If it seems like hard seltzers are everywhere, from bars to backyard BBQs, it’s not just you.
In 2020, the US market was worth $5.5 billion, which ballooned to $8.8 billion in 2021, according to Grand View Research. For 2022, that’s expected to climb even higher.
The craze has opened the doors to sippable canned beverages that go beyond beer, including kombucha. Kombucha itself—a fermented drink thought to have health benefits—has been increasingly popular in recent years, with sales rising 128% in 2020. Combine the easy drinking of canned hard seltzer with the beloved tang of kombucha, and it’s not surprising that a new category of beverage—hard kombucha—is poised to take off.
Here’s what to know about this trending product.
What Is hard kombucha?
Hard kombucha is a style of kombucha with an alcohol content that exceeds 0.5%, which occurs when the natural fermentation process is allowed to go on longer than it typically would for standard kombucha production. Regular kombucha naturally has a very low alcohol content, but it won’t get you buzzed—hard kombucha, meanwhile, raises the ABV to 4% or even 8%.
Kombucha is a drink made using a base of tea, with the addition of sugar, bacteria, and yeast. The fermentation process is what lends kombucha its tart flavor and signature fizz. By fermenting the drink for longer, hard kombucha markers can raise the alcohol level to that of a beer or hard seltzer, and by incorporating different styles of tea, and as well as infusions like vanilla, fruit, and spices, hard kombucha can have a fruity, herbal, or floral taste. That leaves a lot of room for flavor experimentation and variety, not unlike hard seltzer and canned cocktails.
Kombucha fans claim the drink can do everything from improve gut health to heal liver issues to elevate your mood. There’s actually not much research to back these claims, but it is proven that the tea contains antioxidants.
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Why is hard kombucha trending?
According to Roger Dilworth, a senior analyst with the Beverage Marketing Corporation, hard kombucha sales are expected “to exceed an estimated $15.3 million―up from less than $2 million just four years earlier.”
The rise of hard kombucha can very much be tied to the trend toward health and wellness. The wellness market is worth $1.5 trillion, according to McKinsey. And wellness doesn’t just mean exercising and eating well—it applies to all aspects of your life, even your drink of choice. If consumers are seeking a perceived health halo to accompany how they get buzzed, the rumored health benefits of kombucha makes hard kombucha an attractive choice.
Who makes hard kombucha?
JuneShine specializes in hard kombuchas and has a range of fruity, tangy flavors. Its Coco Rico flavor, for example, is inspired by piña coladas, with flavors of pineapple, coconut, vanilla bean, and hibiscus. JuneShine even collaborated with the DJ Diplo to create its Permanent Vacation flavor. Its drinks are certified organic and made using sustainable practices.
Flying Embers makes both hard seltzers and hard kombuchas. Its flavors often combine fruit and spice or herbal notes, like Grapefruit Thyme, Watermelon Basil, and Pineapple Chili. It makes both high ABV options at 7% and lower ABV options at 4.5%, so those looking to cut back can pick and choose.
Dr Hops has four hard kombucha flavors, all in cans featuring a cute illustrated bunny. Two are fruit-based, and two are inspired by other alcoholic drinks—a rosé and an IPA. Its products feature organic products, and each batch is handmade. In addition to its online shop, Dr Hops can be found at stores like Whole Foods and natural health markets.