Will Hard Kombucha Be The New Rosé?

Kombucha went from being something no one had ever heard of about a decade ago to being the favored fermented beverage of the trendy and cutting-edge. From brands big and small, kombucha options line the shelves of most grocery and convenience stores these days. The challenge for new brands isn’t getting the idea of kombucha out there to the people, the challenge is standing out in a sea of fermented products for the drinking.

In that regard, Flying Embers stands out in two ways. The first is that the kombucha brand does have a genuinely unique origin story. Founded in the fall of 2016 under the name Fermented Sciences, the initial description is pretty familiar — disrupting the industry with botanical brews using the “ancient alchemy of fermentation.

In 2017, however, things took a surprising turn when wildfires ravaged California, and the company’s lab happened to be right in the path of destruction.

“On the third night, we stood on the precipice of disaster as a wall of fire tore through the canyon towards us. As the flames towered above and swirling embers filled the sky, we faced the complete destruction of our dream and potentially our lives,” the firm’s story reads.

They got lucky, the winds turned and their lab and livelihood didn’t burn to the ground. But with a new and rather visceral appreciation for the power of nature, they renamed their company after the thing that nearly strangled it in its crib: Flying Embers. And the company, unsurprisingly, takes fire prevention very seriously, and pledged after 2017 to give 1 percent of its revenues to regional fire safety programs and first responders.

Aside from having one of the more literal brand ignition stories imaginable, Flying Embers is also unique to the kombucha world in being a hard, or alcoholic, beverage. All kombucha is a fermented beverage, usually made by mixing sweetened black or green tea with a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY) and allowing it to ferment. The SCOBY converts the sugar into CO2 and alcohol. Naturally, Kombucha can reach up to around 3 percent alcohol by volume (ABV) — about as alcoholic as a beer — but anything sold in stores as non-alcoholic will be less than 0.5 percent ABV.

Hard kombucha ups the alcohol content by adding sugar and yeast in a secondary fermentation process. Flying Embers also advertises an “adaptogenic base of roots including ginger, turmeric, ashwagandha, and astragalus.” Adaptogenic is a term often used in connection with herbal medicine and products. Adaptogens are defined as substances that stabilize physiological processes and promote homeostasis — but it is not a recognized medical term in the U.S. or European Union.

Kombucha drinkers, however, claim the beverage has a wide variety of health benefits, including immune-boosting and increased digestive health. Hard kombucha drinkers laud the alcoholic beverage’s ability to delivery a buzz with less sugar, less chance of hangover and no associated “beer bloat.”

And, Flying Embers Founder Bill Moses is an experienced beverage entrepreneur. His previous venture was as CEO and Co-Founder of KeVita Sparkling Probiotic Drink, which was acquired by PepsiCo two years ago.

The goal for this firm, he said, is to provide another “innovative drink for millennial consumers.”

And, as of earlier this month, it will have a chance at distributing its product into the hands of more of those consumers. Until recently, Flying Embers has only been distributed in Southern California, but it is expanding its footprint into the San Francisco Bay area, Oregon and Washington, along with Southwestern states Arizona and Texas. It will also be jumping to the East Coast via New York, Philadelphia and into the New England region.

That growth spurt to nationwide distribution comes care of a slew of partnership deals with distributors including Crescent Crown Distributing, Columbia Distributing, Sheehan Family, Ben E Keith, Mancini Beverage, Matagrano and Penn Beer. The firm also said more partnership will be announced soon.

“We’re really pleased to be in business with the best distributor partners across the country. It’s a reflection of our commitment to the best-tasting Hard Kombucha, and the veracity of our label claim as an authentic kombucha that has live probiotics, zero sugar, only 100 calories and a botanical adaptogen root base.”

Will hard kombucha be summer 2019’s new rosé?  We’re guessing not, since it’s not quite as easily Instagrammable. But if it really is low-calorie, hangover-proof alcohol consumption, we imagine it will be popular with more than just millennials.



On Tuesday, March 31, 2020 at 9:00 AM (ET) join PYMNTS CEO Karen Webster and panelists Vincent Kilcoyne and Roland Brandli of SmartStream for an in-depth discussion on the need to use transformative digital strategies to remain relevant in today’s challenging financial landscape. The discussion will cover strategies that will allow clients to improve operational control, reduce costs, build new revenue streams, mitigate risk and comply accurately with regulation.