Interview with Wabi Sabi’s new CEO, Torsten Kuenzlen, previously CEO of Sundial Growers.
Q: What are artisanal chocolates to you?
Our main focus was to first make a gourmet chocolate using the best knowledge and best practices from around the world, especially the home of gourmet chocolates, Europe. We then carefully pair that delicious chocolate with the ideally matched full-spectrum BC premium cannabis. Success comes from working with the best experts in both fields and then developing a proprietary repeatable process to consistently make the best artisanal cannabis chocolates consumers love.
Our starting point at Wabi Sabi was to compare the cannabis chocolate market with the regular non-cannabis chocolate world. We saw that in the non-cannabis candy market chocolate represents 65% of the overall market. In the cannabis edible industry, chocolate however only represents 15% of the total market, which is dominated by gummies. Naturally we wanted to find out why that was the case.
After speaking with hundreds of consumers, budtenders and other stakeholders, we realized that the reason cannabis chocolates fair so poorly was that the available chocolates in our industry were terrible. Similar to the flower market, there was singular focus on selling the cheapest chocolates to gain the most revenue and market share possible. That race to the bottom led the companies to keep cutting cost so they could offer ever lower prices. To achieve that, they saved on chocolate and cannabis ingredients and fully automated the production and processes of these commodity chocolates. They all more or less look and taste the same.
While cannabis and other markets and categories offer products in Good (cheapest), Better (medium priced) and Best (highest price) segments, cannabis chocolate was all racing to the bottom in the Good segment only and kept reducing differentiation, taste and quality to afford every lower prices.
At the same time there were and are way too many different chocolates available that are more or less the same. About a dozen companies offer about 100 chocolate products and they all swim in what we call the sea of sameness and sea of lameness.
So we at Wabi Sabi approached from the absolute opposite end. How can we make the best gourmet cannabis chocolates that consumers are more than happy to pay more for because they are so much better than all others. That almost manic consumers focus to always make decisions for deliciousness and consumer preference keep being our guiding light. We want to make chocolates we love to eat, love to sell and can full-heartedly recommend to family and friends of legal age.
As famous investor Warren Buffett likes to say, “Price is what you pay, Value is what you get”. We are convinced that Wabi Sabi is the best cannabis chocolate value in Canada and anywhere. Noticeably superior product for a fair price of below $10.
So we start with none of the cheap and artificial ingredients many competitors too but instead source against our high gourmet chocolate expectations. Our unique three-piece chocolates combine premium Belgian chocolate from Europe with other high-quality ingredients for an incomparable chocolate experience.
We then searched far and wide to find the optimal cannabis to carefully pair with our artisanal chocolates for a perfect marriage in terms of delicious taste and superior experience. As maybe the only chocolates using full-spectrum cannabinoids with an optimal complimentary terpene profile and flavonoids, we ultimately chose a premium BC indica White Rhino strain from a leading grower. The result is delicious in taste and superior in effect every time.
Q: What else does Wabi Sabi do make your chocolates stand out from the crowd and elevate it above cheaper competition?
It is about the best moulds, best people and only the best ingredients to only make the best products. Now we find ourselves with this process that we are number 1 and 2 chocolate options in the market within plant life, value buds and other stores.
A: When we got to the production of Wabi Sabi chocolates, we looked at and learned from the best small craft chocolate artists around the world. Most competitors simply copied the typical high volume mass production from the non-cannabis industry. We wanted and want nothing to do with that commodity approach.
When we looked at finding the optimal equipment to make our artisanal chocolates we therefore went for special European equipment which is more expensive and produces far less chocolates per hour than the mass machines most others use. We also looked for and bought premium molds and other items to always ensure the best possible chocolates. We did not want to go with moulds that look and are industrial for low-quality chocolates.
We are very excited to see consumers and budtenders react so positively to our artisanal Wabi Sabi chocolates. In well-stocked and educated stores we are often the number 1 and sometimes also number 2 among all chocolates. Budtenders know they can recommend us and we have literally not had a single consumer complaint about the quality of our products among thousands of consumers in Alberta and Saskatchewan who have already tried and love Wabi Sabi. In most of the biggest cannabis retailers we are by far the best-selling premium chocolates.
Our whole team at Wabi Sabi is so excited that our belief in better chocolates is being fully vindicated. You don’t need to be cheap and low-quality to sell cannabis chocolates in Canada – there is a much better way, the Wabi Sabi Way! We are more committed than ever to stay the course and keep making the best chocolates and other cannabis products we can. Not different by being cheaper but different by being BEST! We absolutely believe that Wabi Sabi’s commitment to great products can be replicated in other categories than chocolate where we still often see the same sea of same- and lameness.
Q: What are some similarities and differences you find between edibles and combustibles, esp. flower, in the cannabis industry?
A: This was the very reason we started with chocolates. We know from our own experience, I was CEO at Sundial Growers, how difficult it is to create consistent experiences with flower brands and products. Because of the unique challenge of growing the complex cannabis plants and different strains consistently, flower consumers can literally not buy the same product and ensure the same experience twice. Every crop is different from potency and flavor to cannabinoid and terpene profiles. Retailers and consumers need to check specific production runs of inhalable brands to try and find the potency and other attributes they are looking for.
The so-called 2.0 products are the only way to ensure a consistent superior experience over and over again. In a way, it is a much better to way to build brands consumers can love and trust and come back to for years to come to be their familiar favourite. That is also why we now see edibles continue to grow. Experienced and new consumers like chocolates as a familiar and better-for-you cannabis consumption experience compared to combustibles.
We at Wabi Sabi are therefore convinced that the first true cannabis brands which can withstand the test of time and even become global brands as other markets legalize cannabis, will be 2.0 brands like Wabi Sabi.
Another key advantage is that chocolates hold up much better over time. While flower and other combustible products quick degenerate by becoming dry and losing flavor and potency, chocolates remain their taste and effect longer. Whether you buy Wabi Sabi in January in Calgary, in March in Saskatoon, this June in Toronto or in October in Winnipeg, our Wabi Sabi will always taste and feel the same!
Q: In the future, are you looking at experimenting more with different types of chocolates? Are there plans to expand the current product line?
A: Our Wabi Sabi team is passionate about great chocolate and great cannabis. There is still so much innovation and great products to bring to Canada’s cannabis chocolate consumers. We are literally working on dozens of exciting products from our third core flavour, the delicious Double Dark we are launching in January, to great limited time products for consumers to enjoy, some of them to celebrate specific seasons and occasions.
Our artisanal craft equipment, innovative chocolatiers and small production runs with lots of manual work, enables to be very flexible and produce small batches of delicious chocolates for special moments. The balance between our familiar favorites (White Creamy Caramel, Milk Chocolate Cookies & Cream and soon our new Double Dark), with our limited editions allows Wabi Sabi consumers to alternate between their go-to and constantly exciting new flavors.
We appreciate everyone from our team and customers who made this an eventful 2021.