High honors: Cannabis Cup awards taste sweet for Easthampton’s INSA

  • Peter Gallagher, co-founder and CEO of INSA in Easthampton, talks about the products that recently won awards in the Cannabis Cup Massachusetts contest run by the magazine High Times. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Peter Gallagher, co-founder and CEO of INSA in Easthampton, talks about the products that recently won awards in the Cannabis Cup Massachusetts competition run by the magazine High Times. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • A seasonal chocolate product sold at INSA in Easthampton. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Julian Rose, director of research and development at INSA, works on a display piece showing off its chocolate bars. INSA recently won awards for its edibles in the Cannabis Cup Massachusetts contest. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Julian Rose, director of research and development at INSA, works on a display piece showing off its chocolate bars. INSA recently won awards for some of their edible products in the Cannabis Cup Massachusetts competition run by the magazine High Times. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Mark Wikar, head of the edibles operations at INSA, and Zachary Tisdell, an employee, make Spicy Pineapple Drops. INSA recently won People’s Choice awards for their edible products in the Cannabis Cup Massachusetts contest. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Mark Wikar makes Spicy Pineapple Drops at INSA, which took home the most awards of any dispensary in the Cannabis Cup Massachusetts People’s Choice contest. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Peter Gallagher is a co-founder and CEO of INSA in Easthampton. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 11/24/2021 7:15:00 PM
Modified: 11/24/2021 7:14:45 PM

EASTHAMPTON — INSA, recently honored in the statewide Cannabis Cup competition, continues to see steady growth in the popularity of its edible cannabis products, company leaders said this week, which will prompt an expansion of the company’s production operations.

This summer and fall, the magazine High Times held its first-ever Cannabis Cup Massachusetts: People’s Choice Edition, in which 2,000 consumers bought kits filled with a variety of products from retailers across the state and voted for their favorites online. INSA won at least fifth place in six of the competition’s 11 categories and first place in two categories, capturing the most awards of any company.

During a Monday tour of the Easthampton store and its kitchen, where edibles are made on site, INSA co-founder and CEO Peter Gallagher said the operation will be “expanding into a new space, which we’ll be announcing shortly, to meet the demand for edibles in the market.”

INSA’s Double Caramel Sea Salt chocolate bar won the Cannabis Cup’s edible chocolate category due to its “craftsmanship,” texture and flavor, Gallagher said. The bars are made with creamy Belgian chocolate, not the less enticing chocolate compound used to make many other edibles in the cannabis industry.

“It goes back to the care they take in making it, packaging it and ultimately serving the customer at the point of sale,” Gallagher said, detailing the six bars in the product line along with limited-edition flavors including peppermint candy cane that are available during the holidays.

In the Cannabis Cup, the Double Caramel Sea Salt chocolate bar beat products from Coast Cannabis, Koko Gemz, Pioneer Valley Cannabis Company and Cheeba Chews.

INSA’s Clementine vape pen won the sativa vape pen category, beating products from Pioneer Valley Cannabis Company, Fernway, Happy Valley and HÅVN Extracts.

In the pre-roll category, INSA took fourth place with its Kush Mints product. Other INSA products placed at least fifth in the indica vape pen, topicals and tinctures, and edible gummies categories.

‘An eternal cycle’

On Monday, director of research and development Julian Rose was overseeing the kitchen — part of the 100,000 square feet of on-site production and flower canopy space — that makes INSA’s edibles, including peanut butter cups and bon bons.

Eight staff were busy making Sleepy Drops, a mixture of THC and melatonin that comes in several flavors, including peach mango and spicy pineapple made with ghost pepper. The black cherry flavor placed fifth in the Cannabis Cup’s edible gummies category.

The popularity of edibles is sharply increasing, Rose said, with a 30-40% growth in sales every year. Right now, he said, “we actually outpace what we can package,” and the kitchen recently added a second shift just for packaging and related tasks.

“It’s an eternal cycle,” said Rose, a lifelong confectioner with 45 years in the business.

Much of the space in the kitchen is used to store products that are complete but for which testing is being conducted by a third-party lab. Rose’s team sends out samples of every batch of edibles, and about a week later, the approved product is put on store shelves.

Rose said the testing delay is the reason that dispensaries like INSA don’t offer baked — and more perishable — edibles such as brownies, but baked goods could become available if state regulators ever allow on-site consumption.

“The West Coast is faster. It’s much looser,” Rose said of cannabis regulations. “Around here, things are pretty tight.”

By law, there is a 100 mg limit on the THC dose for every recreational product, and a 5 mg limit for each serving. INSA’s bars are made of 20 pieces of chocolate, each one a 5 mg dose; the company is about to introduce its Big Bar, a 100-piece bar of chocolate with 1 mg doses in each piece.

“It’s the biggest chocolate bar I’ve ever seen in my life,” Gallagher said before Rose showed the Gazette a smaller 70-piece sample mold about the size of a hardcover book.

“We’re trying to do one giant bar because people are loving the chocolate, and they want to have more chocolate” with the same dose of cannabis, Rose said.

The company plans to introduce cannabis-infused butter and olive oil in the near future, Rose said.

INSA, headquartered in Chicopee, also has retail locations in Springfield and Salem.




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