The Fifth Annual KombuchaKon conference took place Feb. 10-11 at the Long Beach Convention Center in California, showcasing new trends in the ever-growing kombucha market. The conference also educated kombucha brewers on topics related to brewing, science and business practices.
“We feel that kombucha is a 21st century industry,” said Hannah Crum, founder of Kombucha Brewers International and KombuchaKon and Kombucha Kamp owner. “A lot of our producers would like to perpetuate a different way of doing business. They care about people and the planet in addition to profit.”
The conference attracted exhibitors and attendees from around the world. The trade show had 35 vendors focused on the business of brewing kombucha and putting it on supermarket shelves. Vendor specialties included: tea, brewing equipment, lab testing equipment, insurance and more. Speakers’ topics ranged from kombucha genetics to the business of being a kombucha purveyor.
“If we think about beer and wine, they’ve had hundreds of years and billions of dollars put into research to fully understand what yeast does, how it impacts the flavor, how different techniques impact the result,” Crum said. “Kombucha just hasn’t had that body of research and so we’re starting to understand those things.”
The science track of seminars focused on quality control, which organisms live in a kombucha SCOBY and how different factors impact the finished product. Other talks covered the business of kombucha, such as the pros and cons attached to taking investment.
“This is a hot space in the market, there are a lot of interested people. Is it right for every company to get investment? How do you decide if that is for you or not?” Crum said.
Some trends showcased at KombuchaKon were canned kombucha and kombucha with herbs. Jun, which is kombucha brewed with honey instead of sugar also had a strong presence at KombuchaKon.
KombuchaKon’s website says “Defining Our Culture,” which is a play on words regarding which organisms live in kombucha culture, as well as a question around kombucha producers’ identity standard for kombucha.
“How do we think of kombucha?” Crum asked. “There is a very traditional definition of kombucha that comes from the homebrewed product that people have been making for hundreds of years. What we’re seeing in the marketplace is a much bigger category. How are we going to get specific so the consumers are clear about what they’re purchasing?”
Crum spoke of the comaraderie developing in the kombucha community. “I’m glad to hear people are starting to feel more comfortable with collaboration and feel connected to each other,” Crum said.
She predicts the kombucha market will continue to grow.
Interested in incorporating more high quality teas into your restaurant or simply learning more about this booming industry?
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