As the cannabis industry gears up for possible legalization in California, brands that have gained recognition in Colorado are seeking to considerably expand their market share. Based on this optimism, Denver-based Dixie Elixirs & Edibles will be expanding into the Golden State thanks to a partnership with Indus Holding Company, emerging along with an original new edibles brand called Altai.
Fronted by Rob Weakley, a veteran of the hospitality and restaurant world, along with Monterey lawyer Gavin Kogan and chef Mark Ainsworth, the newly created holding company will license Dixie’s intellectual property and branding, allowing their product line to be distributed in California.
“Today marks a very important milestone for Dixie Brands, as we bring our Dixie Elixirs and Edibles platform to the world’s largest medical cannabis community,” Tripp Keber, CEO of Dixie Brands, said in a press release. “We are so proud to be partnered with the INDUS team, and we share in their excitement as they also launch their own incredibly gourmet chocolates with Altai. The partnership of our people, and the complementary nature of our brands will bring amazing new alternatives to California patients and dispensaries who have long told us they want, and need, the consistency and quality that Dixie represents. We are honored to serve those patients and we look forward to a long-lasting and mutually beneficial relationship with both INDUS and the Golden State.”
Joe Hodas, the Chief Marketing Officer at Dixie, said the expansion was just a matter of finding the right partners.
“We felt that the guys at Indus had the right philosophy as far as safety in packaging and they had a good background in product development,” he explained.
Ainsworth has a solid background in food manufacturing, having founded Pastry Smart, the first bakery certified as Animal Humane, aimed at promoting organic, artisanal baked goods. With eight years of pastry experience at the Ritz Carlton, Mark will be responsible for executing the gourmet edibles presented by Altai, all of which are low-dose treats containing 10 or 25 milligrams of THC.
“Who eats half of a cookie?” Weakley asked, explaining how the Altai product line was designed for consumers to eat an entire chocolate bar without worrying about overdoing it. Speaking to Monterey County Weekly, partner Gavin Kogan added, “You don’t want to scare off new users with a psychoactive experience that freaks them out… It’s bad for business.”
Weakley met Dixie executives Chuck Smith and Tripp Keber “seven or eight months ago in Las Vegas.” While Weakley boasts considerable experience in the upscale food and wine scene of Pebble Beach, he admitted that he has “not a whole lot” of cannabis industry experience.
“I definitely partook in college, and I was really intrigued by the industry.” Weakley shared. “I love to create and brand, and I’ve followed the industry for the last few years. Looking at other edible companies out there, and seeing the product with the Saran Wrap… So I saw that opportunity here to build a brand that’s trusted and known.”
Indus has built a 15,000 square foot facility in Salinas to distribute and manufacture edibles, providing 40 jobs and establishing Monterey County as a new horizon in the fight to legitimize cannabis agriculture and industry. According to Weakley, the new facility will “meet all FDA standards, be automated… we have recall policies and are tracking all ingredients,” procedures required in order to sell to national chains.
Powerful political forces are aligning as well, seeking to create a viable cannabis industry in Monterey County, where Big Ag giants like Driscoll’s and Dole do business in berries and lettuce.
“We have a great relationship with the city,” Weakley said, “and we have a business license in Salinas that states ‘cannabis infused edibles.’”
Congressman Sam Farr recently visited the facility, where Weakley said, “he ended up spending 90 minutes. He was actually blown away.”
Dixie-branded products will be on dispensary shelves starting July 1 with a slow roll out, adding new products every few months.
“We’ll start with nine items and slowly ramp up throughout the summer,” Weakley predicted. “We want to make sure that when we launch one of the product lines that we can support it,” obviously anticipating the much larger demand in California compared to Colorado.
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