Sweet Grass Kitchen
Julie Berliner started Sweet Grass Kitchen with just a recipe and an oven.
While the company’s marijuana-infused edibles steadily gained popularity in the medical sector, it was the opening of Colorado’s recreational cannabis market that enabled sales to skyrocket.
“When I started Sweet Grass Kitchen in 2009, I was making about 500 confections per month,” the CEO said. “Today we bake upwards of 10,000 pieces per day.”
The evolution of the business has also meant rapid changes for Berliner — less time running a blender and more time running the entire company that now includes more than 20 employees.
“Like the industry, Sweet Grass Kitchen has experienced dramatic growth over the past few years,” Berliner said. “While I once was able to ‘do it all,’ so to speak, my responsibility now is to ensure that the right people are in the right places within the company. So it’s really been a rollercoaster, a lot of growing pains, amazing surprises and mostly that were all just so excited to be part of the industry.”
She said these days, she hardly spends any time in the kitchen. It’s something she laments, but understands that “this industry and this business really demands me to be in other places,” she said.
By the end of 2013 the landscape of Colorado’s market had changed so much, it was almost like starting Sweet Grass over again, Berliner said. The shift from exclusively medical sales to the recreational market accelerated the demand for edibles tremendously.
In order to keep a consistent source of quality marijuana to bake with, Berliner quickly learned that it was better to have an in-house growing operation, rather than relying on third-part cultivators.
“When you’re buying wholesale, which a lot of manufacturers do, it was really, really difficult to guarantee what was coming in the door,” Berliner said.
More often than not, Sweet Grass didn’t have the option to choose between sativas or indicas, let alone more detailed preferences such as soil-grown versus hydroponic.
“It was a beggars-versus-choosers situation,” Berliner said.
The concept of Sweet Grass Kitchen started in 2009. Not even a year out of college, Berliner found her niche in the industry when a friend opened a dispensary in Boulder and asked her to bake a line of infused cookies.
“I had a great recipe,” she said. “I didn’t go to school for baking, but it was always something that I loved to do. It has been very therapeutic for me.”
The same recipe that Berliner baked for her friend’s dispensary is still the company’s bestselling item — a chocolate chip cookie with 90 milligrams of THC. That one little power-packed cannabis confection altered the course of her life.
“That was very different from what I was supposed to do, which was be a school teacher,” Berliner said while laughing. “I had just graduated with a degree in elementary education. So it was kind of a rough climate to get into that world and get a job.”