Is organic growth an option for Kombucha?

I have written a couple of times about my partnership with Kombucha Town in Bellingham, Washington. I like their flavors, love their community feel, and appreciate their understanding of sustainability for choosing aluminum cans over glass. After discussing with Kombucha Town owner/operator Chris McCoy about the lack of credit opportunities for Kombucha compared to Beer, we wondered how the Venture, Private Equity, and Acquisitions market was for kombucha breweries of all sizes within the last 5 years.

I went to the chain grocers (QFC/Kroger, Safeway/Albertsons, Trader Joes/Aldi, Walmart, Costco), then to the smaller or boutique grocers (Whole Foods, PCC, Marlene’s, Metropolitan Market, and Grocery Outlet) to get a sample of what kombucha is distributed in my area. If I toss out the store brands, or kombucha made by other established brands, and make a list that can be found in most locations, I am left with a list of 11, excluding Kombuchatown. The final 11 are GT’s Living Foods, Brew Dr, Revive, Health-ade, Humm, Mojo, Kevita, Clearly, High Country, Wonder Drink, and Bucha Live.

Only 1, GT’s Living Foods has not made a public announcement of receiving new investment in the last 5 years. (See chart below). My best guess for GT’s absence from the list is related to them representing the lion’s share of sales in the Kombucha Market as recently as 2014. That decade long head start has likely created a significant war chest of assets reducing or eliminating the need of a future capital infusion to remain competitive.

Fun fact, one company, Bucha Live, was sold twice once in 2015 to American Brewing and then again in 2018 to New Age Foods. The story of its first sale in 2015 is worth a blog post of its own, it was quite a doozy.

I find it interesting that the Kombucha drinkers I know seem to prefer Humm, Health-ade, and Brew Dr, which are still owned and operated by the founding entrepreneur. Even though they recieved private or venture capital, either the entrepreneur pushed to keep control or the investors chose to not push for majority control, I view that as a big positive. As we continue forward, I will be interested and expect to see that the entrepreneur owned and controlled businesses, like Humm, Health-ade, Brew Dr, and Kombuchatown, will outperform their more corporate contemporaries in the years to come. 

Cheers

Evan Turner

Entrepreneur in Residence

Kombucha Acquisitions.jpeg

 

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