The tidy and tiny space occupied by Kreative Konfections and Fireweed Extracts off Knik Goose Bay Road has the homey feel of a family business and that’s because it is.
Kreative Konfections is co-owned and operated by Jenny Koenig, her husband Matt Koenig as well as his parents, Al and Trista Koenig. On a snowy Saturday afternoon, they’re gathered around a table as they prepare and package 7 gram jars of high terpene extract, a potent and strong-smelling concentrate, for a collaboration with the Fairbanks-based Alaskan Blooms.
Launched last summer, the family has found a successful place in Alaska’s cannabis industry as a maker of affordable edibles and premium, “connoisseur-grade” concentrates.
For the Koenig family, there’s a strong personal connection and purpose behind the business, particularly when it comes to the edibles. Trista Koenig has had metastatic breast cancer for more than 20 years and has struggled to cope with traditional pain treatments, but Jenny Koenig said that changed after legalization in 2014.
“They put her on opioids and she wasn’t feeling really great and wasn’t functioning and a friend gave her a pot brownie after legalization while on a camping trip and she later realized she hadn’t taken her opioids all weekend,” Jenny Koenig recalls. “So, we started to think about what you could eat every day, that you can take every day. She was like, ‘Well, I love my caramels. I could eat those every day.’”
Jenny Koenig said things quickly took off from there, but it wasn’t entirely smooth sailing. Matt Koenig and his brother had experience in growing cannabis, and they thought, at first, that making the leap into concentrates and edibles would be easy.
“It wasn’t but that was OK,” she said, laughing. “It was a real learning curve.”
“Most of it’s been a high-speed internet connection and a lot of time,” said Matt Koenig, “and the ability to read through and sort through the minutiae to find what actually is true and works. … Taking the Walter White approach of better cannabis through science.”
In the concentrate lab, they use a butane extraction process combined with chilled material column to prevent unwanted waxes and fats to be extracted and ovens under vacuum to finish and purify the product. Open one of the ovens and you’ll be hit with a heady blast of terpenes.
“It smells great,” Matt Koenig says while holding up a jar of syrupy high terpene extract.
The process they use is focused on preserving as much of the terpenes, the organic compounds found in marijuana that contribute to smell and the high, in the product as possible. Terpenes have become increasingly popular as the cannabis market has matured with some smokers putting more attention on the terpenes and what’s called the “entourage effect” where the quality of the high is impacted by much more than just the THC content.
Inside, the high terpene extract that they’re packaging is more than 9 percent terpenes with a high amount of beta myrcene, a compound that’s thought to enhance the high, and limonene, which is favored for easing anxiety.
The company’s concentrates are sold under the name Fireweed Extracts. They also do collaborations with growers to turn strains into custom-made concentrates.
“Connoisseur-grade concentrates is what I was going for,” says Matt Koenig.
But it’s been a very different approach for the edibles sold under the label Kreative Konfections. Based on her mother-in-law’s experience, Jenny Koenig wanted to keep prices controlled and the product dependable.
“For the edibles, we’re not looking for connoisseur-grade. If you want a connoisseur … there are some people putting out some amazing stuff, but that’s not my objective,” she said. “My objective is to put out something that’s good and solid and dependable and affordable. You know if you pick up a package of my hard candy, it’s going to taste good every time.”
Jenny Koenig has been in charge of formulating Kreative Konfections’ edibles, a process that took nearly a year to come up with their launch flavors for hard candies and caramels, but they’re well-positioned to quickly formulate new and seasonal flavors.
The caramels were based on an old family recipe adapted to go well with the marijuana, with a seasonal spiced apple for the fall.
“I like the puzzle. I like finding the new flavors and figuring things out,” she said.
Kreative Konfections’ edibles are aggressively priced, trying to keep the cost of a 10-pack of 5 mg below about $20. They sell a two-pack of caramels for less than $10.
“We want to make sure that the little old ladies, the people trying to stay off opioids or people dealing with back issues, whatever their thing is, that they can eat a candy or two a day and not break the bank,” she said. “They can pick up a 10-pack and be set all week and they’ve only spent 20 bucks. And it’s a dependable dosage. That’s what’s good about the legal market because with your home stuff, who knows how much you’re dosing every day.”
For Trista Koenig, she said the entire experience—going from using cannabis to cope with cancer to making it—has really opened her eyes and she hopes that other people in her position give it a try.
“My thing is simply that I want to be able to have other people get good and reliable product that I know has helped me,” she said. “It’s been a long road and my doctor calls me her special patient because I should have been dead 12 years ago. So, I would like to share and make available to other people what has helped me stay alive.”
Matt Buxton is an Anchorage-based freelance writer. Comments? Email editor@AlaskaCannabist.com