Better Booch raises $2.5m entering new outlets and channels this year: 'I think this industry has a long way to go before it reaches its peak'

By Mary Ellen Shoup contact

- Last updated on GMT

Photo: Better Booch
Photo: Better Booch

Related tags: kombucha

Better Booch has closed a $2.5m seed round led by venture arm Crush Ventures and hired Josh Rosinsky -- formerly with SIPP eco beverage co. -- as its VP of sales to launch a direct-to-consumer business and expand into new outlets.

With over a decade of sales and senior management experience in the CPG industry, Rosinsky will take the brand to a larger audience, the company said. 

“Trey and Ashleigh are fantastic operators who have built an incredible company from the ground up. We really feel this is the best and most consistent tasting kombucha on the market. We’re thrilled to support them in their journey,”​ commented Crush Ventures’ Andrew Kahn.

Better Booch has come a long way from its beginnings at LA farmers markets where it was sold in one-gallon jars, to a current weekly production run of over 6,000 gallons. Better Booch is currently sold at 1,000 retail locations in Southern California, Northern California, Southwest, and Midwest regions including Whole Foods, Sprouts, Lassens, and Safeway.

Describing itself as a premium, small craft kombucha, Better Booch completed a rebranding entering 2019 led by creative agency Farm Design to improve its shelf impact featuring a new logo, color palette, and custom illustrations. 

Better Booch Eric Rippin Hi-5
Better Booch new branding

“We are excited to use this funding to reach new audiences who may not already drink kombucha, as well as make it available in more outlets not currently offering it like bars, restaurants, and music venues,"​ said co-founder Ashleigh Lockerbie who started the company in 2011 with her husband Trey Lockerbie, both touring musicians. 

With the funding, Better Booch will launch a new website this summer featuring a direct-to-consumer online store, a first for the brand, according to Lockerbie. 

"We currently have no online business that is direct to consumer, but are very excited to launch that portion of our business with the launch of our new website,"​ Lockerbie told FoodNavigator-USA. 

Better Booch's current craft kombucha line includes seven flavors made from loose leaf teas and adaptogenic herbs such as tulsi and rose hips available in 16-ounce glass bottles or in its can format (launched in Whole Foods Market in the Southern Pacific region in early 2018).

"My partner Trey has been wanting to can kombucha for a while. Many craft beer breweries have been moving into cans because it can be argued that it better preserves the product, cans can go places glass cannot, like the beach or pool or park, and they are infinitely recyclable,"​ Lockerbie said. 

BetterBooch_cofounders
Better Booch was created by touring musicians Trey Lockerbie and Ashleigh Lockerbie, inspired to bring their artistic creativity to the beverage industry.

The brewing process

The industry as a whole has been working to put in place some parameters including a standard of identity​ defining what an 'authentic' kombucha is and how it is made in order to preserve the integrity of the category.

Better Booch is using a portion of the seed funding into research and development to continue to scale its kombucha production method while maintaining product quality.

"Unlike the beer and wine industry, brewing kombucha at scale was not widely done until in very recent history. This means that the only data kombucha brewers had available was a few articles on the internet,"​ explained Lockerbie. "We've invested our time, money and resources, year after year, into truly understanding what's going on in a kombucha brew."

According to the company, Better Booch is made the traditional way with each batch brewed individually by in-house master brewers, using a proprietary process to ensure non-alcoholic (below 0.5%ABV) kombucha without pasteurization or machine stripping of alcohol. The result is a "bold, balanced flavor profiles that are not sticky-sweet like some other on the market,"​ said Lockerbie. 

"We only flavor using teas, herbs and botanicals, so we have a much lower sugar content than some others who are adding juices to flavor,"​ she said. 

'I see kombucha going the way of craft beer'

Lockerbie describes the brand's current target audience as anyone who appreciates the time and care taken to produce its kombucha, but ultimately, "everyone should be drinking kombucha!" 

"It's so good for you, and yet also feels like a treat," ​she said. 

Lockerbie added that she sees the increasing number of kombucha brands on the market today as a beneficial for the category. US retail sales​ of refrigerated kombucha and other fermented beverages (including hard kombucha) were up 21% to $728.8m in measured channels* in the year to February 24, 2019, according to SPINS data. 

"The competition in the kombucha space has made the overall quality of product much better. Companies are forced to do their homework. Sure, there are outliers who are releasing lower quality kombucha products as a cash grab, but for the most part, I see kombucha going the way of craft beer,"​ she said. 

"I think this industry has a long way to go before it reaches its peak."

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