Co-founded by Ben Miller and Mike Zens, Montana edibles company blazed its own trail to success in the Big Sky State
Photos by Rio Chantel
While many edibles brands are focused on becoming national in scale and maneuvering the rocky landscape of state-by-state cannabis regulations, High Road Edibles has taken a different pathway to success.
Co-founded by Ben Miller and Mike Zens, High Road Edibles operates only in its home state of Montana, becoming one of the fastest-growing brands in the state since the opening of its recreational market in early 2022.
Marijuana Venture spoke with Zens about the company’s rapid rise in the Big Sky State and what it takes to stay on top of the edibles game.
Marijuana Venture: Give us an overview of High Road Edibles and how you got started.
Mike Zens: We’ve been around about three years now. We started in the medical market, but always planned for the recreational market. Last year, with rec happening in Montana, we repositioned ourselves and found a new facility and were able to relaunch everything with the packaging and other optimizations we needed to hit the ground running. Last year, we went from being in one store to about 120 and distributing all across Montana. We’re based in Missoula, but we go all the way to Kalispell and Bozeman and Billings and in the summer, even the further east regions of the state.
MV: Does High Road focus exclusively on edibles?
Zens: Yeah, we just focus on edibles. We have gummies, chocolate bars and mints. We’ve found that sticking to what we’re best at, rather than trying on take on more, was our best approach. We found a great partner in Bozeman that we get all our extract from.
That was one of the benefits of rec in Montana, getting away from the requirement of vertical integration and moving into a horizontal market, which has been great for us.
MV: How is business going so far?
Zens: We always had our estimates of what we want to do, and we were definitely able to hit those last year, and more. Starting with one store and getting up to 120 was a pretty big change for us, just in terms of the general scale of producing products and adding employees. That was a bigger task than we thought we’d have, but we were basically able to go from producing a couple hundred units a month to more than 15,000 per month.
We’re doing about $150,000 to $200,000 a month in revenue, and with Montana being a tourist state, we definitely see large influxes in the summer with demand.
MV: What do you think makes your products different than other edibles manufacturers in Montana?
Zens: There weren’t too many people that specialized in edibles. My business partner having a long history of working in kitchens and taking that approach really helped us refine our products and get a really great tasting gummy. And then I helped Ben with the consistency side so we’re always able to achieve a pretty consistent, flavorful gummy.
One of the other things is that we use a full-spectrum extract, which gives a little bit more full effect, and we definitely hear from our consumers that they like that effect.
MV: From your perspective, what is it that consumers are looking for?
Zens: I think a consistent effect is one of the biggest parameters, and then flavor is the next big one. If something doesn’t taste good and doesn’t give you the right effect consistently, people aren’t going to want to purchase that again. So those are some of the things we focus on.
And then rounding it out with professional branding and packaging helps increase that confidence for the consumer. One of the things I always relate it to is picking out a can of beer off the shelf. If someone is looking at a can of beer with just a white label that said “Beer” on it versus a craft can that is really focused on branding to help attract consumers, people will typically lean toward the craft can. For us, the branding helps build confidence in our product in a retail store, where we can’t really speak for the product ourselves.
MV: What’s next on the horizon for High Road Edibles?
Zens: Last year was about scaling, and this year we’re focused on adding some more products and brands. This month, we’re rolling out a 1:1 THC-to-CBN gummy, focused a little bit more on sleep. It’s really based on something we’re seeing in other states that is popular with consumers: the bedtime cannabis edible.
And then we’re releasing another gummy that is 1:1 THC-to-CBG, and we find that’s another popular ratio product that people are looking for in the recreational market.
We’re also releasing some white chocolate bars next month. Dark chocolate and white chocolate are pretty different, so they attract a different consumer base.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.