Although kombucha has been around for centuries, the fermented tea drink is on trend having managed to break out from its health food origins and into the mainstream. A welcome addition into the non-alcoholic category, kombucha ticks a number of boxes: it is naturally sparkling, healthy, soft, made from tea, has a variety of serves and is steeped in the mysticism of the Orient – which is why sales predictions are stratospheric aided by PepsiCo’s acquisition of kombucha producer KeVita. One of the new British producers is Wild Fizz whose founder, Gina Geoghegan, started small and now has a brewing facility in North London. Peter Dean sits down with her to get the lowdown on this new ‘booch.
The emerging kombucha market has already seen a sales increase of more than 12 times over the past four years, and is expected to continue to grow by 25% year on year to reach a global sales value of $1.8b by 2020.
In a nutshell what is kombucha?
Kombucha is a natural sparkling soft drink made by fermented black or green tea. It is made by adding a colony of bacteria and yeast – called S.C.O.B.Y., an acronym for “Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast” – to sweet tea and allowing it to ferment over time.
Is it a new drink or has it always been around and we just haven’t heard about it?
Simply put, kombucha has been around for longer than you can ever imagine! We’ve been quite slow to adopt it into the mainstream in the UK. However, within other territories – especially the US, Australasia and Europe – kombucha is already hugely popular. Kombucha is said to have adopted its name after a man by the name of Dr. Kombu brought the beverage to the Japanese Emperor Inyoko during his travels (414 A.D.). The term “cha”, meaning “tea” in Japanese, was added to his name after discovering its enhancing properties.
Why is it now that sales are booming so much?
The kombucha category is expected to grow 25% year-on-year to reach a global value of $1.8b by 2020. Sector growth is being driven by consumer desire to tap into healthier soft drinks that offer both functional benefits and support them in maintaining better-for-you lifestyles. Consumers are increasingly opting for products that are free-from or low in sugar, or meet individual dietary choices. For most consumers, free-from is part of a broader healthy way of living, as well as a a safety precaution, with almost half of UK adults choosing to avoid certain ingredients and 54% of consumers finding free-from foods with health.
Are you allowed to claim any health benefits?
We are not allowed to claim any specific health benefits, but we can definitely say that, because of the wonderful S.C.O.B.Y., kombucha is full of probiotics, which top up the good bacteria in your gut, boosting your ability to keep healthy and fit. Kombucha is also antioxidant rich, which helps to prevent many diseases whilst aiding in the detoxification process of the liver.
We hear so many fantastic health-related benefits from our consumers – and I can back these first-hand! When I first discovered kombucha, after a few days drinking it, I noticed that my IBS symptoms had pretty much disappeared. Having struggled with IBS since my early ‘20s, I had tried everything I could to manage my condition with little success, so kombucha proved a major game changer.
What is the USP of your product Wild Fizz?
Wild Fizz is 100% Organic. We believe that going organic is the most vital piece of our kombucha mission. Organic means no pollution, no nutrient depletion and no wildlife being harmed by chemical exposure. We are dedicated to delivering a healthier drink, both for our customers and our environment.
Is it alcoholic?
Absolutely not, but kombucha is a great alternative to beer. It works well as a mixer, and it is going down a storm in the on-trade.
What type of people buy it?
Because of its non-alcoholic nature, versatility and health benefits, Wild Fizz does attract a pretty wide cross section of consumers.
How long have you been producing kombucha?
Since 2016. It took me months of experimentation (all done in the flat I was renting at the time with my partner Luke), and lots of different types of tea and ingredients before I settled on the four flavours we have now. I started selling my first, literally, home-made kombucha at Primrose Hill market on Saturdays and had such positive feedback that I took the decision to really go for it. I got the help of a master beer brewer and decided to install specially designed tanks in a space up in Tottenham, north London. Since then, we have been going from strength to strength and, since about a year ago, Luke has been part of the team, too.
What are you plans for the brand?
Global domination! Seriously, we want to live in a world where more people drink kombucha than Coca Cola, and for Wild Fizz to have played a significant role in that. We’re completely committed to improving gut health across the UK – that’s what drives us.
Where do you sell it?
Whole Foods Market and Planet Organic stores stock Wild Fizz, as well as a host of restaurants and cafes. Consumers can also buy Wild Fizz online on our website www.wildfizzkombucha.comand on retailers such as Amazon, Yumbles and Farmdrop.
Any plans to launch it into the on-trade?
We launched last year in Mitchells & Butlers.
What are the recommended serves?
There’s never a wrong time to drink Wild Fizz Kombucha. It’s a soft drink that can be enjoyed at any time of the day: suitable both before and after your workout, in the morning, or to accompany your meals. It can also be used as an ingredient to make great tasting cocktails.
Can it be used as a mixer?
Absolutely! Kombucha is incredibly versatile, lending itself as an alternative to traditional mixers and cocktail bases. Great with gin or in cocktails, drinks can be premiumised by the addition of Wild Fizz Kombucha and can transform a drinks menu.
Give us some examples
Blood, Sand & Kombucha
Don Julio Blanco Tequila
Blood Orange Kombucha
Stir the Don Julio Blanco Tequila, Red Vermouth, Blood Orange Kombucha
Garnish with orange peel
Wild, Warming Chai Kombucha
2 part Ginger Rules Kombucha (ginger, turmeric, black pepper)
1 part Chai Spiced Liquor
1 part Dark Rum
Garnish with Star Anise, a whole cinnamon stick and some cardamoms and a slice of orange
Make the Chai Spiced Liquor: Add water to a pan and boil, then add 4 sticks of cinnamon bark, 3 star anise, 1 teaspoon cardamom seeds, 10 whole cloves, 3 teaspoons of black tea, some slices of orange and 5 teaspoons of sugar
Once ready, add 1 part hot chai, 2 parts ginger kombucha and 1 part rum to tall stemmed glasses and garnish