Startup beverage company Tribucha Kombucha has raised $375,000 in seed funding to expand its production capacity.
The Raleigh company launched its line of kombucha drinks 14 months ago and already has a customer list of 100 bars, restaurants, bottle shops and other business customers, most of which are in the Triangle. But it has been forced to limit order sizes because it has been unable to meet the demand, said co-founder Adrian Larrea.
The $375,000 in funding – plus an additional $100,000 that the company can opt to take in the next 120 days – will enable the company to remedy that problem and put it in position to approach regional and national retailers about stocking Tribucha Kombucha, he said.
Kombucha is a fermented tea drink that has become one of the hottest trends in the beverage industry because of its supposed health benefits. U.S. sales of Kombucha, said Larrea, totaled $500 million in 2015 and are expected to jump 30 percent this year.
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Tribucha’s new investors include Jim Geikie, the CEO of Burt’s Bees, and Cary venture capitalist David Gardner, who invested his personal funds.
“I think there is a trend toward more natural drinks and drinks that are healthy for you and become part of your lifestyle, and kombucha fits that,” Gardner said. “And, honestly, these guys had the first one I’ve tasted that I could drink, that didn’t repulse me.”
“They figured out,” he added, “how to actually make it taste good.”
Larrea said that other kombucha companies typically stress health over flavor. But he and his partner Jonathan York focused first and foremost on making a great-tasting drink “even though our drinks are still really healthy.”
Larrea said revenue this year is on track to be close to $200,000.
“That’s not a huge number, but that has been with us doing it 100 percent by hand ... no automation at all,” he said. The “us” he referred to is he and York, life-long friends who grew up in Cary, and two part-time employees.
Tribucha will get much more bang for its buck as it transitions to automation because it cut a deal with Fortnight Brewing in Cary. Tribucha will set up the equipment it needs to buy – three 60-barrel fermentation tanks, hot water storage tanks, carbonation tanks – in empty space at Fortnight’s brewery, and it also will be able to use some of Fortnight’s production and manufacturing equipment.
“We will be able to do two to three times the production in one day that we can do in an entire month by hand at the current facility,” Larrea said.
The target date for getting the new kombucha brewery up and running is February.
Tribucha Kombucha, which is available in bottles and on tap, typically retails for $5 to $6 for a 16-ounce bottle. It comes in four flavors, including Cafe Con Bucha (coffee, cinnamon and cacao) and Controlled Burn (ginger, cayenne and tumeric).