Exclusive Interview: Startup from ex-iTunes producer

Cannabis in chocolate to be as normal as caffeine in drinks, says startup Défoncé Chocolatier

By Douglas Yu contact

- Last updated on GMT

Défoncé chocolate bars are only sold in California to people with a medical cannabis cards, but that could change if the state legalizes the drug
Défoncé chocolate bars are only sold in California to people with a medical cannabis cards, but that could change if the state legalizes the drug

Related tags: Cannabis, Chocolate

Défoncé Chocolatier’s founder and CEO, Eric Eslao, is waiting for the final vote on California's Adult Use Marijuana Act in November. If passed, his cannabis-infused chocolate can be sold in the state for recreational purposes.

“When I started this company, the market's focus was solely on creating a high-potency vehicle for people to get high.”​ the former iTunes producer turned chocolatier told ConfectioneryNews.

Défoncé currently has eight chocolate bars. Each bar is 100 g and retails for $20 in California dispensaries.

But to purchase the product “you’ll need a medical cannabis card”,​ Eslao said. We’re currently in compliance with all city and state laws as a cannabis manufacturer.”

‘My stint at Apple prepared me for this endeavor’

Prior to making chocolate, Eslao was a senior producer for iTunes marketing. From the iTunes Festival in London to IOS/OS launches, he was responsible for producing marketing initiatives for Apple products.

Even though technology and chocolate industries seem to be “miles apart,”​ Eslao said the transition of his career was not difficult at all.

“The attention to detail, the passion, and the desire to make great products remained. I honestly feel that my stint at Apple prepared me for this endeavor,”​ he said.

Eslao originally thought that the chocolate manufacturing process has remained unchanged for decades, but found that technology has helped make the manufacturing process easier and helped him to create a smarter supply chain. 

“With my background in tech, I’m trying to inject the principle of constant improvement,”​ he added. “In the same way Apple hardware and software is regularly revved, I want to do the same with our existing product line and the introduction of new products. Whether it’s creating a slicker package or tweaking an existing recipe, I’m creating a business that is always on the hunt for better.”

User-friendly product

When Défoncé started, “no attention was placed on consistency of the dosage or even taste,”​ according to Eslao. When the final product came into being, he said, “not only did we want to create a consistent product that tasted amazing, we also wanted to responsibly source our ingredients and be very transparent with our entire process.”

Défoncé sources its chocolate from TCHO and Guittard. The company uses cannabis derived from CO2 extraction to remove the THC from the plant.

Défoncé chocolates are designed in a pyramid shape and are created to target anybody that’s new to cannabis.

“We’ve made every attempt to make our product user-friendly,”​ Eslao said.

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Each pyramid on the chocolate bar contains one dose of cannabis.

Cannabis might outgrow alcohol and coffee industries

Eslao is a casual cannabis user himself, and he eats Défoncé bars about once a week.

“I don’t smoke,”​ he said. “I find digesting [cannabis] through our chocolate provides a mellow effect, which I prefer.”

“Chocolate is a great vehicle for THC as cannabinoids are fat-soluble. I feel as public opinion changes in the US and distribution cannabis becomes more accepted, you’ll see cannabis in chocolate as normal as caffeine in carbonated beverages.”

The entire cannabis industry is $6.7bn, and according to Eslao, that’s only with a handful of states that sell it recreationally.

“Once it’s legalized recreationally federally, there is no limit to how big the industry will be. It will definitely be up there with the alcohol or coffee industries, if not, larger,” he said.

Initial positive reaction

Eslao personally invested a quarter of a million dollars in designing and launching the product. In addition, Défoncé also has a group of investors that provided capital funding during the early stage of its business.

The feedback from the general public has been “overwhelmingly positive,”​ he said. But Défoncé does not have any plans to sell its products outside of California.

“There is no interstate commerce when it comes to cannabis,”​ Eslao said. We might look at opportunities at opening manufacturing facilities in other states, but only if the opportunity is an intelligent method of scaling and maintains our brand integrity.”

Défoncé is mainly focused on improving its supply chain and manufacturing process this year, and it is also looking to launch new product lines.

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