Andrew Schrot, the CEO of Denver-based Blue Kudu, moved to Colorado from Tampa, Florida, with his brother in the summer of 2010, excited to get involved in the cannabis industry. "We thought about edibles, because at that time there wasn't a consistent, quality product that patients could rely upon," Schrot recalls.
When Schrot was growing up, his family used to visit the animals at Busch Gardens; a family favorite was the African kudu because of its unique coat and long spiral horns. When brainstorming names for the company, he decided to go with Blue Kudu, to "stand out in a sea of cannabis businesses with green in their name," he says.
From the start, Blue Kudu focused on chocolate edibles. The brothers did extensive research, going through fifteen to twenty chocolate vendors before choosing one. They keep the name of that vendor under wraps to ward off competition, but Schrot shares that the beans are grown in Europe and made from a family recipe carried down through five generations; in addition, the chocolate is fair trade and Rainforest Alliance-certified.
The company, which now produces about 3,000 edible bars a day — most of them made with dark chocolate — has its product in about 75 percent of dispensaries around the state, Schrot says.
"One thing about chocolate is, it's easily breakable," he adds. "So when we were looking at products, we wanted to make sure the consumer knew how much they were consuming at a time. That was extremely important to us."
Each bar contains 100 milligrams of THC and is divided into ten pieces marked with the THC symbol and "10 mg," because starting in October, the state will require that all THC-infused food be identifiable outside of its original packaging. The bars are also a little bigger than they used to be because of the new compliance regulations, which will affect all edibles manufacturers in Colorado.
Blue Kudu had to purchase 2,000 custom molds in order to comply with the new regulations, at a cost of $20,000 to 30,000, Schrot says. And that's just on the recreational side; the company is still working on updating the molds for the medical side of its operation.
Staffers also worked with pharmaceutical packaging companies to create a box that's compliant with safety regulations. Each container of THC-infused products must be child-safe. Ecobliss, the company that manufactures the cartons, is based in the Netherlands, and its design has won multiple awards.
Schrot recommends that first-time users take it slow with edibles: Start with 5 to 10 milligrams of THC and then consume no more than that every two hours. "We want the consumer to get the comfortable, relaxing experience they're looking for from our product," Schrot says. "Unfortunately, there are some overdoses, but I think the industry is continuing education with the "Start Low, Go Slow" [theme], especially when it comes to edibles."
The state requires that edibles test within 15 percent of their label, but Blue Kudu aims to keep that closer to 5 percent.
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"We want them to have a good experience with our products. The first-time edible user, when they have a bad experience, never uses edibles again — and that's a customer we've lost for life. So if we can ease them into a really great experience, then they'll come back again and again — and that's what business is about," says Ben Kelso, an account manager at Blue Kudu.
In the coming months, Blue Kudu will be moving to a new, larger space. The kitchen will be almost ten times the size of the one the company uses now, allowing for the expansion of the product line to include brownies and gummies. "It's important for us to make the whole recipe in-house," Schrot says. "All the products we make, we come up with our own recipe and make the product from scratch."
Right now, meeting the growing demand requires keeping the operation going nights and weekends.
The company doesn't currently grow its own plants, but Schrot says it will start once Blue Kudu moves into the new facility, which has just over 10,000 square feet of greenhouse space.