Good Culture moves into new territory with probiotic gut shots

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Jesse Merrill: 'Our consumers are looking for more convenient ways to get their probiotics'
Jesse Merrill: 'Our consumers are looking for more convenient ways to get their probiotics'

Related tags Probiotics Good Culture wellness

Good Culture – which launched in 2015 with a mission to disrupt the sleepy cottage cheese aisle – has moved into new territory with the development of cultured kefir probiotic shots featuring on-trend functional ingredients from matcha and turmeric to chaga and collagen.

While the refrigerated organic shots – which will debut in Whole Foods nationwide this month at $5.99/shot alongside brands such as Vive Organics, KOR and Vital Proteins – are not cheap, the price tag is in line with other premium functional shots, Good Culture​ co-founder Jesse Merrill told FoodNavigator-USA.

“The market for probiotic drinks is exploding as consumers are becoming more and more educated about the gut microbiome and its impact on the whole body, and shots as a format are exploding in dairy and non dairy.

"Our consumers are looking for more convenient ways to get their probiotics and dairy carriers are one of the most effective ways to deliver them. We’ve also seen that consumers are willing to pay for something that really works.”

While a lot of wellness shots have a base of apple cider vinegar or cold pressed juice, there are some established brands from Lifeway and Yakult to Bio-K Plus that have a fermented dairy base, he said.

“Sales of shots are up 150% at Whole Foods in the last 52 weeks and Bio-K is doing quite well there. But within dairy we’re delivering something we think is incremental due to the kefir base and the fact we’re elevating it by adding extra functionality.

“We have a six month period of exclusivity with Whole Foods and we have several retailers that are interested and waiting for the period of exclusivity to end.”

Well-documented probiotic strains

The new wellness probiotic gut shots, which contain 80-90 calories apiece and 8-9g sugar, have a base of kefir – a fermented dairy product. Sweetened with sweet potato juice and coconut sugar, they contain a range microorganisms “heavily vetted for efficacy,​” including well documented probiotic strains such as BB12. They are available in four varieties:

  • Pineapple + Turmeric​ to support brain function and joint health
  • Vanilla + Collagen​ to strengthen hair, skin, and nails
  • Chai + Matcha​ for calm, focused energy  
  • Chocolate + Chaga​ to boost energy and support immune health

The #1 brand of cottage cheese at Target

“When I started Good Culture my vision was always to be a cultured foods company, so while we started with cottage cheese, we’ve always had our sights on other cultured products and probiotic shots are a natural extension for us,” ​added Merrill, who raised $8m in a funding round led by CAVU Venture Partners and 301 Inc, the venture arm of General Mills, in February.

“We’re now in over 12,000 doors and we’ll continue to innovate within cottage cheese so you’ll see some innovations from us ​[in that category] next year. The Simply ​['natural' but not organic] line is the largest part of our business owing to ​[wider] distribution, but our organic line continues to crush it."

good culture cottage cheese and pineapple

Incremental growth

He added: “We’re the #1 natural brand in MULO ​[IRI multi-outlet data], and we’re the #1 brand of cottage cheese at Target and the fastest growing cottage cheese brand at Ahold and Kroger.

“What’s also exciting is that when we launched we saw that the category was driven by Boomers and older Gen X consumers and we wanted to bring younger Gen Xers and Millennials into the category, and the Nielsen Homescan data shows that 62% of our sales are coming from new behavior stages, so we’re bringing new people into the category.”

Good Culture sour cream – which launched earlier this year – is still in fairly limited distribution, he said. “But we have some innovation around this that we plan to launch next year.”

good culture packaging changes
Good Culture's initial packaging is on the left, while its latest look on the far right

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