; they’ve also launched new products, including delicious and creative gummies, and recently, limited-edition products like a line of Sour gummies, with flavors like Orchard Peach and Watermelon Spritz, as well as a Halloween-themed Blood Orange gummy.
I recently had the pleasure of the Blood Orange variety. It was everything that I – and so many others – have come to expect from Kiva: gorgeous packaging, excellent texture and taste and a robust and euphoric high.
In conjunction with their ongoing expansion and the launch of these new products, Wikileaf caught up with Kiva co-founder Kristi Palmer to learn more about the company’s strategy for expansion, her favorite brands, fine-tuning Kiva’s brand identity and more.
This conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Thanks for taking the time to chat, Kristi! Do you see limited edition products like the Blood Orange becoming a larger share of the edibles market in the next few years? Why or why not?
We thoroughly enjoy releasing both seasonal items and limited edition releases — it energizes not only consumers, but retailers and the Kiva team alike. How big of a share limited edition products become will come down to what consumers find important, and how brands react to that. If other brands find it rewarding, I would expect them to join in the fun.
The marketing copy around the Sours feels very LA-specific. What was the thought process there, and do you anticipate crafting more “site-specific” products down the road?
Interesting! That wasn’t the intention, but LA is a big market for our products, and much of our team resides there, so perhaps there’s an inadvertent LA vibe in there.
As we build out our Camino gummy line, we will always connect the flavor and effect to an inspiring landscape, as that is the brand promise. Camino aims to transport people to a new state of mind with each flavor: whether it’s a balanced feeling similar to gazing over rolling orchard hills at dusk, or the kind of chill you’d exude if you were lying on a private beach paradise.
Do less “mature” markets than California respond differently to Kiva products? Why do you think that is – or isn’t – the case?
We are slightly unique in that we started Kiva when California was still an immature market, so we have released new product innovations in both environments now.
In a recent survey by a retailer in Massachusetts, 65% of consumers had heard of Kiva already upon launch at the store. That goes to show that just because you don’t have an official presence in a state, it doesn’t mean consumers aren’t gaining access to your brand via social media, travel, or word of mouth.
In less mature markets particularly, consumer education is key. It’s up to brands like us to help consumers understand not only Kiva’s key differences, but why they might choose edibles versus other cannabis consumption types.
How do you see the East Coast market being different (or not) than the West Coast / Midwest?
Kiva recently debuted in Massachusetts. No two markets are exactly the same, but there are common themes. Consumers and patients in Massachusetts are just as excited to learn about how to have their sleep, play, and social lives supported with cannabis as in California or any other state. The biggest difference seems to be accessibility to that opportunity: the growth of the overall market (medical and adult use), new products and brands entering into the space, and also the way the market is set up structurally…vertically integrated partners vs. segmented parts of the supply chain.
What has surprised you the most / been the biggest lesson in the course of plotting your expansion?
I am constantly surprised by how complex out of state expansion is. To adapt your products, marketing, and messaging to each market is a huge lift with such a burdensome patchwork of regulations that we have to navigate. It’s a ton of work to keep it all organized.
What are some other edibles brands that you enjoy, either in terms of the product itself, or their brand identity / marketing?
Right now feels like a renaissance of emerging, beautifully-designed cannabis edibles brands! Sundae School, Calexo, Drew Martin, Garden Society, Wyld, CANN, Pure Beauty, LEVEL… our fellow edibles brands are doing a fabulous job at making the category look really appealing to new and existing consumers. Rising tides lift all boats!
Nice! Lastly, what are some reference points that you guys keep in mind when designing packaging for your current products?
Storytelling, first and foremost! Anyone can slap their logo on a package. Consumers are inundated with great design and powerful media content all day long. To capture their attention and stand out from the crowd, designing a package that they can connect with, relate to, and that represents their lifestyle or belief system is the goal. I rely on the “joy test:” if a packaging concept makes you excited, smile, and want to learn more, then you’re on the right track.