It’s always painful to say goodbye to a product – whenever we launch something we agonize over every ingredient, every word and brush stroke on the label, so that by the time the product is on the shelf, we almost feel like it’s a new member of the family. And yet despite an intense birthing process, and equally intense selling process, this month we bid farewell to Honest Kombucha.
We’d been intrigued by the idea ever since 2002 when I was in Europe and heard from Franck Riboud, the Chairman of Danone, how fermented foods will play an increasingly important role in healthy diets. And the rapid growth of kombucha, a fermented tea, certainly suggests he was right.
But just as kombucha exploded onto the scene very quickly, it looks like it will be a fast exit, at least for us. We’ve come to love the unusual taste, fizziness, and of course the sales, of Honest Kombucha, but we have decided to leave this exciting, but ultimately challenging, category.
According to our understanding of the federal regulations governing kombucha, it appears that any product that has the potential to increase in alcohol content during its lifetime is expected to be labeled and regulated as an alcoholic beverage. Ever since we started making Honest Kombucha we’ve been monitoring the alcohol content of the drinks – and our lab samples were consistently in compliance. But we have never aspired to sell drinks that are labeled and distributed as alcoholic drinks – it’s a heavily regulated industry, and one that is quite different from our current business.
It’s been a wild ride – we’ll miss the sparkle and tanginess of the drinks, not to mention the beautiful labels and fun flavors. There are lots of other kombucha makers I’ve gotten to know over the past year or two. Some of them will choose to stay in the kombucha business by labeling their products as alcoholic drinks, some will keep tweaking their recipes. I wish them all well, it’s likely to be some rocky terrain in the years ahead.
In the meantime, we are directing our innovative energies in other directions – we’ve developed a new drink we expect to launch next year that will introduce a completely new beverage concept – one with exciting antioxidant and taste benefits….made from a fruit that (almost) everyone already loves. Any time we introduce a new drink there are risks – whether consumers will like it, whether they’ll be willing to pay for it, whether we can figure out how to make it, but at least with this new drink, we will be facing the usual risks – which are challenging enough, without kombucha’s extra challenges.