By Lauren Tamburro & Evan Smith
There is something incredibly exciting about the blossoming cannabis industry. People from all
walks of life, in all kinds of careers, can develop an innovative product idea and then actually
make it happen. Some of today’s most successful brands were started in a home kitchen, on
evenings and weekends and with funding from friends and family.
A home kitchen is a great place to start and test ideas. If you’re looking to launch a successful
and scalable gummy brand, here are the building blocks that will take your product from the
minor league to the all-star team.
First and foremost, any gummy needs to have a palate pleasing recipe. If the product doesn’t
taste good, the customer will not make a repeat purchase. But there is more to a gummy recipe
than just its taste, and oversights at the development stage can lead to major problems later.
The key is to use a recipe with structural integrity. Making a gummy is essentially a process of
structuring water molecules with protein chains or gelling polysaccharides to form a reliable
solid. If the recipe is not created with the entire operations and distribution process in mind, then
those water molecules may move around, and your customer will not experience the same
quality product you shipped.
For example, it may not be an issue if your recipe takes a very long time to set in your home
kitchen. When you start to scale, this kind of holdup can create bottlenecks in production that
will cost you significant time and money. Likewise, if your homemade gummies are eaten soon
after production it may not matter that they sweat or melt over time. However, as you scale and
stock products on dispensary shelves, this flaw in the recipe could ruin the entire batch and lose
you the trust of your retail partners.
Developing a recipe with structural integrity requires a detailed understanding of your
ingredients. The choice between gelling agents such as gelatin and pectin will have a significant
impact on the structure of the gummy both during production and once it’s on the shelf. Certain
gelling agents are pH or ion sensitive; the complexity of these considerations can increase
exponentially as you add more elements.
Another important consideration in the recipe building process is the quality of your active
ingredient. If a gummy does not perform as advertised, or performs inconsistently, customers
will not come back. Using a high-quality emulsion will help ensure that potency remains
consistent, evenly distributed and shelf stable.
Starting out with a scientifically sound and high-quality recipe demands a larger initial
investment of time, but it will pay off by averting costly roadblocks during production and
In the home kitchen, molds are one piece of a much larger gummy puzzle. However, like the
recipe, failing to plan ahead when it comes to molds can lead to expensive and time-consuming
mistakes once you start to scale.
During the production process, molds are the primary vehicle for efficiency. Not only do they
enable the manufacturing of large quantities, but their design can also have a significant impact
on workflows and labor costs, particularly when it comes to extracting the gummy from the mold.
The de-molding process can take up to 70 percent of labor operations, so efficiency matters. To
avoid slowing production speed, increasing labor time, adding additional steps, and spending
more money over time, here are a few things to watch out for:
● If a mold is not designed for high volume production, it may require that each gummy be
extracted one at a time which can dramatically decrease your de-molding efficiency
● If a mold requires oil or a de-molding agent to properly extract, it can complicate your
process by adding extra steps (like clean up!) and hazards (slippery floors!)
● If the mold is poorly designed, the de-molding process itself can risk deforming the
gummy due to increased “wall drag”
● If the mold is not made with durable materials, it may wear out prematurely and require
more frequent replacement
In short, the quality of your molds makes a big difference. Molds that are enjoyable to work with
keep your workers happy and result in lower turnover rates, which can be a costly and time
intensive aspect of running a commercial kitchen.
Molds can be a significant investment, and while it is important for those just starting out to be
cost conscious, it’s better to buy fewer of a quality product than build your process around the
wrong one. It is also important to think about your mold’s return on investment based on price-
per-cavity versus price-per-mat. Certain molds may seem much more affordable, but they also
produce fewer gummies.
As you continue to scale your brand, do not forget to think about a mold’s ROI. Molds are
equipment, not accessories, and starting out with high quality equipment is a sure path to a
When brands begin to scale, operations are top of mind. Locations, equipment, schedules, and
staffing are all vital considerations, and can seem straightforward. However it’s easy to make
big mistakes at this stage.
These mistakes most commonly stem from the order in which operations decisions are made.
Many brands will purchase thousands of dollars of equipment, for example, without considering
their recipe, mold design, business model, and preferred workflows. In reality, the recipe and
molds themselves are intricately connected to the kinds of equipment and workflows needed.
It’s futile to have a state-of-the-art depositor if it doesn’t meet the needs of your recipe or if
you’re losing your efficiency advantage by using the wrong molds.
Similarly, if you do not have a clear picture of how long it takes your gummies to set, it’s
impossible to estimate how much time you will need on location, or when to send in staff to
begin demolding. At an even more basic level, if you do not know the ideal humidity for your
gummies to set in, how can you be sure that a certain location is the best fit for your operations?
At the end of the day, it is much easier to build your operation around recipe and molds than
trying to retrofit those elements to work with a particular piece of equipment.
When bringing any new product to market, a brand needs to clearly identify its point of
differentiation to earn attention from customers. Generally, a gummy can compete either on
price through efficient production or on quality through innovation on flavors and ingredients.
Whichever field your gummy competes on, the three considerations outlined in this article will be
vital to making a sustained impact.
About the Writers
Lauren Tamburro is the Director of Technical Services and Sales for Vertosa, an Oakland-
based hemp and cannabis technology company providing customized emulsion systems for
infused products. She is an expert in new product development, managing projects from
concept to commercialization, plant scale-up and the product development process. Prior to
joining Vertosa, Lauren performed analytical chemistry for six years and as Senior Scientist
began launching new food products at Mondelez International, primarily focused on chewing
gum. As Senior Manager of Research and Development at ALOHA she launched plant-based
protein bars, powders and aseptic ready to drink beverages.
Evan Smith is the CEO of Dark City Molds, a vertically integrated confection house specializing in high speed candy mold manufacturing and recipe development. His expertise lies in building lean infusible gummy brands with maximized efficiencies and engrained