Kombucha: the fizzy drink that is the next big superfood
Soft drink sales have gone flat - just ask Coca-Cola Amatil.
But kombucha, the fizzy fermented drink loved by sugar-free devotees, is reporting healthy sales for its boutique brewers.
Coca-Cola Amatil and Pepsi, manufactured by Asahi Beverages in Australia, have yet to launch kombucha products despite what has been described as "booming sales" in the US.
But Coca-Cola Amatil chief Alison Watkins this week described it as "an opportunity."
And PepsiCo late last year agreed to spend hundreds of millions to buy the rest of the North American kombucha seller KeVita it didn't own.
Emmet Condon, from brand Remedy Kombucha, said he and his wife decided to create the business about five years ago because of their passion for the product and its growth potential.
He estimated there were between 30 and 40 kombucha brewers in Australia, and there "appears to be a new one every week."
Remedy is the country's biggest brewer, he said. It produces more than 150,000 bottles a week to sell at about 4000 sites across Australia, such as cafes, independent supermarkets, the Grill'd burger chain, and Chemist Warehouse.
"The market in Australia at a retail level is probably pushing 70 to 80 million a year," he said. "We expect it to get to 100 million fairly soon."
Repeat customers are a huge part of the company's growth, he said, whether it is people trying to quit sugar, or simply cut down on alcohol or soft drinks.
The product is not cheap - a 750ml bottle costs retails at about $7 - so Condon said Remedy is releasing a smaller 250 ml can to attract new customers.
"If we're going to have a crack at changing the drinks landscape we've got to attract a broader customer," he said.
Brands such as Nature's Way and Parker's Organic are sold in the big supermarkets.
A recent report by researchers Euromonitor International said the "runaway success" of kombucha "suggests real potential for sharp flavours with specific effects."
"Consumers still want more energy, less sugar, and ever-greater functionality, yet they are increasingly attaching great importance to products that do so through what are seen as intrinsic, natural qualities," it said.
"This is driving the surging consumption of bottled water, coffee, and tea, as well as specific products such as coconut water, Greek yoghurt, kombucha, and other fermented products."
WHAT IS KOMBUCHA?
We can only guess that's how it happened because very little is known about the origins of kombucha, only that it was brewed some 2000 years ago in China and known as the Tea of Immortality.
From East to West, its spread has been gradual but the ancient non-alcoholic beverage is now going gangbusters, especially in the United States where it's riding the trend for fermented foods and health-giving drinks.
- Sydney Morning Herald