Clearly Kombucha Launches Co-Packing Operations

Clearly Kombucha has launched co-packing operations, a strategic initiative intended to support a planned expansion of its production plant. The San Francisco-based company is currently working with two early-stage, non-competing brands and is looking for more, said CEO and co-founder Alison Zarrow.

“It’s something we are definitely going to grow in 2017,” she told BevNET.

Offering a range of services, including R&D, certification processing and bottling, the facility is able to produce organic, gluten-free, Kosher, and Non-GMO Project Verified beverages. The company specializes in small runs — less than 1,500 gallons — and has no production minimums. Zarrow said that the company’s services are the “kind of the things that we were looking for before we had our first facility.”

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“We are definitely appealing to a smaller-stage company, because we’re willing to take the time to slow down our line to get it right for them,” she said. “In the co-packing world, it’s pretty difficult to find a facility that’s willing to run extra slow so that you can taste your product while it’s going off the line.”

Although the co-packing venture is relatively new, Zarrow said that Clearly has received interest from a range of companies, including established brands seeking production on the West Coast.

“Instead of shipping finished product across the country, [they’re] wanting to make it out here,” she said.

One of Clearly’s current clients is Summermade, a new brand of “sparkling shrub” drinks. The brand was launched by Shrub & Co., a maker of shrub-based cocktail mixers, in a partnership with entrepreneurs Chris Robb and Liz Downey. Zarrow was unable to disclose the name of the company’s other client because she did not receive permission from the brand owners.

Meanwhile, Clearly is planning to debut an extension of its C-Botanicals line at this week’s Natural Products Expo West 2017. The company will add a Cranberry Maca Mint flavor along with two other “top secret” varieties to the line of fermented, probiotic botanical beverages, which launched in 2016. Zarrow said that the products “really added depth” to the brand and are performing well at conventional and natural retailers, including Lucky’s, Natural Grocers and Sprouts.

Along with the launch of C-Botanicals, the company embarked on several retail and promotional initiatives last year and came away with ideas about effective ways to market the brand, Zarrow said. Armed with a better understanding of its core consumers, Clearly is now focused on going “a lot deeper on the West Coast” in 2017 and recently landed placement for its kombucha line in Safeway’s Colorado division.

“At this point we feel like we have a really clear roadmap for what works and moves the needles for our customer,” Zarrow said.