Indianapolis-based Circle City Kombucha announced this week that it has dropped the “City” from its name and rebranded as Circle Kombucha. Along with its recent upgrade from a 2,000 square foot production space to a new 14,000 square foot facility, both moves are aimed to help the brand expand outside of Indiana and into other Midwest markets including Ohio and Chicago.
Speaking with BevNET this week, Circle’s marketing and events leader Komal Sheth said that moving away from “Circle City” — a nickname for Indianapolis — allows the brand to speak to a wider audience outside of its home state. The company’s products are currently sold in about 400 points of distribution — up from about 70 in 2017 — including on premise and food service accounts, as well as grocery retailers, including Whole Foods, Fresh Thyme, and Market District.
“We realized ‘Circle City’ doesn’t really talk about the whole product, it talks about just part of us,” Sheth said. “We felt like we are the perfectly balanced beverage, and the circle is the perfectly balanced shape. So, the community aspect is still there, but it also talks about health, taste and the environment — which are all things that we really focus on.”
In addition to the new name, Circle has changed from 12 oz glass bottles to 12 oz slimline cans, a move that both cuts unit price from $3.49-3.99 to $2.99 and opens potential placement opportunities at on premise accounts such as sports stadiums that prohibit glass bottles.
The line features four flavors: Ginger Lemon, Peach Blossom, Pomegranate, and Mango Turmeric.
According to SPINS, kombucha sales per capita in the Great Lakes region are the second lowest in the country at $70 per capita compared to the total U.S. average (ahead of the South Central region which ranked the lowest at $44 per capita). Sales in California and the West rank among the highest in the country at $155 and $162 per capita respectively.
Circle co-founder and CEO Matt Whiteside told BevNET that he believes emerging categories such as kombucha have strong potential to succeed in the Midwest, but that nationwide players haven’t invested enough in local consumer outreach. Circle has emphasized education as it also works to establish itself as a community-based regional brand. The company currently employs eight full time staff and an additional 25-35 part time employees throughout the year who run in-store demos and attend public events.
“The more hands on we can be in the communities where our products are present, the more we can build brand awareness, build brand velocity and create overall consumer emotion for our product,” Whiteside said. “The more dense you are in your distribution focus, the better you can execute when it comes to the relationships and emotions for your brand.”
Whiteside did not share growth projections, but said Circle aims to remain regionally focused with eyes on other northern Midwest markets such as Michigan and Wisconsin in the future. The company works with distributors including Piazza Produce, Ideal Food Group, and Canteen in addition to self-distribution.
“There’s a lot of great kombucha companies doing things around the country, but we think the product is always going to be best when it’s travelled the least amount of miles, handled by the least amount of people, and it’s stored in the least amount of warehouses between the time we make it and the time the customer consumes it,” he said.