After spending nearly two decades developing juice and smoothie drinks, Evolution Fresh is entering one of the hottest categories in beverage: kombucha.
Evolution Fresh, which is owned by Starbucks, has begun the initial rollout for a six-SKU line of organic kombucha at retailers in seven major U.S. cities: Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Chicago, Boston and New York City. The product is packaged in a 15.2 oz. glass bottle and available in six flavors: Ginger Lemon Honeycrisp, Mango Pineapple, Ginger Greens, Spicy Greens, Pink Grapefruit and Turmeric Pineapple Coconut.
Speaking with BevNET, Evolution Fresh president Ryan Ziegelmann said that 50 percent of kombucha buyers also consume premium juice, making it a natural opportunity to extend the brand platform and create a product that is “accessible for everyone.”
“As a brand, we are constantly innovating to offer people new and delicious ways to incorporate additional nutrition into their diets,” he said. “We know that many people are curious about Kombucha but may have been intimidate by the category. Much like we did with green juice, our aim is to make kombucha flavors delicious and accessible for everyone.”
The initial flavor lineup reflects the brand’s deep roots in cold-pressed juice. Flavors like Ginger Lemon Honeycrisp and Mango Pineapple fall on the sweet and tart end of the spectrum, while two SKUs, Spicy Greens and Ginger Greens, offer spicy and savory notes inspired by the company’s legacy of making green juices. Each variety contains between 7 and 12 percent juice and is paired with a different tea base, including yerba mate, Congou black tea, Pu’erh black tea, matcha and green tea.
The bottle uses a similar visual aesthetic to other Evolution Fresh products, with the brand logo prominently placed vertically on the left side of the front panel. The product notably splits the word “Kombu” and “Cha” (which means “tea” in Chinese) on separate lines, in a subtle nod to the drink’s Asian roots.
Each recipe was developed by the company, which is using a third-party manufacturer to produce and bottle the kombucha.
“For alcohol content, we take proprietary steps to ensure that we are both bottling below the industry’s 0.5 percent [ABV] requirements, as well as ensuring that the alcohol content does not rise above that threshold through its shelf life,” he said. “Our organic kombucha nutritional labels undergo the same process as our juices, which is tested and validated by a third-party provider.”
Ziegelmann indicated that the kombucha line would not be integrated into Starbucks cafes at the present time, but that its reception by consumers will help determine where the product may go next, both in terms of retail channels and innovation.
“Each time we launch a new product, we closely examine customer response,” he said. “We use this knowledge to refine our offering to ensure our customers’ favorites are on shelf and inform future recipes. We are very proud of our current line-up and we are looking forward to adding more innovative functional beverages in the future.”