Manufacturing Success: Q&A with Ed Crowley of CLOVR
Missouri’s manufactured marijuana space is one of the most competitive in the country, with dozens of licensees and even more brands producing thousands of products filling dispensary shelves. Since the launch of adult use marijuana in February, Missouri has seen more than $1 billion in retail marijuana sales at dispensaries. In Manufacturing Success, a short-form Q&A series, looks to highlight and introduce the companies and individuals that turn plants into the products helping to propel the success of the cannabis industry.
Crowley, like many in the industry, never really imagined himself working in cannabis. Crowley exemplifies one of the most wonderful things about the cannabis industry, it is a melting pot. A man of diverse talents and experiences. Crowley was born in England and attended university, focusing on writing for television and film production. “Film is a big passion of mine, as is food.” From there, Crowley’s career launched quickly. “I was lucky enough to gain employment within the television industry straight out of University, and I had some of the most amazing times working for ITV. It would be pretentious for me to name-drop some of the celebrities that I was lucky enough to meet, but two highlights from that time were working on the Graham Norton Show with Kermit the Frog and being a personal assistant to Gordon Ramsay on the first two seasons of Hell’s Kitchen,” Crowley explained.
“I immigrated to America in 2017 to start life with my Californian wife in her small hometown in the north of the Golden State,” Crowley told Greenway. The pair share their home with their three cats (Frodo, Rocky, and Minerva) and two dogs (Gatsby and Red). A self-taught cook, Crowley’s as passionate about food as he is about film. “I have been known to whip up some amazing meals from random pantry staples last moment at people’s houses, it’s kind of my party trick.”
“Food has always held a special place in my heart. I worked in lots of pubs and restaurants in the UK and loved every minute of it, so when I put roots down in the USA, I decided that getting back into a kitchen was a high priority. I worked for a local family-run diner in California before moving on to work for a prestigious catering company that focused on high-end weddings. Then the Pandemic hit. I was lucky that I was classed as a key worker and that the business I worked for managed to keep me employed throughout that period, as many businesses folded,” he said.
For Crowley, the pandemic brought a litany of life-altering changes, including being the catalyst for his entry into the cannabis industry.
“My wife works as an HR director, and because of this, she was asked if she would consider relocating to a state that had a hub office. The pandemic really polarized our priorities and because of the increasing risks of wildfires in California (we were impacted by both the Readding & Paradise fires) we decided that we would broaden our horizons and move. We originally were set to move to Boise, Idaho – but whilst we were there, some of our oldest friends called and said that they were moving to Kansas City. We visited shortly after and fell in love with a midcentury modern home that we instantly put an offer on and it was accepted.
“My father killed himself at the start of the pandemic. Obviously, with this happening in the UK and the world on lockdown It was a very difficult situation. I didn’t really process his death as I was in shock for a long time. On moving to Kansas, I became a house husband, and this allowed me the space to grieve. I spent eight months renovating parts of our new home and then took a job as head cheese maker with Green Dirt Farm in Weston. The travel to and from Weston each day was arduous, so I decided to leave (although I did manage to home one of their red border collie pups- whom they named “Red” just before I did) it was a hard decision as I really liked the team I worked with.
“I had helped my brother-in-law grow harvest and process cannabis in California, so I had some general knowledge. When I saw the advert for CLOVR, I knew that I wanted the job. I was originally going to apply for a gummy technician position, but ten minutes before I had to leave to attend the interview, I saw that they were also looking to hire a kitchen Lead for Keef brand Sodas. The good news is that I had a great interview experience (which people have said was memorable because I was so “off the wall funny”) and I was offered the position. I helped turn the Keef Kitchen into a well-oiled and efficient machine. I was then offered the opportunity to lead the confections team, which is where I currently reside working alongside the genius that is Christopher Elbow. I love the creativity that this position has afforded me and CLOVR has been instrumental in my career development. I can’t express just how much the executives have helped me personally and I’m very very proud to work for an industry-leading, trail-blazing (excuse the pun) company.”
What does marijuana mean to you?
Hailing from a country where Cannabis is still illegal and demonized, I never, ever, thought in a million years that I would be legally working in it. Before my dad passed, I could see that he was having some mental health issues. He was prescribed anti-depressants by his doctor which ultimately made his mental state worse. I understand that this type of medication helps millions of people around the world but it’s not always the best fit for everyone and shouldn’t be standard issue to fix every situation. I had left my rolling box in the UK, and I begged my dad just to go and smoke some flower. I’m not saying that I fully believe it would have changed the outcome of his death, but I feel if he had access to medical cannabis rather than just being prescribed anti-depressants he might still be here.
Cannabis helps millions of people each day, and the sooner it is federally legalized the better.
What products or brands does CLOVR produce?
Currently we produce CLOVR Chocolate Bars and in collaboration with Christopher Elbow, CLOVR Carts available in 510 and disposables, CLOVR Pre-Rolls, Funny Bone chocolate, Wana , Keef beverages, Robhots, Tical Pre-Rolls, Forbidden Fruit.
Tell me about the process, or processes, used to create your products.
It’s probably best that I keep this confectionary specific. I’m privileged to work with the very talented Christopher Elbow who is our brand partner. He has been a fountain of knowledge when it to the technical side of chocolate making. I would like to say that it’s a little-known fact that when you purchase a Clovr chocolate bar, you are buying a hand-crafted artisan product. All our chocolate bars and are individually handcast from the finest chocolate, using the best technology from Belgium. To give you an example, it takes up to a week to produce because we make our own caramel fillings from scratch and each chocolate must be dosed, hand-painted, shelled, filled, and capped. They are then rigorously scrutinized for quality before being packaged.
Possibly the best part of my working week though is getting to indulge my Wonka fantasies and create new flavours. As CLOVR is an industry innovator, constant review and development to bring innovation to our patients is of paramount importance.
What is the biggest obstacle you face in a manufacturing facility like this?
Speaking strictly from a confectionary point of view, there are products that we would like to bring to table, but with the state regulations being so rigorous in terms of product design and packaging some of the more wacky ideas we have experimented with unfortunately don’t make it past the planning stages.
What has the legalization of recreational adult use sales meant for you and your company?
Legalization has certainly increased the demand for our products. As with any new business, the first year is always about navigating the unknown, and we have seen surges in sales at certain times of the year. I regularly visit dispensaries to check how our products are selling, and it is genuinely amazing to see such a broad spectrum of patients. In that respect Cannabis is amazingly inclusive.
What are you doing to keep up with increased demand?
Innovation is a core value at CLOVR. Being able to bring new and improved products to the table helps continue to grow our customer base. For instance, our new disposable vapes are manufactured with some very clever new technology that stops them clogging up.
What lessons have you learned from day 1 to now?
I started working for CLOVR right at the beginning of recreational use, and it’s been a rollercoaster ride so far. I suppose the biggest lesson I have learned is how to be flexible and adapt to the situation. One week our Funny Bone Flintstoned bars might be selling out and the next week it might be our cookie butter bars. Production schedules constantly change with demand, so learning how to pivot a team is key.
What’s the best piece of advice someone has ever given you?
I can think of a million cliched pieces of advice that I have been given over the years, but one thing that always resonates with me is to be “present” during the situations that you may find yourself in. Time is the biggest gift that you can give someone.
What makes you passionate about cannabis?
As I mentioned before, one of the most incredible things about the cannabis industry is its power
for inclusivity. Going to a dispensary and interacting with a broad spectrum of society is truly amazing. Nothing warms your heart like watching a senior patient buy their first edibles or flower. The true child-like excitement that they exhibit whilst getting advice from a budtender is wonderful.
In your opinion, what’s the best way to consume cannabis?
When I was in England as a teenager there was not an abundance of flower, and when you could get it, it hadn’t been properly cured or dried. So, I grew up smoking a lot of pressed Lebanese hashish. I really miss the mellow high that you attain from resin. Nowadays I’m purely a flower or extract smoker. I find that I can control my high more accurately than with edibles.
What makes CLOVR and your partner brands’ products unique in this space?
I think that the sheer diversity of what we produce is why we are unique in this market. We work alongside amazing brand partners that are wanting to push the boundaries of their products and open them up to a whole new demographic. We cater to the young recreational patient that wants to smoke live rosin, as well as to senior patients that want to consume artisan candy and sodas.
What is the top-performing product you produce?
Our Funny Bone “Flintstoned” (white chocolate with fruity pebbles- that tastes like cereal milk) recently won the Missouri gold cup for excellence.
What’s your favorite product and why?
I have to say that I have recently been purchasing CLOVR disposable vapes. They are super high quality, easy to use, and above all else discreet.
Parting wisdom or additional thoughts?
As someone that lives on the KCK side of the city, I would really like to see the bureaucrats in Topeka take cannabis legalization seriously. I really think in the past year a lot of the unfounded stigmas surrounding cannabis consumption have been eroded, but there is still more work to be done. Cannabis, one step at a time is making this world a better place.