Chocolate weed

The CEO of a major producer of cannabis-infused products talks about the future of the industry

All set for cannabis-infused chocolate

We've come a long way since those days.

We’ve come a long way since those days.

Eric Eslao, who founded and is now the CEO of Défoncé Chocolatier, is on tenterhooks as he awaits final voting on the state of California’s Adult Use Marijuana Act, coming in November. Should it pass, his company will be able to sell its cannabis-infused chocolate for recreational purposes. “Défoncé” is French for “stoned.”

Eight chocolate bars are currently produced, weighing 3.5 ounces (a nice round 100 grammes if you go metric) and selling for $20 (?15 in real money) but requiring the production of a medical cannabis card. The chocolate originates from the gourmet manufacturers, TCHO and Guittard Chocolate Company, whose ingredients are ethically-sourced. The cannabis is from organic farms in the Sierra Foothills. Available flavours include coffee, green tea, hazelnut, mint, popcorn and vanilla. Some employees have more than a decade of experience of chocolate-making.

From technology to chocolate

It was Apple that employed Eslao for more than six years, where he formulated marketing initiatives for company products that included iTunes, which brought him to the iTunes Festival in London. He describes this as an “amazing” job; “I couldn’t have asked for anything better – except this.” While one would think that technology and chocolate (not to mention cannabis) are “miles apart,” they both require “attention to detail, the passion and the desire to make great products,” so he feels his prior employment prepared him for his current one.

Hailing from the technology industry, Eslao sees it as his mission to constantly improve. He wishes to perpetually introduce new products, perhaps by “tweaking an existing recipe.” He is always “on the hunt for better.”

The perfect balance

Eslao proclaims that every attempt is made for customers to see his company’s products as “user-friendly” in the hope of luring customers new to cannabis. He is himself a small-time cannabis user, eating one of his company’s chocolate bars each week. He doesn’t smoke, preferring the “mellow effect” that results from eating the drug. By this particular avenue, unfortunately, it takes a while for an effect to become apparent. Bars are divided into pyramid-shaped chunks, each of which is equivalent to a couple of hits off a pipe – the “suggested serving.” The result can be intense and long-lasting. Eslao believes that as Usonian public opinion shifts, cannabis in chocolate will become “as normal as caffeine in carbonated beverages.”

What the future holds

At present, only Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington permit recreational cannabis use, while a further 21 states allow it for medical reasons. This results in a market worth $6.7 million (?5.1 million) a year, of which about half is said to be edibles. As more states legalise, “there is no limit to how big the industry will be.” Elslao holds that Défoncé Chocolatier will be part of a market as large as that of coffee or alcohol and maybe even larger.

Eslao put up a quarter of a million dollars (£191k) of his own cash to start the business, with more coming from investors. Since the Adult Use Marijuana Act was proposed, the quality of Défoncé Chocolatier’s investors has improved. Public feedback has proved “overwhelmingly positive.”

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