Operating in the edibles category can be sweet, but Caroline Yeh, co-founder and CEO of TSUMo Snacks, aims to spice it up.
The California company is one of a handful of manufacturers producing savory cannabis-infused snacks, including tortilla rounds, tortilla strips, and cheese puffs. TSUMo Snacks—named with the goal of delivering a "tsunami of flavor"—has also earned the support of Snoop Dogg, who collaborated with the company on two varieties of crunchy onion rings last year.
Caroline Yeh, co-founder and CEO of TSUMo Snacks
“One of our core values is ‘flavor first,’ and another core value is ‘be bold,’” Yeh said. “We like flavors that aren’t shy and really taste good.”
The company continues to lead with flavor, introducing products that draw from well-loved snacks to provide a unique edibles experience.
Breaking the (candy) mold
Yeh moved into the cannabis space after more than a decade in the traditional consumer packaged goods industry. She started her tenure at Bloom Farms, before moving to Kiva Confections in 2018. She served there for two-and-a-half years before branching out to co-found TSUMo Snacks.
Yeh saw the implementation of adult-use regulations—and the rise of confectionery edibles—in California.
“Savory snacks have existed for a long time in the medical market,” she said. “When we switched over to adult use, they fell out in favor of things like chocolates and gummies. Coming from a background at Kiva, there are specific reasons why.”
Gummies and chocolates are simpler to produce and dose while remaining in compliance, Yeh said. They’re also less expensive to manufacture, and the formats make it easier to mask cannabis flavor, if that’s desired. And while starting out, negotiating vendor relationships with small quantities is not easy, either.
“There were barriers to entry which we were able to overcome to introduce the product to market,” Yeh said.
TSUMo Snacks uses cannabis distillate without masking agents to let the flavors of the base chip and the seasoning shine. The company also measures its serving size by weight, instead of by piece, Yeh said.
“We produce in large batches where we’re tumbling the products with the actives and then coating them with seasoning,” she said. “Then we’re trying to hit dosing over these irregularly shaped products. That’s not the easiest thing to do.”
Introducing the cannabis chips also required working with TSUMo Snacks’ lab to iron out testing procedures.
“You always go through those hurdles,” Yeh said. “This isn’t just for my company, this is for any new product that’s getting introduced into the market. You work with the lab to dial in a good, solid testing process, and that’s what we’ve been able to do.”
TSUMo Snacks hit the market in September 2021. Originally available packages with 10 mg THC, the company’s initial offerings included five popular and nostalgic varieties. Yeh noted flavor is critical to enticing consumers—especially in California’s competitive adult-use cannabis market.
“No matter what the product is, it has to taste good in order to sell,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if there is cannabis in it or not. In the medical days, if it had cannabis in it, it would sell. These days, it’s a very different market. It’s got to taste good to sell.”
Last summer, TSUMo Snacks converted its product portfolio to 100 mg pouches with 10 10-mg servings. Yeh said the company boosted the THC content to align its total package dosage with other products on the market, as well as offer consumers flexibility in dosing.
The company’s core lineup includes:
- Nacho Cheese Tortilla Strips
- Chili Limon Tortilla Strips
- Salsa Verde Mini Tortilla Rounds
- Zesty Ranch Mini Tortilla Rounds
- Fiery Hot Crunchers
- Classic Cheese Crunchers
In October, TSUMo Snacks introduced Snazzle Os, a riff Snoop’s favorite snack: Funyuns. Available in Onion and Spicy Onion flavors, the legendary rapper and cannabis entrepreneur had full approval over the product and its artwork.
"I'm excited to partner with TSUMo Snacks to bring some new snack options to the fans," Snoop said when the products debuted. “There are plenty of sweet edibles out there, so when I created this product I wanted to put the Dogg twist on it, which is why I'm bringing the savory THC-infused crispy onion-flavored rings to my home state of California. You know that if I’m going to put my name on something, it's guaranteed, stamped Snoop D-O-Double-G fresh."
TSUMo Snacks’ relationship with Snoop Dogg began through Casa Verde Capital, the cannabis venture capital firm he co-founded. As one of the TSUMo Snacks’ primary investors, Casa Verde led a $4 million seed round for the company in February 2022. TSUMo Snacks is one of two dozen Casa Verde portfolio companies.
“We decided to formalize (our relationship) by signing a separate contract and agreement with him so that he could be part of our company in an official way through product partnership,” Yeh said.
Yeh added another product collaboration with Snoop Dogg is set to debut this summer.
Following Snazzle Os, TSUMo Snacks introduced two limited-edition offerings for the holiday season. The company’s Turkey Dinner Popped Potato Chips were dusted with a savory turkey seasoning, while its Cinnamon Sugar Churro variety marked the first time TSUMo Snacks launched a sweet product.
“The holiday flavors were curated to bring friends, family and loved ones together to help folks enjoy the holiday season to their ‘highest’ potential,” Yeh said at the time. “From delicious chips sprinkled with turkey seasoning to the joy of eating cinnamon-sweet churros, TSUMo Snacks is bringing together all the best parts of the holidays without the hassle of traditional seasonal tropes and infusing it with cannabis.”
Building on its platform of comforting, nostalgic flavors, TSUMo Snacks partnered with Chef Roy Choi to introduce Spaghetti & Meatballs Puff Balls and Spicy Cheesy Ramen Curls in April.
Choi, a James Beard Award-winning chef known for creating Los Angeles’ Korean-Mexican taco truck Kogi, took inspiration from childhood flavors for the collaboration. Choi and TSUMo Snacks spent a year working on the collaboration before the products’ introduction last month.
“It took me a long time to get into the cannabis-infused edibles game because I wanted to honor the cannabis plant that I love so much,” Choi said. “It was important to me that if I developed a cannabis edible, it be authentic, inclusive, thoughtful, delicious, and most of all, fun—the same approach I take with all my other food projects. The opportunity had to feel right and not rushed. As luck would have it, the timing finally lined up, and I met the team at TSUMo Snacks, who I knew were the right people with the right spirit.”
While TSUMo Snacks continues to broaden its product portfolio in California, the company is also seeking to expand to other markets. However, regulations around manufacturing can make it difficult, Yeh said.
“We’re hoping, as they have done in California and other states, that those laws will evolve and we’ll be able to bring our products into more states,” Yeh said.