The kombucha health drink category has seen lift off in the last year, taking organic brand MOJO Crafted with it and leading to plant expansion for the brand owner.
Just under ten years ago, South Australian company Organic & Raw took a chance on a new beverage category that was seeing strong uptake in the US market at the time. The product was kombucha, a lightly sparkling beverage made from fermented tea that is claimed to supports good gut health and assist protein utilisation.
This week, the company announced it had hit the 5-million-bottle production milestone, with a large part of that volume coming through in the past year.
“In the last twelve months, with the growing movement away from high sugar soft drinks, kombucha has come into its own in the Australian market,” Andrew Buttery, business development manager for kombucha brand MOJO Crafted, told Food & Drink Business.
This has led to rapid growth for the business, which has expanded the sales team and doubled distribution year on year.
“We're running double shifts and next up we’re investing $500 000 to increase bottling line capacity, fermentation capacity and blending tanks,” Buttery said.
The company is working with beverage equipment supplier FP Propak to develop the new bottling line.
Project engineer at FB Propak, Robert Ciampa, explained that FB Propak originally supplied a custom bottling line for Mojo, which allowed the company to increase production efficiency as demand increased.
“Now that they have grown we are looking to improve on what we started by providing a second line that is able to produce up to 2500 bottles per hour of kombucha,” Ciampi told Food & Drink Business.
“The new semi-automatic line will include a labeller, rinser, filler and capper, specifically designed to meet the requirements for their unique product.
“Being able to run both the original and second line will give them more flexibility going forward in meeting the demands of their different SKUs,” Ciampa said.
Increased production has also seen jobs created, with six new staff members joining the team in production, logistics and management, in addition to four new positions in sales. More hires on the marketing side of the business are expected in the next few months.
“Sometimes expansion is a double-edged sword. The demand is incredible but we’ve nearly been caught short without materials – like glass for bottling. It’s definitely a nice problem to have, we’re not complaining!” Buttery said.
Product developmet is on the cards too. This year the company has launched four new probiotic flavours and says there's innovation in the pipeline for later in the year.
Family-owned Organic & Raw produces MOJO kombucha in nine MOJO Classic flavours in 330ml bottles and four MOJO Crafted flavours, in bespoke 450ml bottles. MOJO kombucha is nationally available in the chilled beverage aisle at Woolworths, IGA, Foodland, Super IGA, The Friendly Grocer and Foodworks stores.