Products: Cannabis edibles and extractions
CEO Peggy Moore emphasizes best practices for manufacturing her gourmet cannabis edibles and extractions.
"To me, there's a lot of power in this plant," says Moore.
The power of cannabis has allowed Moore to transition from one successful job into a new career. It's given her the ability to bring on members of her family as partners to assist in the company's operations; build up a business that's expanded from gourmet cannabis edibles into lauded cannabis extractions as well; and team up with other members of the industry to protect their nascent field, as well as mentor newcomers.
A friend founded Love's Oven in 2009. Moore came on board part-time in 2011, while still working within the insurance industry, then bought her partner out in 2013. Soon after Moore acquired Love's Oven, the company was servicing the newly legal adult-use market, in addition to the medical marijuana market.
Moore says, "I saw this freight train called recreational marijuana coming at me," so she quickly recruited her son, Walter, back to Denver from San Diego to lend a needed hand in late 2013. Initially, another of her sons, Joshua, who already worked for the company, told her that he didn't think anyone would buy his mother's brownies. "He ate his words," she says with a laugh. (Moore's sister, Teresa, joined the company in 2013, as well.)
Apparently, there were hungry mouths -- or "heads," so to speak -- to feed within the recreational market. Moore says when legal sales began, "We grossed in January of 2014 what we had grossed the entire prior year." Now monthly revenue is "six times that and growing." The company will be adding a line of beverages this year ("something unique" is all she'll say for now), as well as hard candies and chocolate bars.
The company's products -- including brownies, cookies, caramels, and cheddar crackers -- can be found in 350 dispensaries in Colorado. And Moore plans to to expand the brand's reach into California, Nevada, and Florida. Further reflecting its dynamic growth, the business moved in April 2015 from a 1,700-square-foot space into another building that's five times larger.
But when she's asked about the company metrics, Moore segues into personal ones for her business. "We have some internal goals, one of which is 95 percent overall accuracy for every product that goes out the door," Moore says. "Is [a confection] the exact weight that it should be? What about the appearance? Is any part of it crumbling or falling off? Is the [state-mandated safety] THC symbol perfect? Can you read that each time?"
Within the commercial kitchen at her building, butter is infused with cannabis before being baked into the confections. Workers use industrial mixers to whip ingredients together and an ultrasonic cutter to section sheets of baklava cookie bars. Afterwards, the state-required THC symbol is marked onto the baked goods utilizing a machine similar to what's used to add the "M" onto M&M's. "It's a costly machine: $40,000," she says. "Each bottle of [edible] ink is $1,000."
Moore emphasizes food safety, she says, "over and above anything required by the city and the state." The company has received third-party certification to meet FDA compliance guidelines – although the cannabis industry, due to the plant's illegal federal status, is still not regulated by that agency.
While Moore says her previous partner had been a good home baker, she brought on individuals with culinary school backgrounds. Chef Hope Frahm, hired in 2013, has received press for her creations and unique career, drawing attention from the likes of Bon Appétit magazine.
Most of the company's food products are infused with cannabutter, but its upcoming line of hard candies will be dosed with a cannabis distillate made in-house.
In a separate section of the building from its kitchen, Moore's workers ("my mad scientists back here") use hydrocarbon extraction to make shatters and waxes (sold under the name Concentrated Love) from raw cannabis. (One shatter won an award at The Hemp Connoisseur magazine's 2017 championship.)
After being baked and pressurized in a vacuum oven, the products are tested to make sure they have no detectable traces of solvent remaining. Some of the shatters are further refined to remove waxes, and those distillates are used to fill vaporizer cartridges, as well.
Moore says, "There's a lot of regulation that happens at both the city level as well as at the state level. But we've really tried to embrace that stuff." Given that she worked in the insurance field for UnitedHealth Group for 33 years, she says becoming familiar with the regulations "just really made sense to me. Give me the rulebook and let me read the rules."
Moore serves as the executive chair of the Cannabis Business Alliance, a trade organization of about 30 business groups, which share advice on best practices with each other. Moore's philosophy: "We will all survive together or we will all fail together." Love's Oven regularly hosts the group's meetings, and Moore allows ostensible competitors to tour her facility afterward. "One of my favorite things is to mentor others that are new to the industry," she says. "If you ask me what my passion around the industry, it's that. It's taking what we've learned [from] our missteps, and turning that into, 'Hey, you don't have to make that same mistake.'"
"It really is super-fun to be a pioneer in a new industry," says Moore. "I get up every day and -- oh wow! -- I get to come into my job, and, by the way, we make cannabis-infused products."
Challenges: "We have a lot of competition," Moore says. "How do we keep that kind of competitive edge and advantage here in Colorado, while we're looking to expand [to other states] at the same time?"
Opportunities: Expanding into newer markets: "We're starting to see some of that tourist market bifurcate into these other states [like Nevada] as they legalize, so that'll continue to be the opportunity: expansion to other states where cannabis is legal either medically or recreationally."
Needs: Bank financing. "It sure would be nice to have easier financing for some of our expansion efforts, as well as things we would like to do here," says Moore. "So for instance, we're working up a beverage line. We've reached out to friends and family for financing there, [because] we really don't have complete access to traditional financing at all."