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Video Interview: The Willy Wonka Of Cannabis Candy

“For me, [making Joy Bombs] falls into the same line as manufacturing pharmaceutical products.”

We recently visited the big, red, and shiny Root & Bloom facility in Salisbury, just steps from the New Hampshire border, for a serious seed-to-sale tour of their Crispy Commission concentrates line. But there was an added unexpected bonus too.

Poking around their kitchen, we also ran into Dave and Amy Nudelman, founders of the Colorado-born Joyibles company which makes Joy Bombs, among other treats. The Skittles-like infusions, which are now available in multiple varieties including Sour Fruit, ranked among our favorite new products last year, with Massachusetts being one of three states where they are currently sold.

I don’t just throw around Willy Wonka comparisons willy-nilly. But in this case, it is truly relevant. Their Joy Bombs operation, which includes a magical proprietary machine that stamps the state-mandated warning on each and every 2.5mg candy, is super secret and has been seen by few outside of the companies they work with.

Dave and Amy wouldn’t let me photograph or film their process, but they did give us an interview. We excerpted the sweetest parts below for you to chew on …

On partnership and past experience … 

Dave Nudelman: I’ve been manufacturing confections and dietary supplements for about 30 years now. I’ve manufactured products for Wrigley’s corporation, for the US military, for Hasbro, Airborne. …  [Making infused candy] has been a way to integrate those two [supplement and confection making]. … The whole idea for the business started with Amy. We’ve been married for 34 years. She actually came up with the idea.

Amy Nudelman: One of the things he makes is chewing gum. I spent a day in Amsterdam [while Dave was overseas working in Europe several years ago], and after that it just seemed natural to put THC in chewing gum. It was kind of an aha moment. I got on him after that—it was still about 2006 or 2007. Cannabis was still not quite legal yet, but I was researching and planning and planning and planning. And I will say that I totally put him up to it. It was not necessarily by his choice, but it’s great now.

On starting Joyibles … 

DN: The first market was Colorado. … We started off manufacturing [Joygum], and we actually have a patent on encapsulated cannabinoids in chewing gum. And then, after the chewing gum, which we launched in Colorado, and which is still available in Colorado even though it hasn’t come [to Massachusetts] yet, we came up with these Joy Bombs, which were also Amy’s invention. … 

There’s a variety of elements. There is some complexity to the process, and the way that we have it is that our partners [Root & Bloom in Mass, plus Sandia Botanicals in New Mexico and RMZ in Colorado] manufacture the [infused] centers [of the candy]. But again, there’s a lot of machinery and process associated with that, and because of my 30-year background—I’m also an electrical engineer by trade—when we [visit a partner], it’s to optimize machinery, to improve efficiencies, and also to handle the coating process.

On the high level of difficulty … 

AN: The difficulty is manufacturing it in each individual state rather than in one large factory. We have a lot of different factories doing the same thing.

DN: If cannabis was federally legal, we would produce everything out of one factory. But because it’s not that way, we have to set up a factory in every state. We’ve done this enough that we know exactly what we’re doing, so when we come in, within five to six weeks from the moment we enter that door, product is shipping.

AN: That’s with some planning on the front end.

On their winning secrets … 

DN: The coating process took us years of experience and it’s not something that would typically be automated, so that’s something that we hold very close to us. For me, it falls into the same line as manufacturing pharmaceutical products. … A lot of the equipment is custom, so that’s another thing. It’s very specific.

You can make gummies in your kitchen, and then [if you start a commercial operation] you just get a bigger kitchen and keep doing the same thing. There’s a lot of IP in here, and that’s why you don’t see this type of product all over the marketplace. You’re not going to make these in your kitchen.