At BevNET Live in June, Mary Ellen Adcock, Kroger’s vice president of natural foods, spoke of her company’s commitment to placing healthy, natural and innovative beverages on its shelves as part of its “Taste of Tomorrow” campaign. Kroger has recognized the growing demand for these kinds of beverages and acted accordingly.
The national supermarket chain has already taken on brands such as AQUAhydrate, a high alkaline and enhanced water, Cheribundi, a fresh-pressed cherry juice, Blue Donkey Iced Coffee, a family-owned, all-natural iced coffee, and Motto, a sparkling matcha green tea that won New Beverage Showdown 5, to name a few. Now you can count in Reed’s Culture Club Kombucha.
Reed’s Inc., the Los Angeles-based natural soda maker, announced Tuesday that Kroger will take on four of its eight kombucha flavors in approximately 1,000 supermarkets across the country.
“It’s the largest selling beverage in the natural food industry,” said Chris Reed, founder and CEO of Reed’s Inc. “It seems obvious that the grocery trade would want a piece of the action.”
Along with Kroger stores, some of the other stores within Kroger’s web of grocery chains that will carry the kombucha include Ralphs, Fred Meyer, Dillon’s, Smith’s and Fry’s. Of Kroger’s more than 2,400 grocery stores in 31 states, Reed said that the kombucha will go into stores residing in more upscale demographic regions.
Reed said that he’s not sure which flavors Kroger will offer, but said that they will probably be Hibiscus Grapefruit Ginger (Stevie Wonder’s kombucha of choice, according to Reed), Goji Ginger, Cranberry Ginger and Lemon Raspberry Ginger.
Reed said that his kombucha is currently second in the category — one that is “so dominated by [GT’s Kombucha] it’s almost silly.”
“We’re the first real contender against these guys for a long time,” he said.
In a February interview, Reed told BevNET.com that Culture Club Kombucha products drove much of the company’s overall 20 percent revenue growth in 2012. He also said that Reed’s sold 750,000 bottles of kombucha in 2012 and he expects that number to multiply by 10 this year.
“If you’ve tasted this stuff compared to other kombucha, it just kills what’s in the marketplace,” Reed said.
As previously reported, some industry veterans credit kombucha’s rise to the kombucha product recall in the summer of 2010. At that time, Whole Foods and other natural retailers found elevated alcohol levels (enough to get a young kid buzzed) in many kombucha products. Some dubbed it the “kombucha crisis.” Others said that the media attention actually fueled kombucha’s progress.
In the conventional all-outlet combined channel, beverages that use kombucha as a primary ingredient accumulated $40,182,068 over the previous 52 weeks ending on Feb. 16, representing a 58.2 percent increase over sales in the same period one year prior, according to SPINS, a leading provider of syndicated market research.
“Kombucha doesn’t do well. It’s a phenomenon in natural foods,” Reed said. “Well is what we do. What they do is way beyond that.”