Q&A: Jeff Koz, Co-Founder of Dr. Norm’s Edibles

Dr. Norm‘s has become a brand that many within the California market have come to know and love over recent years and we speak with co-founder, Jeff Koz on how the brand came into existence and what’s on the horizon for the edibles brand.

What led you to want to enter the industry with edibles as the main focus?

We come from the cookie business, so it was a logical next step for us with California legalization on the horizon.  In addition to our dad being the real Dr. Norm, our mom was a pharmacist and prolific baker!  My sister and partner Roberta decided to learn to bake after our mom passed away rather suddenly.  She turned this into a business with products in Whole Foods, Costco, Sprouts, Albertsons, Stater Brothers and more. I began assisting her with branding and marketing , and with cannabis legalization on the ballot in 2016, we looked at each other and said, “We should do weed cookies”!  And Dr. Norm’s was born.

Cookies have been your staple products, is the brand looking to expand into other categories?

Yes!  In fact we have expanded our product categories.  This year we launched a Chocolate Fudge Vegan 100mg Brownie.  It has been so successful that we are bringing on 2 more flavors.  They’ll be hitting the CA market in April.  Additionally, we have 3 flavors of Rice Krispy Treats launching with Medmen for 4/20. It’s the Dr. Norm’s take on one of the original cannabis edibles classics!  We’ve added a little magic to make these super delectable.  As with the brownies, we’ve shifted from individual bite size portions to a full size 100mg form factor.  Patients will easily be able to cut into 10mg doses with our handy portioning guide. As the market matures, tolerances are rising, so we’re making it easy for consumers to ingest more if desired.  This is the reasoning behind our new MAX and 20’s lines.

Over the years, Dr. Norms has become a widely popular edibles brand not just in California but across the nation. How do you think that was achieved?

You are too kind!  There are 3 things that distinguish our brand and products that we hope are the reasons for our success.  First, is that we’re a family business that honors the legacy of our folks who were old fashioned health care professionals. It was clear to us that their intention was to treat patients with “extra” care and that they were committed to their health and well being.  This was the inspiration for our business, and consumers seem to feel a bond to us and our family story.  I think a true “brand story” makes the company and products relatable in a way that goes beyond liking or disliking a cookie!  Our parents are up there keeping watch over us – and we hope they’re proud that we are continuing their legacy of helping people.

The other two distinctions are taste and precise dosing.  When we tasted the products available in CA in 2016, we really couldn’t believe it – they all had a disgusting weedy taste! We decided that one of our goals would be to create a great tasting edible.  We coined the phrase, “Taste the Cookie, Not the Cannabis”, which says it all.  We discovered THC distillate when it cost over $20 per gram.  No other manufacturers used it for edibles because of the crazy cost.  It was worth it to our fledgling company because it gave us a competitive advantage – our cookies tasted amazing!  Our mom’s original recipe, premium ingredients and no weedy taste!  This was, and still is our calling card.  

I also mentioned dosing.  When we tried those aforementioned edibles, we realized there was NO WAY to determine how much cannabis you were consuming.  You broke a piece off of a 500mg cookie – was this 20mg, 50mg or god forbid, 100mg or more?!  The industry was satisfied with this guessing game approach to dosing, but it made no sense to us.  We considered making bite-sized cookies that were precisely dosed, so the patient would know exactly how much THC they were consuming.  And that became a huge distinguishing factor in our cookies, and really set us up for the coming legal market.  Store owners thought we were crazy, but turns out we were ahead of our time.  Now, this is required if you want to be in the regulated market.  We became passionate about our patients understanding dosing so they could have an optimal experience and hopefully NOT wind up face down on the floor for the night!  We trademarked the phrase “Know Your Dose” which is still printed on every package.

What flavors are you currently selling and what led to those flavor decisions?

We currently offer 5 flavors of cookies: the original Chocolate Chip Therapy (based on Mom’s recipe), Vegan Peanut Butter Chocolate, Red Velvet, Gluten-free Snickerdoodle and Pecan Shortbread.  Roberta is the recipe designer and she really follows her gut.  She’s in the kitchen every day with everyone tasting each new creation.  These 5 flavors rose to the top and definitely have their own followings.  We also wanted to consider allergies and diet restrictions, so we make vegan and gluten-free products to address that segment. It’s almost impossible to tell that they are vegan or gluten-free because they taste to good – and the textures are just right. We also offer a 1:1 THC/CBD cookie in chocolate chip to address those that prefer the added benefit of CBD. Later this year we’re introducing a new cookie, so yummy that I can’t reveal the flavor.  It doesn’t yet exist in the market!  

Our brownies also come in three flavors: Vegan Chocolate Fudge, Chocolate Peanut Butter, and a Salted Caramel Blondie (my personal fave).  These were painstakingly selected out of 7 or 8 flavor candidates.  And the aforementioned Rice Krispy Treats will come in Original, Chocolate and Fruity.  The traditional flavors with a little twist for extra deliciousness!

Towards the end of 2020, you released the MAX line designed for consumers with higher tolerances. Do you feel the industry has been turning away from those with higher tolerances and why?

Yes, I do!  The California high tolerance edibles consumer has been all but forgotten when the new regulations were established. It’s the old stigma that people can’t control themselves when it comes to edibles. We definitely disagree!  We used to make a 75mg bite sized mini cookie that we couldn’t keep in stock. Now someone would have to eat over seven 10mg mini cookies to get to a 75mg dose!  For those that aren’t cookie monsters, this was an awful development. The high tolerance edibles user no longer had a go-to product.  
To address this, we came up with a bite-sized super cookie containing 100mg of THC. Now, a high tolerance customer can get 10 times the mg of THC in one cookie. This greatly reduces their caloric intake as well as sugar and carbs. The response has been fantastic so we’re introducing a fourth flavor as well. 

We’ve also designed our brownies and Rice Krispy Treats along the same lines.  A solid, smaller form factor allows the higher tolerance user to consume more milligrams with less sugar, carbs and calories.

Tell us more about the brownies you’ve just released and what makes them different from others on the market?

My sister Roberta likes to say that our baked goods have “a little of our mom’s magic” in them.  I was a skeptic of this reasoning, but after so many delicious products, I’m starting to believe her!  We think it’s all in the recipe and ingredients as well as great attention to detail. If a batch isn’t up to our standards, it won’t make it onto the shelves.  

What’s coming up for the brand in 2021?

We’re introducing a whole new look for our cookie lines.  They have been re-branded and based on the success of the MAX’s, we’re introducing another dosing concept, 20mg cookies. As we see tolerances rising, there is a segment of the market looking to “streamline” their edibles intake. We kept the size the same as our 10mg cookie, but doubled the dosage.  You can cut them in half to achieve a 10mg dosage if desired, but again, we feel that there are different types of customers out there looking for products that are suited to their lifestyle and tolerances.  Some may want to eat one small 20mg cookie vs. 2 10mg cookies. We’re calling this concept, “Something for Everyone”.  No matter what your tolerance, we have a product just for you!  

In addition, we will be introducing a protein bar and several high milligram nano-emulsified tinctures.  These have a rapid onset and don’t have the bitter taste associated with other tinctures and syrups.  

Of course, a successful brand needs to keep moving forward and stay relevant in the marketplace.  To that end, stay tuned for more Dr. Norm’s goodies!  

Also published on Medium.