Founder Andrew Schrot manufactures cannabis-infused chocolates noted for their minimal marijuana flavor, accurately-labeled potency, and smooth-sailing effects.
Licensed to manufacture edible marijuana products within both Colorado's recreational and medical marijuana markets, BlueKudu has proven a popular brand, having sold over a million units of its psychoactive chocolate bars. Schrot says, "We are in over 75 percent of the combined medical and adult-use dispensaries throughout the state of Colorado."
His cramped production facility in Denver's Five Points neighborhood is constantly busy, running two daily worker shifts. "We'll produce, in a day, about 3,000 bars," he says. BlueKudu will soon be opening a new 10,000-square-foot production facility in northeast Denver, near DIA, in order to not only increase output, but also, utilizing greenhouses, "to be able to grow all of our own product for the first time -- which is going to be great, so we can have a consistent, quality-control process from beginning to end."
For now, BlueKudu continues to purchase its cannabis (an indica like Northern Lights, a sativa like Durban Poison) from outside growers. However, unlike some competing brands, BlueKudu has never been subjected to any recalls by the state due to marijuana tainted by pesticides. Schrot says he makes sure all the cannabis has been tested before it enters his production facility. "That's really helped us as far as avoiding any recalls," he says.
Consistent, accurate dosing is important for longtime patients -- and for the safety of newbies, as well.
And while some manufacturers have had issues with the potency of their products varying wildly from the milligrams stated on their labeling, BlueKudu has been known to hit as close to its stated mark as possible.
Schrot explains, "We actually have to go through testing for those bars before we release them to the market. We have to go through a homogeneity test, which tests to make sure that the THC is evenly distributed throughout the bar to insure sure each square has a consistent dosing in each piece. And then we also have to test the overall bar for potency to make sure that it's within a certain percentage of what the label states."
While the state now requires edibles to be within 15 percent, plus or minus, of the milligrams stated on its label, Schrot says, "We don't ship out any bars unless it tests within 8 percent of what we say on our label."
BlueKudu uses an ethanol-based extraction process, done in-house at its production facility, in order to produce the oil that's infused into its chocolate. "Alcohol is a more natural extraction process versus getting into a propane or butane extraction," says Schrot. "We [have always used] pharmaceutical grade 200 proof ethyl alcohol -- which is now required by the city of Denver to use [for ethanol extractions]."
BlueKudu also has a reputation for avoiding the "grassy or burnt taste" found in some of the other edibles on the market. Schrot says that's due to first creating the "clean oil" used in its infusions: "We've done extensive research on the formulas and the recipes that we have [in order] to be able to minimize the cannabis taste," he says.
The company also uses cacao sourced from South America, as well as Belgium and Switzerland: "We use very high quality, fair-trade ingredients," says Schrot.
The flavors of BlueKudu's mixed indica-sativa chocolate bars for sale within the recreational market include Zen Garden (Cherry Almond Dark Chocolate), Tierra Del Sol (Chili Cinnamon & Lime Dark Chocolate), and Alpine Glacier (Mint Dark Chocolate). Each 100-milligram bar (retailing for around $20 before tax) is scored into ten ten-milligram doses. After consuming a 10-milligram dosage of one of his preferred flavors, one consumer noted, "The Alpine Glacier didn't seem to taste much like pot, which was good. The mint was excellent. It comes on gently. After an hour, hour and a half, [I was] very high." (Based on a report like that, someone new to edibles might even consider halving a 10-milligram dosage.)
In addition to the extraction machine which produces its cannabis oil, the company has also invested in "some of the best chocolate tempering machines that are available" -- which are used to mix the cannabis oil and liquid chocolate, before it's poured into the chocolate bar molds to harden.
When asked about patients using his products, Schrot says, "If they're someone who's looking to use edibles to deal with pain, or to help them sleep at night, or to ease their body as far as getting up in the morning and getting going, the edibles do really well for that." (On the medicinal side, BlueKudu markets a sativa, an indica, a mixed sativa and indica "hybrid," and a non-psychoactive, hemp-CBD infused product.)
How about a recreational user?
Schrot replies, "We hope that a recreational user -- specifically a tourist -- would know to start with a small amount. We hope that they would get a good experience as far as the 'high' that they're looking for -- and also enjoy the edible, as well."
Before relocating to Colorado, Schrot, 35, journeyed to the state from his native Florida in 2010 in order to investigate the burgeoning medical marijuana industry. He saw there was a need in the market: "At that time, there was a big gap in the industry as far as what consumers and patients were looking for versus what was available as far as a reliable, consistently-made edible product."
His degree in mathematics has proven useful: "It's been a great asset as far as calculations and formulas for creating a consistent product."
While Schrot's business venture appears to be grounded in reality, there's an aspect of the fanciful in the branding he chose: naming the company after a type of antelope -- but adding a not-seen-in-nature hue to it.
While growing up in Tampa, Schrot and his family would occasionally ride the monorail at Busch Gardens over the African-themed, outdoor park, inhabited by the continent's animals. Schrot says the kudu (pronounced "koo-doo"), with its spiral horns and its striping, always stood out to him.
"It's just a very majestic animal, it's a very unique animal," says the founder of BlueKudu, wearing a dark business suit, a white shirt, and (naturally) a blue tie.
Challenges: "The ever-changing regulations, specifically for the edibles industry," says Schrot. "The edibles industry is going through a lot of changes: coming up in October . . . the medical rules are going to marry the recreational (or adult-use rules) as far as: the child-resistant packaging requirements; each product must be breakable into serving sizes of 10 milligrams or less; and a new addition will be the requirement of the stamping of each individual piece, so each product will have to have a universal symbol stamp the [Marijuana Enforcement Division] has deemed for us to use on each individual square, so the product can be easily recognizable that it is a marijuana product outside of its packaging. And that is something I feel the state has done a good thing on, as far as looking for ways to create a safe product that we can keep out of the hands of children."
His commercial kitchen space is periodically vetted by the authorities, as well: "We regularly get inspections from the Fire Department, [Denver's Department of Environmental Health], the state Marijuana Enforcement Division, the City of Denver marijuana regulation department. [Each of those agencies] regularly come twice a year to make sure we're doing everything in accordance. There's no heads up: They knock and they'll come in."
Opportunities: The potential to expand BlueKudu to other states that have laws currently allowing marijuana edibles -- or soon will. Explains Schrot: "That is something we're consistently in talks [about:] potential licensing deals with partners in other states such as Washington, Oregon, California. . . . That's a huge opportunity, being able to have that brand name consistently available throughout the different states."
Needs: Since marijuana is still illegal federally, banks have been reluctant to offer services to the marijuana industry that are comparable to those offered to other types of businesses. Schrot says "being able to get loans . . . like a typical business would through a bank" is a need for BlueKudu as well as its peers. "It's probably one of the biggest needs, I would say, the industry is in need of."