While other segments of the cannabis industry have fallen on turbulent times, Calgary chocolatier Brad Churchill is putting out the help wanted sign.
Earlier this month, Health Canada granted his firm Choklat what’s likely the country’s only cannabis processing licence held by a stand-alone food maker.
“The floodgates have opened. I’m looking at the (order) numbers and I’m just floored,” said Churchill, who’s been making conventional chocolates at his northeast plant for the past 12 years.
“There are four cannabis companies lining up for the production of millions of chocolates — one company alone wants 2 million chocolate bars.”
When Choklat begins producing the pot-infused treats in its 6,000-sq.-ft. facility in the next few weeks, it’s going to need 20 to 25 more employees, said Churchill.
And he figures what rolls off the line will require another 10,000 sq. ft. of warehouse space, once more buyers are lined up.
A distributor has secured five provinces for sweets from Choklat’s plant, whose independent, well-tried posture gives it a niche advantage, said Churchill.
“A lot of cannabis companies that are producing edibles aren’t selling to other companies and that’s what gives us the impetus for the business deals we’ll be putting together in the next 30 days,” he said.
“We can handle the larger volumes and (cannabis) companies are looking to make up for their lack of production facilities.”
The expense and likely one-year time frame to get their cannabis chocolate production operations running leads those companies to partner with Choklat instead, said Churchill.
Last Monday, the first cannabis edibles arrived at licensed Alberta pot stores, with most of the inventory consisting of lozenges, chocolates, gummy candies and cookies.
Though a 60-day Health Canada notification process means his treats won’t hit stores until March, Churchill said he’s not concerned about being left behind, insisting the quality of his chocolate will make the difference.
Provincial regulator and online cannabis retailer Alberta Gaming Liquor and Cannabis “is (champing) at the bit to get my product,” he added.
His 11 varieties of treats will include milk, dark and white chocolate, alongside salted toffee caramel, with hazelnuts and almonds embedded in some.
Pot-spiked sugar packets and chocolate drinks will also roll out of the Calgary plant.
While he’s bullish on what lies ahead, Churchill said he regrets his lineup of buzzworthy candy won’t be available for this year’s Valentine’s Day.
“I so wish they were ready for then,” he said.
While there’s room for more cannabis chocolates on the market, retailer Jim Ramadan said the biggest sellers during the first week of legal edibles have been other treats.
“The most popular are the gummies or chewables — not only do we sell them out first, we get calls for them,” said Ramadan, who operates Bow Cannabis at 6305 Bowness Rd. N.W.
But he said it’s hard to keep any of the edibles in stock, partly due to the limited amount available to stores.
On Friday, all his shop had left were cannabis chocolates and tea.
And Ramadan said the 10 mg limit in THC content for each individual sweet doesn’t appeal to many with a taste for stronger black market wares.
“There’s a lot of curiosity but a lot of black market customers look at it and say ‘we’ll buy something else,’ ” he said.
“Unless regulations change, they might not be super-competitive.”
on Twitter: @BillKaufmannjrn