By Gregory Daurer | Aug 23, 2020
Cannabis-infused edibles and topicals
"Our goal is to elevate the experience of cannabis, the way music elevates life," says Chimes.
Just as the brand's name references the musical term, "coda," Chimes describes an orchestral-like approach to the creation of its artisanal, cannabis products. "They might be listening to opera in the edibles department," she says. "They might be listening to jazz while they make our beautiful bath bombs [in the topicals area]. And in the extraction department, definitely there's going to be some rock going on."
She's referring to Coda's production facility in Trinidad, Colorado, where the company extracts its own cannabis oil, which it uses within its topicals -- salves, massage oils, and bath bombs -- as well as within its edibles -- chocolate bars, truffles, and gummies, dubbed Fruit Notes. Although the company has also marketed award-winning concentrates for vaping, it's pulling back from that "competitive market," Chimes says. "We're primarily an edibles and topicals company today."
"In Colorado we have the number-one and number-two bestselling chocolate bars in the adult market," says Chimes -- the handiwork of "classically-trained chocolatier" Lauren Gockley. "She's a genius in the kitchen," Chimes observes. That number-one chocolate bar is called Coffee & Doughnuts, with South American milk chocolate, coffee, toasted milk, and cinnamon sugar.
"One of our goals going into the edibles business was to normalize the consumption of cannabis, to put cannabis in things that people feel comfortable consuming," says Chimes. "And who doesn't love an amazing cup of coffee and doughnuts?"
She describes Fruit Notes as "vegan, gluten-free, and made of all-natural fruit -- it's about health, it's about wellness, it's about caring for your body."
CEO Mark Grindeland -- a "serial entrepreneur," who's served on the advisory board of the University of Denver's Daniels College of Business -- co-founded the company with CCO Elizabeth Cooke, a former social worker, a real estate investor, and, Chimes says, a "cannabis connoisseur."
In 2019, the company raised $24.4 million, in order to facilitate its expansion into the California market. Today, it operates "a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility" in Oakland. "We've been thrilled with the response from the [California] market," says Chimes. "I was just talking to our [Los Angeles-based] head of sales yesterday. She and her amazing team have placed our product in 355 stores in less than a year." In Colorado, Coda Signature products can now be found in "over 500 stores."
Coda's products haven't just found their way into stores in California, its non-infused sampler products have also found their way into gift bags given out to nominees at the Oscars. "What says glamor and America and elegance more than the Oscars?" says Chimes, while noting that the goal was "to bring the conversation about cannabis into the mainstream." She adds, "One of the artists wrote and said, '[Your bath bomb] is exactly what I needed after the show!'"
Want more elegance? Take the company's truffles, which are rolled out during the winter holiday season. They're hand-spray-painted with colored cocoa butter. Chimes says, "In high fashion, there's the collection line -- you know the fancy line -- and then there's the ready-to-wear. We look at our truffles as the high-fashion collection line."
Chimes came to the company after strategizing for brands like Polo/Ralph Lauren and Ethan Allen. She's the one sibling who didn't go into her family's candy business, but laughs, "When I ended up at Coda, we had the same things to talk about!" Only Chimes' siblings don't attend events like California's famed Emerald Cup like Marji does, as part of her ongoing outreach to customers and store owners.
It's said that music has the power to soothe the savage beast. And, from Chimes' vantage point, cannabis adds a harmonizing effect: "There's a spirit of compassion and kindness in the [Coda] organization that I think has to do with the fact that we are in the cannabis industry," she says.
Challenges: "The biggest challenge is to produce artisanal quality products at an affordable price point for consumers," says Chimes. "We set the standard of what people expect from Coda -- and we're very committed to that quality standard. But we also understand the economic situation of the country. We want to make sure our products are accessible to a wide range of consumers."
Opportunities: Chimes talks about utilizing marketing tools to drive consumers to stores. "The biggest opportunity for our business is to partner with our retailers to help them be successful," she says. "We're successful if we're able to help our retailers be successful."
Needs: Regulation more closely resembling the country's approach to alcohol. "We would really welcome, as an industry, a national approach to cultivating, distributing, manufacturing, and retailing our products," says Chimes.