There’s a plethora of kombucha brands emerging into the market as the category’s popularity increases. What makes Bucha different, its COO Chuck Santry told FoodNavigator-USA, is that the brand doesn’t want their product to be an “acquired taste.”
“An acquired taste is not where we’re going for,” Santry emphasized. “We want you to open up that kombucha—from the first sip, we want you to go ‘wow, this is really good.’ A lot of them out there, they’re the old-style kombuchas,” he added, referencing the sour, vinegary taste many drinkers associate traditional kombucha with.
It’s still kombucha
On staff, the Bucha team has what Santry calls a brew master, Frank Commanday. “He has a master’s in microbiology from UC Davis, and an extensive 20-year background in the craft beer business,” Santy explained. And its Commanday’s experience with one of America’s favorite fermented beverages that Santy sees as a key to Bucha’s success.
“Craft beer is a very competitive, very creative business—kombucha today is what craft beer was 20 years ago,” he added. Before jumping on board, Commanday had no experience with kombucha. “He moved from craft brewing to kombucha. He wasn’t predisposed to any ideas to what kombucha should be, which I think really helped with his development of flavors and the way we produce the product.”
“Yet he was able to maintain all of the attributes that are associated with kombucha without having any background in the production of kombucha. I think that ties back to him being a microbiologist, understanding how things react to one another.”
Though there is a long list of health benefits popularly associated with kombucha, Santry said that there are no definitive studies that prove these. “Our claim is: It delivers probiotics to your system, the product is organic, it has less than 0.5 alcohol in it, and the sugar is legitimate,” he added.
The Hartman Group named Bucha as one of its breakout brands for 2015 based on dollar growth. The brand is relatively new on the scene, but it is the seventh largest brand by dollars, constant year-over-year growth hitting $2.2 million by July 2015. The kombucha category itself grew from $5 million in 2012 to a whopping $31 million, according to Hartman analysis of Nielsen xAOC data.
“The potential effect on the shelf is that Bucha presents a product whose flavor is the primary focus, and health and wellness is secondary, though just as potent as competitors,” the report said.
Santry, who was unaware of the report before the time of the interview, was happy with the description, saying that that was exactly their point. “Yea, you’re always going to have the ‘purist’ kombucha buyers,” he said. “But with our proprietary process, our goal was to attract the crossover consumer,” adding that the team wanted fizzy beverage regulars, who are used to 30 plus grams of sugar a pop, to be attracted to their take of kombucha, a beverage that, for now at least, seems exclusive to trendy health-nuts.
Updated 2/10/16: An earlier version of this article mistakenly put down the total sales of the entire kombucha category as the sales of Bucha itself.