KIVA | How to make a top cannabis edibles brand? It’s all about trust

Eaze Team
Sep 10, 2018

If you know edibles, you probably already love Kiva.

And if you don’t know Kiva, you’ve just found the perfect entry point for quality cannabis confections, from their now-famous chocolate bars to Terra Bites (chocolate-covered blueberries and espresso beans) and fast-acting Petra Mints.

Kiva is truly one of only a handful of established brands in cannabis, and for good reason. From its founding nearly a decade ago, Kiva has been so far ahead on testing, dosing, packaging and flavor development that its flagship chocolates have remained virtually unchanged, aside from minor potency and packaging tweaks.

That level of consistency, spread across so much time, has made Kiva exactly what it set out to be during a full year of development in 2010: trusted.

[SEE ALSO: Microdosing | With cannabis, less really can be more]

“From the very beginning, Kiva existed to provide a consistent, professional, great-tasting edible product across the state,” Kiva co-founder Kristi Knoblich Palmer tells Eaze.

Back when most dispensaries still sold edibles in plastic wrap, “Kiva really set out to redefine what edibles could be.”

Petra mints from Kiva.

Kiva’s come a long way from the home kitchen.

Palmer says she co-founded Kiva in the kitchen of the Bay Area home where she grew up. Her partner was Scott Palmer, a fellow commercial photography student, and her boyfriend at the time. (They’re married now: “I got tired of introducing my ‘boyfriend’ when we entered board meetings,” she says with a laugh.)

Palmer says she focuses on people and customer service, while describing her husband, who’s from San Diego, as the “master tinkerer” who’s mostly responsible for Kiva’s formulations and flavor profiles. Every bar, for instance, has just a tiny hint of cannabis taste – a very deliberate choice.

“We got feedback from the market the people wanted to potentially have that taste,” she says. “And it does sort of warn you. It catches you just one more time before you eat the whole bar by accident.”

But not all flavors play nice with cannabis. Some mask it altogether. Kiva was aiming for something much more elevated.

“We like to find flavors that marry well with cannabis,” she says. “Flavors that pop together.”

Terra Bites from Kiva.

Like the blueberry Terra Bites, whose trinity of flavors – milk chocolate, blueberry and that hint of cannabis – make them utterly irresistible, even if they didn’t contain a precision dose of 5 mg of THC per bite. But they certainly do, and that’s another place where customers can feel well looked-after.

Because Kiva was testing before it was cool.

The new statewide testing requirements that took effect this summer were no big deal for Kiva, where purity and precision testing has been the norm since the very beginning.

“We used to be able to brag about our testing model, but now every body has to do it,” Palmer says. “We always ran the company as though we were regulated, and we really think of each chocolate bar that goes out the door as under the most intense scrutiny.”

But in this case, Palmer’s not talking about the scrutiny of lab employees or regulators. She’s always thinking about customers.

“They are going to experience it, and open it up with their hands, and that piece better be perfect for them,” she says. “That’s how you win the trust of your customers.”

And customers are what Kiva is all about.

Palmer keeps a close eye on how people are using her product, and even after nearly a decade of building unprecedented brand affinity, that’s still her focus.

“There are a lot of creative-use cases that people use our products for,” she says. “For outdoor activities, for exercise … if you’re doing a long, monotonous run, or a long swim, it’s a great way to get you through.”

She would know.

“I’ve used our products while participating in a triathlon!” she says, pausing a moment to reflect on whether she’s ever revealed that detail before. She hadn’t … but sure, why not now?

As a trust-building exercise, you couldn’t do much better.

[Kiva operates in California under license No. CDPH-T00000118]

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