For Ezra Malmuth, incorporating: local artists in his edibles brand was a no-brainer.
After all, he himself came from an artist background: culinary arts. Malmuth, 29, grew up in Berkeley, where he inherited his passion for cooking from his Italian grandmother.
“It’s the typical cliché cooking story,” he says, “but she was a great cook. Half of my family still lives in Italy, so I was very lucky growing up to visit my family there and really fall in love with food.”
At the age of 17, Malmuth’s passion for cooking led to an internship at the world-famous Chez Panisse – where, in addition to peeling beans and other grunt work, he claimed a crash course in the philosophy of food. At school, Malmuth traveled to places like Spain and Israel, and discovered that cooking was the ideal gateway to understand a city’s culture.
“Really, every time I could travel, I just ended up cooking,” he says. “I think the dining table is the best place to meet people. I think the trip that really opened my eyes was when I was cooking in Singapore. I saw all this global diversity in a small town, and it really made me understand that there were flavors and flavor profiles that could capture the imagination.”
Inspired by his travels, Malmuth started Atlas Edibles a year ago as a brand focused on healthy ingredients and delicious flavors. It’s his second business venture into the cannabis industry, and Malmuth says seeing the medicinal treats a friend was consuming while battling cancer prompted him to develop products that promote wellness, but not at the expense of taste.
“I looked at a lot of the edibles he ate a few years ago,” Malmuth recalls, “and a lot of them were just full of sugar and preservatives and ingredients that I didn’t think would help his well-being. nothing wrong with brownies in Zip-Loc bags, but I wanted to make a more mindful and health-inspired snack.”
Atlas Edibles currently has four flavor clusters available. Origin is a Mexican chocolate indica cluster with pepitas, puffed rice and cocoa. Ember is a sativa cashew caramel with cayenne pepper, turmeric and apricot. Nimbus — which Malmuth describes as the company’s “classic” flavor — is a dark chocolate cluster with hazelnuts, pecans and dried berries. Finally there’s Stratus, the newest flavor and second place at the 2017 High times NorCal Cannabis Cup, which consists of blueberries, poppy seeds, toasted almonds and ginger.
In addition to the distinctive ingredients in each cluster, Origin, Ember, Nimbus and Stratus are also packaged in individual designs commissioned by local artists. Malmuth says the cannabis industry’s welcoming attitude to culinary creativity made him feel like this would naturally translate to visual artists as well.
“When I got into this space, a lot of my artist friends started moving,” he says. “It inspired me to offer this outlet, to involve local artists in broadening their horizons.”
To make his plan come to life, Malmuth turned to his friend Chris Huth. Huth, now the Creative Director of Atlas Edibles, decided to offer the company’s packaging as a blank canvas to nearby designers.
Nigel Sussman – the illustrator responsible for Ember’s isometric pattern of machine parts – saw the assignment as a welcome opportunity to go beyond the parameters of normal branding.
“Using real local art adds another level of interest and meaning to the product,” he says. “I was very happy to see the finished product. It’s refreshing to see professional and thoughtful packaging, especially in the cannabis industry.”
For Huth, planting roots in the Bay Area by collaborating with local artists is part of a vision for the company to be more than just a supplier of medicinal edibles.
“We want to be seen as a viable member of the community,” says Huth. “We collaborate with several regional artists who we believe tap into the same community-oriented ideals as we do. We don’t just want to use their images on our products – we want to create unique collaborations that can be used to promote our products, their efforts, and also community-based events such as concerts, gallery openings and fundraisers. ”
For now, Atlas Edibles is still getting wet feet. Pharmacy in San Francisco and Seven Stars in Richmond carry its products, as well as delivery services such as Mr. Nice Guy and Ona. While Malmuth would like to see product availability expanded, he is more concerned with making sure the rollout is done correctly.
“We’re definitely growing, but at our own pace,” he says.
Nevertheless, the first results of Atlas Edibles’ four first collaborations between artists have given the young company a promising start.
“It was a pleasure to work with the creative team behind Atlas Edibles,” said Oakland artist Jeff Boozer, Stratus packaging designer.
“The growth of medical marijuana product lines in the US presents an interesting challenge for artists and designers,” said Boozer. “Ezra and Chris have helped bridge the gap between imagery that is too ‘symbolic’ or predictable and a more motivated and unique take on both the benefits of the Stratus product and their already strong brand image.”
Asked about the best part of being the main force behind Atlas, Malmuth admits that playing mad scientist in the kitchen and working with local artists has been hugely rewarding, but there’s another opinion that matters most: that of Malmuth’s grandmother. She suffers from neuropathy of the foot and has become the biggest fan of Atlas Edibles.
“If the most important thing I achieve with this company is to give my 86-year-old grandmother a product that she appreciates and a product that relieves her pain, then I’m fine with that,” he says.