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Start-Up Stories – Captain Kombucha

Kombucha is growing in popularity across the UK and it’s hard to find a shop without it! In this installment of Start-Up Stories got to chat to the UK Director of Captain Kombucha, James Hudson. He talks about the challenges he’s faced, kombucha itself and their legendary fermented drink!

What is Captain Kombucha?

Captain Kombucha is a delicious sparkling soft drink full of live cultures and healthy enzymes, and comes in 6 flavours; Original, Ginger & Lemon, Raspberry, Coconut, Pineapple & Peach, Cayenne

18 months ago I hadn’t even heard of Kombucha! What is it? Where did it come from?

Amazingly, kombucha has been around for thousands of years!  But other than for a brief appearance a couple of generations ago in the UK it has been far better known in other parts of the world.  The exact origins of kombucha have been lost in the millennia but it is thought to have been first created in the Far East where it is known as the ‘Elixir of life’ for all of its probiotic qualities.   Kombucha can be made by anyone in their kitchen by fermenting a sweet tea with a culture of bacteria and yeast called a SCOBY over a period of weeks.  The SCOBY feeds off the sugar until it covers the surface area of the liquid, producing co2 and the good bacteria.  The SCOBY is then removed and used for the next batch, much like when you make sourdough bread.  We make ours with green tea, and in the traditional way just as you would at home, just in much larger scale!

Interest in kombucha is continuing to grow throughout the UK, do you think this will continue throughout 2019? 

“2019 is undoubtedly a breakthrough year for kombucha in the UK. “

The market is well developed in USA, Australia and New Zealand and we’re seeing the awareness of the category grow exponentially here.  Soon you’ll be able to see kombucha in your local supermarket, where you go to buy your lunch, and where you socialise.

How do you decide on a new flavour and know when it’s ready to market? 

Our original kombucha took years of development to get it to the delicious taste that it now has.  The population that like really vinegary drinks is pretty small, so we wanted to create something that has all of the same health benefits as other kombuchas but without the really polarising taste!  We are inspired by the great, organic produce available at our own coastal production facility and all of our new flavours go through the same stringent process before making it to market.

You have tons of industry experience, from years at Pernod Ricard to Plenish! Did this insight give you an advantage when preparing to launch?

Since day 1 at Captain Kombucha I’ve been able to draw upon the experiences I’ve had working with both alcoholic and soft drinks brands for sure.  The blue chip world is very different to that of an SME, but having a great understanding of a specific customer is a massive advantage when looking to launch a product with them; it enables you to hit the ground running and invest in growth in all the right ways.  

What’s been your greatest achievement to date? Launching in the likes of Holland & Barrett and Amazon must‘ve been awesome…

Of course! We’re really proud to work with many great retailers & wholesalers and are particularly grateful to ones that believed in us from the start. 

“We’re so proud every time we hear from our consumers how much they love the products and how they’ve helped transform their health, switching out of traditional fizzy drinks or now drinking our kombucha as a satisfying way of replacing alcohol.”

What’s been your biggest challenge so far? How did you get over the hurdle?

The biggest challenge was in producing a kombucha that doesn’t have the vinegary taste of other brands.  Our team tried hundreds of different types of tea with many different cultures, fermenting them all over a period of weeks, before finally finding the best tea and using our own culture to create the fantastic taste that the drink now has – hard work really does pay off!

If you could give one piece of advice to someone wanting to bring a new product to market, what would it be?

Test & Learn, and repeat until your future consumers are happy!

How do you go about promoting a new drink? Do you use social media?

We do use social media, but we know that the best way to grow our brand is to encourage consumers to try the product, because once they have they become fans of the brand.  For this reason our focus has been upon sampling to get the liquid in as many mouths as possible!

Where can people find your awesome drinks?

Nationwide in Holland & Barrett, Wholefoods, Independent health food stores, Amazon and lots more places soon!

What does the next year look like for Captain Kombucha?

We’re really excited to be launching our brand new water kefir drink, Oh My Gutness, into Sainsbury’s and Wholefoods.  Most people know kefir as fermented milk/yoghurt but we’ve taken the same kefir cultures to ferment apple & white grape juice producing an organic sparkling kefir drink, free from dairy, suitable for vegans and low in calories.  We’ll be pouring samples of this and Captain Kombucha far and wide and at events like Taste of London.

The future is definitely looking bright for Captain Kombucha! Can’t wait to try some? Check them out here.

Posted 1 year ago by