Video: Humm Kombucha CEO Talks Conventional Path to Mainstream Success

Like most early-stage beverage entrepreneurs, Jaime Danek, the co-founder and CEO of Humm Kombucha, wanted her brand to be sold everywhere. But when Humm launched in 2009, kombucha was unknown to the general population and packaged varieties were available at just a handful of natural food stores in select pockets of the country. Danek and her team believed that to bring kombucha to the masses, Humm would need to reach mainstream consumers where they shop.

“What if you didn’t shop at Whole Foods? What if you didn’t want to go to health food stores, but you still wanted a healthy choice?,” Danek said in a presentation at BevNET Live Summer 2017. “Would you make that choice? We followed that path for the last seven years.”

That strategy — which has since yielded distribution at Safeway, Publix, Costco and a national deal with Target — began in Humm’s backyard of Bend, Ore. The company targeted grocery stores, coffee shops, pizza shops, gas stations and ethnic food markets. Danek noted that Humm’s approachable taste profile, mainstream flavors, and label design were — and remain — keys to its success in conventional retailers.

“It’s super light, almost like an iced tea,” she said. “You drink it just because it tastes good and… it’s healthy for you as an added bonus. You look at [Humm’s] bottle and there’s nothing about it that says ‘health.’ We are a traditional, live, raw, fermented kombucha. But it’s not about that. We label our products with lemonade, blueberry mint, apple cinnamon; they’re things that Americans get and understand [and] feel comfortable with.”

Watch this video for Danek’s full presentation, which also includes a detailed look at Humm’s innovative sampling program and pricing strategy and an analysis of why DSD distribution was critical to the brand’s growth in mainstream retail channels. Danek also discussed Humm’s partnership with the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks and what’s next for the company following the completion of a 40,000 sq. ft. production facility and $8 million in new funding.