The company will grow from its 8,000 square foot brewing facility in Bristol, Vermont, to leasing 20% of a 62,000 square foot facility from the Vermont Hard Cider Company in Middlebury over the first quarter of this year.
The facility will be used for administrative operations, brewing, kegging, new equipment and cold storage.
The company brews raw, organic kombucha in flavors including turmeric sunrise, blood orange, hibiscus ginger lime, elderberry, black currant, ginger, cranberry and original. There are also seasonal flavors, including mulled cider and watermelon.
A bigger, better facility
Jeff Weaber, the company’s founder, told BeverageDaily that the company was previously kegging its product by hand. In the new facility, they will have two automated kegging lines, making production much more efficient.
“That’s a huge step forward,” he said. “We do 60% of our volume in kegs. Before, we had one loading dock that we shared with another business. Now we have five loading docks to ourselves. We had maybe 15,000 gallons of tank capacity. This facility has 500,000 gallons in tank capacity. [It has] two bottling lines and a canning line. It’s really a lot of new stuff.”
In addition, Weaber said his company has access to VHCC’s staff, which has been a great resource to bounce ideas off of and ask questions. VHCC is also packaging Aqua ViTea’s product after it is produced, making business a great deal easier for the company.
“We’re learning a lot more than if we had to do it ourselves,” he said.
The company has seen 75% to 80% annual growth in revenue since it opened in 2007, Weaber said. The company executives are now looking for even deeper market penetration in the market they serve, which spans from Washington, DC, to the entire northeast.
Now, they are “sidestepping” the organic growth they’d have to do without access to the new facility and gaining new potential to saturate the market.
“We’re just jumping light years ahead of where our organic [growth] model would have taken us,” he said. “It’s really an amazing opportunity.”
Weaber said Aqua ViTea led the pack on the trend of offering kombucha on tap in stores in self-serve fountains, something he believes will help facilitate greater levels of growth within an already-growing market due to its convenience.
Weaber said the company will maintain the same footprint in the northeast but increase the volume and bring new distributors into the fold to expand its reach.
Over the past few years, he’s been happy to see the popularity of kombucha continue to grow and believes it will continue to do so over the next many years. When asked why it has caught on so well, he note that consumers have grown weary of sugary drinks and want something refreshing and healthy.
“We’re watching it just penetrate deeper into the mainstream than I even expected,” he said. “We’re seeing it in gas stations in our state here. I’d maybe expect that on the west coast, but not out here. The educational piece on kombucha has been a big obstacle at the beginning. As that curve has gotten smaller and smaller, we’ve seen more penetration into the market.”
Next for Aqua ViTea, Weaber said, they’ll focus on getting the new production under their belts and start “having a lot of fun” experimenting with new flavor profiles.