KIVA Sales & Service , or KSS, is the California distribution arm of the popular confectionery brand.
Companies that can’t get their products to market and connect with consumers are not part of the supply chain that powers the engines of revenue. Distribution is just as important as quality or dedication to craft when it comes to building a robust brand.
KIVA Confections was early into the about-to-boom cannabis industry with a high-quality product in an age-old combination that’s hard to beat: cannabis and chocolate. For edibles connoisseurs, few pairings are more delicious. With a line of chocolate bars in eight tasty-sounding flavors, each containing THC and CBD in various formulations, in addition to infused chocolate-covered espresso beans called Terra Bites, infused Petra mints, and microdose-sized portions of the most popular products, KIVA has its branding, packaging, and product lineup down tight. In the process of developing and marketing those products, the company realized it had gained access to a big network of retail vendors.
“In the early years, when KIVA Confections had to get our products to market, we just loaded our car and made the delivery,” said Head of Sales Charlie Cangialosi at KIVA Sales & Service, or KSS, the company’s new distribution arm. “As the business expanded, we opened additional distribution centers to better service the state. In the past year, we realized we had organically built an extensive network that could help other brands gain access to the marketplace.”
With an established network of more than 1,000 vendors in California, the next-step expansion was a no-brainer for KIVA. The company’s edibles division employs a team of nearly 100 employees. The edibles products are available in California, Arizona, Nevada, and Illinois, indicating a potential roadmap for expansion into states outside California as legalization widens and licensing regulations allow.
“We are open to all opportunities that will help us bring KIVA to a broader audience. Those opportunities can present themselves in different ways,” Cangialosi said. “Our main goal is to continue enhancing our portfolio to better power our retailers’ menus.”
Currently, the company has three distribution centers in California that allow KSS to cover the entire state easily and minimize or eliminate delivery delays. With state recreational sales gradually rolling out, Cangialosi said it’s hard to judge the full impact on supply and demand, but there have been spikes in locations where recreational cannabis already is on the market.
“The areas where rec sales started on January 1 have seen great sales and interest. Their increased business is representative of the sales spikes seen in other states when they started with recreational sales,” he said. “It’s still early in the process, but we expect things to ramp up quickly as everyone moves into the regulated market.
“The transition is going to be bumpy for awhile,” he continued. “The state and local governments are working really hard to get businesses transitioned, but everyone is behind. The most important thing to be aware of is that there are many, many users who are dependent on our products as medicine. We need to make sure they still have access, so they are not forced into the black market.”
KIVA’s dedication to patient wellness is evidenced by triple testing of all the company’s edibles, starting with raw materials, then extracted oils, and finally, finished product. According to the corporate website, “standards [in California] are in accordance with [current good manufacturing practices] established by the FDA for the manufacturing, packaging, and distribution of over-the-counter (OTC) drugs.”
Similar standards and practices are important in the company’s selection process when partnering with brands for distribution. “Our product portfolio is aligned with current patient trends, so our brands cover a variety of categories, including KIVA Confections, Kikoko, Keef Cola, Holistic Hounds, Humboldt Apothecary, MONK, Nativ, Prism, and Pure Ratios,” Cangialosi said. “KSS is interested in brands that are focused on quality and consistency that complement and fill our portfolio of brands. We are not interested in just any and all brands, but rather in brands that will help our retailers build assortments that best serve their customers.”
Cangialosi also said KSS hasn’t decided whether it will start making the rounds at trade shows, exhibiting and promoting on behalf of KIVA and its distribution partners. Attending an exhausting schedule of shows throughout legal states could be an expensive, but necessary, strategy as industry brands jockey for position in front of new consumers, vendors, and markets. In the meantime, in the hustle and bustle of rapidly expanding medical and recreational legalization, KSS is creating a hub where its products will be available.
“It helps our retailers by minimizing the number of vendors they have to deal with,” Cangialosi said. “Now they can have one meeting with our rep versus having nine meetings with each brand.”