Asheville, N. C.-based kombucha maker Buchi plans to expand its Madison County production facility in a construction project funded by $7 million in state and local grants. The 30,000 square foot facility will be renovated and expanded into the area behind the building over the next two years, adding spaces for regenerative agriculture and gardening, as well as artist workspaces.
Buchi Co-CEO Zane Adams told BevNET the company has worked closely with the state and local government in Asheville for several years, making use of government economic development programs to invest in areas where there is a high need for new jobs. The investment will create 28 new jobs, including additions to production staff, management, and up to two new c-suite level positions. The positions come with an average salary of $43,472.
According to Zane, the additions will seek to further Buchi’s ongoing “30 year project” to completely offset its carbon footprint within three decades, and will remain in line with the current facility’s carbon neutral standards. The construction will also go toward streamlining operations, including updating storage space and vehicle access.
“When we came into this space, we reallocated all of our money to go into the brewery side of the production and we’ve been able to do that while maintaining the critical mass control of our company,” Adams said. “So unlike some other folks, our capitalization plan was a little bit different. We wanted to grow from profits, reinvest and still maintain control. So we’ve taken a longer trajectory as far as growth goes, because for us it’s all about sustainability.”
Founded in 2008, much of Buchi’s retail business is focused on the Southeast. According to Zane, the company is not looking to go deep outside of its current market, but is open to strategic expansion of the brand in the Midwest and Northeast depending on demand for the product. However, the company has been busy innovating, both within kombucha as well as with new product lines including kefir soda and an upcoming shrub soda launch.
The brand’s CPG line is currently in about 2,500 stores, Adams said, including retailers such as Earth Fare and Food Matters. However, beyond conventional retail, the company has targeted a variety of on-premise customers, including sports arenas, hospitals, tattoo shops, coworking spaces, and music venues.
Buchi is also working to export its technology and brewing capacity with a kombucha facility in South Korea, he said, which is run by FOODPOLIS. The company is conducting product research and development for the Asian facility.
“Our brand right now is a really interesting experiment,” Adams said. “We are rapidly innovating and putting out new SKUs, so the new expansion will support those SKUs. We’re doing a lot more work direct with our partners, versus utilizing the existing backbone of distribution — partially because we’re more interested in that direct relationship with the end retailer.”