USA: Is Kombucha the next big thing?

Kombucha, a pro-biotic  fermented, lightly effervescent sweetened black or green tea drink, is likely to be the next big thing in the beverage industry. The functional beverages with its supposed health benefits is typically offered with alcohol or as a soft drink in glass bottles. It is produced by fermenting tea using a "symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast" (SCOBY).

Kombucha was first introduced to the retail market by GT’s Living Foods in 2005. The company with its CEO George Thomas (GT) Dave is family owned as the only one of the major Kombucha makers in the United States. As a pioneer of the industry  it has still a 55% in the domestic kombucha market. No. 2 and 3 positions in the market are occupied by companies which are fully or partly owned by Pepsi (brand name: KeVita) and Coca Cola (brand name: Health-Ade).

Currently Kombucha accounts only for $1.5 billion in global sales. Despite the tiny share of the whole beverage market experts believe that Kombucha has the potential to be “the next big thing”. Especially considering the decline of the soda market in the United States (-3% in 2017) and the minus in overall beer sales (-1% in 2017, despite a rise in craft beer sales), expected compounded growth rates of kombucha sales of 23% over the next five years seem quite tempting for the beverage industry.

In 2016 AB InBev’s venture capital arm ZX Ventures bought Kombrewcha, maker of low-alcohol, organic kombucha drinks. Molson Coors followed this June by buying Top Shelf Beverages, a company which operates a kombucha brewery in Fairfield, California and sells its products under the Clearly Kombucha and C Botanicals brands. (inside.beer, 7.6.2018)

 

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