Keeping the Kombucha Cold Chain Intact
Authors: QProducts & Services Food & Beverage Team, Under the Direction of Kevin Lynch and Stephen Wozniak
Critics say kombucha is just another health fad that will soon fizzle out, but the market proves otherwise. Its popularity has made the beverage market soar, and it has given manufacturers opportunities to expand into the kombucha business. Kombucha brewers are impacting the beverage industry at an accelerated pace, and the rise of this fermented beverage has kombucha brewers seeking solutions to protect their brand and product integrity throughout the cold chain.
Analyzing Temperature Thresholds of Kombucha
There are important considerations in order to maintain the health of the cultures when transporting kombucha. According to Kombucha Brewers International, cold storage ought to be maintained at 34-40°F (1.1-4.4°C) to slow the fermentation of the kombucha throughout the supply chain. Unpasteurized kombucha contains live cultures and can continue to ferment and raise alcohol content over time, especially if transported, stored, or displayed without being stored in cold temperatures.
Passive temperature protection can make this happen, given that it ensures certain commodities maintain a specific temperature range during the shipping process.
Alternatives to Refrigerated Transport
It is imperative that the integrity of kombucha is protected during fermentation and during transit. Although kombucha brews best between 68-78°F, the temperatures associated with transporting the product may vary, depending on the living cultures and alcohol content. According to GT’s Living Foods, their kombucha is a raw food containing billions of living probiotics so it should always be kept in a chilled refrigerator between 33-37°F.
On the other hand, Kombuchade crafts their kombucha as a probiotic sports drink that is stable at ambient temperature for distribution and then requires refrigeration once received at the retailer. Matt Lancor, founder of Kombuchade, states “We can ship via ambient temperature. As long as it not freezing or at boiling temperatures, we are happy.” So, how do you keep the product at ambient temperature?
There are certain products on the market that capture the existing environment of the freight and help maintain a safe temperature range throughout the delivery process. PalletQuilt® does just that, in which it protects the cargo from extremes of both heat and cold. PalletQuilt® can be applied and removed in minutes, and is recyclable.
As mentioned above, there are alternatives to refrigerated transport. Most kombucha manufacturers are currently using thermal box liners to maintain their cold chain. Insulated thermal box liners are lined with reflective metalized film to keep temperatures consistent during transit while protective bubble lining cushions your items. If you’re considering foil bubble box liners for your products, here at QProducts & Services, we provide cost-effective, versatile insulated shipping liners that supply thermal protection for parcel-sized shipments. These QFoil™ Box Liners are made with a thicker foil and bubble combination for more extreme transit conditions.
Kombucha’s Impact on the Beverage Industry
According to Forbes, in response to the falsely labeled alcohol content on some kombucha bottles back in 2010, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau updated its guidelines to highlight that it would regulate any kombucha products that contain 0.5% or more alcohol by volume, or ABV. Many kombucha manufacturers took different routes in response to this regulation. Some complied with the ABV guidelines while others created consciously labeled kombucha beer brands.
To remain compliant, many kombucha manufacturers have undergone reformulation or modification of their brewing processes in order to comply with federal law. While the specifics of each manufacturer’s process remain confidential, most have manipulated the yeast, either through filtration, centrifuge, or other means.
“We have been fortunate to be able to work with the University of Wisconsin to help refine our fermentation process in order to keep our product in compliance,” said Vanessa Tortolano of NessAlla Kombucha.
In addition, kombucha has made a major impact on the food and beverage industry. Evidence-based health benefits have driven consumer demand and many people believe that it helps treat their health problems. According to Healthline, it is a source of probiotics, contains antioxidants, can kill harmful bacteria, and has been shown to improve LDL and HDL cholesterol levels. Similarly, analysts believe that more people are drinking kombucha because there has been more interest in healthier drinks. People who are moving away from sugary drinks and sodas want a little more taste than plain water.
“I was inspired by GT’s kombucha to formulate probiotic sports drinks using only naturally fermented, organic plants. I believe that we have created the cleanest, and most functional sports drinks on the planet,” exclaimed Matt Lancor, founder of Kombuchade.
Kombucha Industry Growth
Furthermore, in the past decade, kombucha has become an influential player in the global beverage economy, especially in the United States. The global market size of the fermented beverage is anticipated to hit $6.2 billion by 2026, according to a report by Acumen Research and Consulting.
In 2016, PepsiCo announced that it had entered into a definitive agreement to acquire KeVita, a leading North American creator of fermented probiotic and kombucha beverages. Similarly, in 2018, the Coca-Cola Company had acquired kombucha maker Organic and Raw Trading Co., which makes the MOJO brand of naturally fermented, live culture, organic kombucha drinks. Although the commercialized market history of kombucha is as recent as a little over twenty years, its market size and product variety are growing fast.
Kombucha brewers recognize the risk in making changes to how their product travels through the supply chain. They also understand the importance of operating a cost-effective supply chain to remain competitive in a growing industry. Through a strategic partnership with Riskpulse, QProducts & Services is now able to quantify temperature risks in advance of a brewer shipping an order.
Furthermore, QTechnical Services, a division of QProducts & Services, specializes in executing live temperature studies to qualify performance of a passive temperature protection solution. QTechnical Services collaborates with the brewer to understand their unique requirements, then creates a custom test protocol to assure valuable data is collected during the temperature study. A detailed report verifies the results allowing the brewer to make informed decisions.
Overall, the kombucha market is very competitive and is driven by an increase in health and wellness interests, in addition to the growing consumer demand for health products and natural ingredients. With the explosive industry growth and rise of various brands including GT Living Foods, KeVita, Kombuchade, Health-Aide, Brew Dr. Kombucha, and many more, manufacturers are driven to provide consumers with the best product while protecting their brand and product integrity at all stages of the supply chain and consumer consumption.
We believe in the future of this industry, and we believe passive temperature protection can continue to help this beverage market soar.