Launching in Amazon, on the Health-Ade website, and in about 1,600 stores in southern California this summer in shelf-stable 12oz cans ($2.49), Health-Ade Booch Pop has 40-60 calories per can (the 8-11g sugar comes from the cane sugar used to make the kombucha and the juice) and has a more accessible flavor profile than kombucha with no high intensity sweeteners that’s designed to appeal to a mainstream audience, said CEO and co-founder Daina Trout.
In keeping with the brand’s gut-friendly ethos, the ingredients include an organic cranberry seed powder, which contains prebiotic fiber; seaweed-derived minerals (calcium and magnesium); and acids from fermentation (from the kombucha base) such as acetic, lactic and gluconic acid; said Trout.
“The goal was to make a totally delicious soda experience.”
‘It’s not just a different usage occasion, it’s a new consumer’
Several brands have entered the sparkling flavored water space in recent years, and there’s no shortage of functional beverages containing everything from adaptogens (eg. Rebbl), to CBD (eg. Recess), nootropics (eg. Synapse), and plant-proteins (eg. Koia), Trout told FoodNavigator-USA.
However, there is white space in the soda category for more products that combine fun and functionality with kitchen cupboard ingredients (no high intensity sweeteners or sugar alcohols) and low, but not zero, sugar, she claimed.
“There’s premium soda with real cane sugar, but there aren’t many brands offering functionality. Getting some innovation into that space was intriguing and appealing to retail buyers and an entirely incremental growth opportunity for us.”
She added: “It’s not just a different usage occasion, it’s a new consumer. The consumer that’s drinking our kombucha five times a week is dedicated to health. Consumers we’re targeting with Booch Pop are more mainstream, they want something that tastes good, but they also want something clean and natural with recognizable ingredients, with less sugar, and some functionality… what we’re calling the healthy-ish consumer. The concept is feel good bubbly beverages.”
Kombucha: ‘The category went from double-digit growth to around zero’
According to data from SPINS, US retail sales of kombucha slowed considerably in 2019, growing by 3% in the 52 weeks ending January 26, 2020, vs growth of 25.4% in the year to Jan 27, 2019, and growth of 60.1% in the year to Jan 28, 2018.
However, Health-Ade kombucha – now sold in 30,000+ stores – has consistently outpaced the category, said Trout: “In 2019, the brand contributed 80% of the growth in the kombucha beverage category.”
While COVID-19 has impacted foodservice sales (which were only a fraction of Health-Ade’s business) and dented traffic at many convenience stores and other retailers, kombucha has continued to grow during the pandemic, she said.
“The category went from double-digit growth to around zero and then with COVID-19, it’s sitting between 2-5% growth.”
A happy echo chamber: ‘50% of consumers between the ages of 20 and 40 still don’t even know what kombucha is’
So why did it go down? In part, she said, you’d expect growth to slow as a category matures, but part of the issue has been that brands have been “good at communicating to the kombucha consumer, the health enthusiasts, but expanding past that consumer has not been something many of the brands have done well.
“It’s a bit of a happy echo chamber,” added Trout, who said household penetration of kombucha remained low at around 15%.
“Fifty percent of consumers between the ages of 20 and 40 still don’t even know what kombucha is. So we see that as an opportunity. Hopefully Booch Pop could bring more people to kombucha too.”