When I first tried Kava Candy, I was very skeptical. I felt that Kava as a vigorously-prepared drink was pretty much the end-all when it came to solving issues with anxiety. When I heard about Kava Candy, I thought the idea of concentrating kavalactones into a small little chewable orange-flavored circle was probably not going to have the strength or results that I got out of brewing Kava. I remember trying Kava Candy for the first time and being very surprised at the flavor, and then thinking to myself “well, that’s all nice and fine, but I’m probably not going to get anything out of this.” Well, I was wrong. Kava Candy can function as a drink replacement anytime, and it’s portability and normalcy makes it a mainstay in my day-to-day life.
The effects on a newcomer to Kava are great. It tastes great, gives you the tongue-numbing sensation, and after you chew two or three you get that beautiful relaxing effect. In fact, I have personally known people who got turned on to Kava as a drink through Kava Candy. I gave them some Kava Candy and then brewed up Kava at a later date to show them the more traditional way of getting kavalactones into your life. So on behalf of the entire Kava community, I have to say a big congratulations to Steven George at Kava Candy for bringing this wonderful product into our world and turning more people on to the Pacific Elixir.
I sat down and talked with Steven George about Kava Candy and Kava in general last week. Here is the interview:
KAVASSEUR: Steven, thanks for volunteering to be my first interviewee for a series of profiles I am doing on actors in the Kava world. I for one have been enjoying your Kava Candy product for several years now, and am excited to hear more about how you got the idea to make a Kava Candy?
STEVEN: You’re most welcome, Douglas. It’s a pleasure to talk with you.
I was manufacturing flavored kava drinks down at a commercial kitchen in Kalihi and selling them to natural health food stores around Hawaii. The inherent problem with drinks is that they are bulky and distribution is a nightmare. I wanted to create an on-the-go kava product that was easy to take with you so I literally bought candy molds and cooling racks and went to work. I made candy infused with some nice Hawaiian kava on my kitchen stove and got them out to friends to try. People really liked them and that is when I moved to a co-manufacture to make them on a commercial level.
KAVASSEUR: So what’s your Kava story? Can you talk a little bit about what got you into Kava and what kept you interested in it?
STEVEN: I have always been interested in plant-based remedies. Naturally being in Hawaii, there is a lot of kava around. I use to work for one of the high chiefs in America Samoa. He had parties with lot of kava and music. It was easy to fall in love with the peaceful nature of kava.
KAVASSEUR: That’s awesome! Kava parties with music in Hawaii. Sounds like a dream.
What does your average customer look like? Who gets interested in Kava Candy? Can you talk about some stories where Kava Candy helped someone out?
STEVEN: A lot of my customers are working professional who are active in the kava community. Everyone likes to take the edge off during a stressful day and the Kava Candy seems to be resonating with them because it is easy to take. Some of these customers like to prepare kava root at home but sometimes lack the time.
There is one set of customers that stick out in my head which is the Performing Arts folks. I am amazed by the number of artist who reach out to me and say the Kava Candy helped them immensely with anxiety. Some of these people are professionals and you would think they are very comfortable on stage but the truth is that they are terrified inside and just need a little help. I think overcoming personal adversities is so meaningful because they can use that skill in other areas of their life. Sometimes it is simply a confidence booster.
KAVASSEUR: That’s really interesting. I actually really benefit a lot from Kava Candy in stressful situations. Sometimes if I wake up at night with a lot on my mind I will chew two pieces of Kava Candy and it usually sets me straight. Of course, it’s handy to have them in the drawer at my office as well.
I think we’re all wondering what’s next from Ozia Originals and Kava Candy. Could you share with us a hint of projects you are working on?
STEVEN: I am excited to say that I have been working on a new ginger flavored Kava Candy. I am in the last stages and think we are pretty close to going into a “pilot” production. Sometimes people think it is very easy to change certain ingredients and flavors but when larger scale manufacturing is involved every little change can make a huge difference.
For this Ginger project, I was so happy to receive great feedback to the fine folks at KavaForums.com including yourself J I may like coconut for example but it is really your customers that should be influencing the focus of a project like this.
This summer we also launched a Full-spectrum CBD Oil called EleVAte that has been getting wonderful feedback. It is interesting to see a big cross-over of kava and CBD customers because both products can help reduce stress and anxiety.
KAVASSEUR: That’s very exciting news. I can’t wait to try your ginger-flavored Kava Candy, though I really love the orange flavor myself. I think Coconut sounds good as well, but it looks like we might have to wait on that one!
Where do you see Kava going over the next five years, ten years?
STEVEN: I believe the kava industry is going to follow the heels of the cannabis industry in the next 5-10 years. The hurdle for kava is that it is probably 15 years behind cannabis as far as research dollars and studies. Many in the kava industry don’t like to compare kava to cannabis because it might have a negative connotation, but the reality is that we are looking at true plant based remedies and benefits that can have very profound effects regarding treatment of serious illnesses such as cancer. As cannabis becomes more widely accepted both socially and legally, I believe it will open more doors for the kava industry.
KAVASSEUR: That’s very true.
What are some of the biggest challenges that Kava world faces? What are some of the biggest opportunities?
STEVEN: Two of the biggest challenges with kava are taste and efficacy. Kava is very bitter so the normal threshold that one would tolerate is very low – they may try it once and not ever try it again. In regards to efficacy, kava is very different than alcohol or marijuana; two substances that people try to compare kava with. Kava is relaxing but yet our mind is clear and one would not get that intoxicating feeling from alcohol or that high from marijuana. In my opinion, these two factors filter down into the economics of kava policy including supply & demand, farming practices and research dollars. If individuals are not fully “bought into” the practice of kava, they will not push legislative action as quickly on a community, state or federal level –it’s just the way human nature works in our society.
Although there has been many great research and clinical studies on kava, we are still finding out a great deal about kavalactone components and how they can work and benefit us. A big opportunity exists in this area where one substantiated finding could change the game for everyone. As far as vendors (including myself) the opportunities are rather simplistic. I think customers are looking for vendors who are treating them right, provide the best products and are consistent. These are three attributes I try to uphold. Being in the kava industry for 10+ years, I have no plans of going anywhere and appreciate the customers and friends I have met along the way.
KAVASSEUR: Steven, it has been an absolute pleasure learning about your work and views on Kava. Thank you for producing these wonderful Kava Candies and good luck as your products and company continue to grow!