Once upon a time, convenience store coolers sold mostly soft drinks. Today, customers are demanding a range of beverage options. What’s more, beverage channels are blurring and healthy options and interesting flavor combinations are driving sales. Enter kombucha.
Kombucha is a fermented tea with probiotic and immunity boosting benefits that is often sold in cooler cases at convenience stores.
Kombucha is a fizzy drink usually made with green or black tea and sugar (or honey, agave, etc.) as well as yeast and various flavors like ginger or blueberry.
The beverage is known to appeal to health-conscious consumers, and it has especially picked up steam in convenience store cold vaults in major cities, and especially on the West Coast, as consumers continue to seek healthier options to traditional soft drinks. Some convenience stores also offer kombucha on tap.
For example, Denver-based Choice Markets features 40 different SKUs of bottled kombucha in the cold vault, and in addition it features kombucha on tap. Portland-based Green Zebra Grocery, which is known as a health-focused convenience store was one of the first to feature on-tap kombucha. Now, the trend toward kombucha has gone mainstream. In December 2020, 7-Eleven announced it was rolling out KÖE Kombucha in a range of flavors to 1,300-plus locations in Southern California.
With its range of interesting flavors — which resonate with Millennials who love flavor experimentation — and carbonated kick, combined with its health properties, kombucha continues to hold its own at convenience stores.
The beverage is touted for aiding digestion, promoting gut-health (those probiotics), as well as offering an antioxidant boost, beneficial bacteria, acids and enzymes (that also help with the digestive process). Some kombucha fans believe it can even help prevent disease and promote longevity.
Kombucha contains very low levels of alcohol, usually under 0.5%. Hard kombucha also exists with alcohol levels similar to your typical craft beer.
Home-brewing trends have helped boost kombucha’s popularity. To home-brew kombucha do-it-yourself (DIY)-inspired consumers need to obtain a SCOBY — which stands for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast — and then brew using tea and sugar in a clean environment. But not everyone wants to wait weeks for their kombucha to finish brewing, making ready-to-drink kombucha from the c-store cooler a fast, easy alternative.
The global kombucha market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 17.50% through 2026, per Mordor Intelligence’s report, “Kombucha Market – Growth, Trends, COVID-19 Impact and Forecasts (2021 – 2026).”