Laird Superfood was founded in 2015 and has turned into a thriving natural foods company, according to Hodge. In January, the brand closed a $32m funding round led by tech company, WeWork, to fuel its growth into new categories beyond its plant-based coffee creamers fortified with essential fats from coconut oil and the marine mineral complex, Aquamin.
"The goal was to create something that we could all get behind and follows our company ethos. Kombucha is a product that hits home for Laird and [his wife] Gabby [a former professional beach volleyball player] because it's something they drink on a daily basis," Hodge told FoodNavigator-USA.
"Even if kombucha was a declining industry, we’d still be making it," Hodge said.
US retail sales of refrigerated kombucha and other fermented beverages (including hard kombucha) were up 21% to $728.8m in measured channels for the year ended Feb. 24, 2019 driven by double digits sales gain in conventional (+28%) and convenience (+55.3%) channels.
Cornering on-tap kombucha market
"For our first step, it’s much easier to produce a product in kegs, we’ve got immediate demand in that space," Hodge said.
Laird Superfood kombucha will be available on tap in three varieties (pineapple ginger, berry ginger, and lemon-honey) targeting food service outlets, corporate offices, and grocery stores. (The company debuted its kombucha at the NAMA trade show in Las Vegas this week and is now taking commercial orders.)
Laird Superfood has entered many corporate offices offering on-tap beverages since partnering with beverage equipment manufacturer, BUNN, to roll out its superfood latte machines made with the company's fortified non-dairy creamers.
"We’ve been really pushing hard into the corporate office space environment and food service. That’s been an explosive growth area for us," Hodge said.
Laird Superfood has partnered with Belmont Coffee Services to introduce the kombucha on-tap set up to its corporate clients in the Portland, Oregon, area.
"We've been incredibly impressed with the Laird Superfood platform. Their new organic kombucha line delivers a natural fruit taste profile combined with an elegant effervescence that is absolutely delicious," commented Eric Hermeling, founder and owner of Belmont Coffee Services.
"Given that Portland, Oregon, is the kombucha capital of the world, we are confident Belmont's corporate customers will embrace the Laird Superfood products as we have."
According to SPINS data, sales of kombucha are strongest on the West Coast with ginger and berries being the top flavor profiles.
Not launching in the crowded bottled kombucha space will also give Laird Superfood a point of differentiation as it forges a spot in the kombucha category, Hodge said. The goal is to establish Laird Superfood's kombucha as 'clean and authentic', something the kombucha industry has been struggling to nail down. However, trade association Kombucha Brewers International (KBI) said it would publish a standard definition next month.
"It’s a bit of a crowded space and that doesn’t intimidate us in any way, our goal is just to make the most authentic products that match our own daily lifestyles," he added.
According to Laird Superfood, its kombucha is made via a fermentation process of 'sweet tea' using a symbiotic culture of yeast and bacteria. Once fermentation is complete, fruits and spices are introduced to the liquid in small amounts for added flavor.
"The Laird Superfood kombucha goes well above industry standards of quality and probiotic content using only the purest organic, non-GMO ingredients. The kombucha does not go through a pasteurization process, and is a raw product,” the company said.
Hodge added that over the next 24 months Laird Superfood will be releasing more products that fit into more areas of the grocery store.