Kombucha is Back… But Why Did it Go?

Kombucha is Back… But Why Did it Go?

by: Nate Furler, Marketing Specialist

As you may well know, GT’S Kombucha was pulled from our store shelves several months back.  This came as a sad surprise to many staff and customers that enjoy this refreshing beverage.  If you are puzzled as to what kombucha is, let me “enlighten” you with some technical tidbits.

Kombucha is a cultured or fermented tea that is made using active cultures known as probiotics.  During the fermentation process these probiotics, which are actual living organisms, produce an assortment of organic acids, enzymes and other nutrients.  Because of the fermentation process it goes through, kombucha as well as other products like kefir, apple cider vinegar and kim chi, reach their final state containing a small amount of alcohol.  The creation of alcohol is all part of the fermentation process and for this particular product typically results in this is less than 0.5 percent alcohol per volume.

Kombucha, also known as Raw Kombucha, is typically not refined or processed in any way during its production.  For this reason, its active probiotics continue to remain viable throughout the products shelf life.  In temperatures below 40 degrees, these living organisms do not die, but rather become dormant.  Once exposed to warmer conditions (above 40 degrees) the organisms can become active once again.  This resurgence of activity can lead to the creation of more alcohol after the product has been bottled.  In rare cases, the content can be slightly higher than 0.5 percent alcohol per volume.

According to federal laws, a beverage cannot exceed a limit of 0.5 percent alcohol per volume to still be considered non-alcoholic.  Surpassing this limit in a beverage would mean requiring a different label and age-restrictions to be purchased by consumers.  In essence, the original formulation of GT’S Kombucha will need to be sold in our beer and wine case, with the same restrictions for purchase as applies to alcohol-containing wine and beer.

Perceived as an easy fix, changing the recipe of the product to eliminate the possibility of excess alcohol is one option.  However, with the potential impact to the product’s possible health benefits due to reformulation, GT’S solution has been to relaunch the original formula with a new label and begin a new, reformulated version with a greater sensitivity to the alcohol content of the product.  This reformulated version will ensure that it will not exceed the 0.5 percent alcohol per volume limit established by the federal government.  According to GT’s, the consumer should only notice a lighter and smoother taste, with the same high nutritional value that you would expect with the original formulation.

As may have already come to mind, there are many other products that contain no restrictions on alcohol content but that do contain larger amounts of alcohol per volume.  Assorted herbal tinctures, vinegars, cooking wines, extracts, mouth wash and cough syrups are all sold without restrictions on alcohol content due to the fact that they are not considered beverages.

At this point in time, we are working to line up a supplier for the original formulation of GT’S Kombucha.  If we are eventually able to carry the product, it will only be available to people over the age of 21.

The new reformulated version, named GT’S Enlightened Kombucha, is currently available, to everyone, in the Co-op dairy and drink coolers.  Cheers.