Created in 2017, the idea for Flying Embers was born out of parent company Fermented Sciences. Founder Bill Moses - the man behind kombucha success story KeVita which was sold to PepsiCo in 2016 - saw an opportunity for the popularity of kombucha to ‘naturally’ grow into the alcohol category.
From the fermentation process, all kombucha contains a small amount of alcohol. In the US, a drink that exceeds 0.5% ABV is considered an alcoholic beverage, and most kombucha brands are designed to stay this threshold in order to remain functional, non-alcoholic teas.
But Flying Embers has a 4.5% ABV, on par with most beers and hard ciders. Moses and his team “realized that kombucha naturally wants to go over the legal limit of 0.49%, and there are a lot of people that actually want a healthy alcohol elixir of sorts.”
Flying Embers is fermented with black tea and a combination of 'adaptogenic botanical roots': a blend of of ginger, turmeric, ashwagandha and astragalus.
The fermentation process for kombucha is flexible on alcohol content. Depending on how it is fermented, it can generate very little alcohol or a significant amount that exceeds the legal limit. Moses says that hard kombuchas are simpler to produce, and many traditional kombucha brands struggle with keeping the ABV at 0.49% or below.
“Unlike KeVita, where we did different things to mitigate and keep the alcohol level below 0.5%, with Flying Embers we do other things to ensure that the fermentation can continue to be elongated to generate more alcohol,” Moses said.
An overture of sweetness
Flying Embers contains live probiotics and is sold in three flavors - Ginger & Oak, Ancient Berry, and Lemon Orchard. It’s described as “tangy with an overture of sweetness” including a bold flavor that comes from the tea and a tartness from the bacteria. The drinks are USDA-certified organic, vegan and gluten-free.
The brand officially launched in June 2018 and was self-distributed in grocery stores in southern California. It has since expanded to the Reyes Holdings, Columbia Distributing, Crescent Crown and the Sheehan Group for distribution across California, the pacific northwest and New York.
Moses said he is also closing soon on deals in the next two weeks with partners in New England, the eastern seaboard, Texas and Florida.
The customer base for Flying Embers is largely the millennial crowd that is already familiar with kombucha, and skews between 65-70% female. Moses is finding it most popular for daytime drinking occasions on the weekend, when people are looking for an alcoholic option that allows them to enjoy a few without getting too intoxicated.