Here's the latest scoop from beverage trade magazine, Bevnet:
It started in Maine 6 month ago:
The Federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), which sets policy for alcoholic beverages, "has been investigating the industry since it was referred by investigators in Maine, who found several brands of live kombucha, including GTs, that had alcohol content well over the .5 percent cap in the Portland, ME Whole Foods about six months ago."
What's happening behind the scenes:
Whole Foods is "requiring its kombucha suppliers to go back to the drawing board to try to more carefully monitor the level of alcohol in the fermented product as it leaves the factory and sits on the shelf, it looks like many of the producers are trying to rebalance the category in their favor and eat away at the significant lead of erstwhile market leader GTs Kombucha."
The kombucha gold mine -- GTs Kombucha did $40 million + in sales:
"Owned by Millennium Products Inc., GTs and Synergy are believed to have sales that have gone well north of $40 million in the past year."
It's a race among suppliers get back on the shelf:
"The kombucha category is considered to be a potential natural foods gold mine, and larger companies like Honest Tea and Hain Celestial have rushed in to try to capture what is believed to be one of Whole Foods’ best selling product classes."
"The expectation is that whoever can get to market quickest with a mass product that’s under the (0.5 percent alcoholic content ceiling) will take the category", said Will Savitri, the owner of Greenfield, Mass.-based Katalyst Kombucha.
What's next for consumers:
Everyone is awaiting a ruling from the TTB....
Stay tuned for more kombucha updates!
UPDATE!! Tues 8/3/2010: EXCLUSIVE! Update from GT Dave!
UPDATE! Thurs 6/24/2010: My Exclusive Interview with GT Dave, the founder of Synergy Kombucha!
Synergy's GT Dave Speaks to Media
Whole Foods Pulls Kombucha from All Stores