Rene’s Kombucha was the result of a Cultured Foods demo class Rene was teaching in 2011 at Newmarket health food store, Wise Cicada. Kombucha was one of the recipes in the class. Rene chatted with the team about solidifying the company’s market presence across New Zealand.

What is your company background, how did you start the business?

After tasting the samples I had brought, several students enquired about purchasing it from me. That came as a complete surprise. I had just finished teaching them how to make it themselves. These lovely people helped facilitate my transition from employee to self-employed entrepreneur.

I started working from an unused commercial kitchen at a motel in Warkworth. In the first year all our packaging for shipping the bottles was done with recycled wine cartons (thank you New World Albany!). After a short and very enjoyable sub-lease of the Kefir Company’s kitchen in Rosedale, we are now settled in our own premises. We are enjoying ourselves now in Maungaturoto, Northland, on 20 acres of beautiful organic farmland right at the Kaiwaka River. Our kitchen building, with view on our citrus orchard, our goats, cattle and sheep, is backing onto a few acres of old-growth native bush. With Eitherway Freight we even have found an awesome carrier for our glass deliveries, willing and skilled enough to negotiate our long sloping gravel driveway.

What are the current product range and variants and how do these products stand out in the market?

We are currently producing four flavours of our Kombucha in two sizes, 750ml and 330ml. Our fruit tea-based flavours are Red Berry, Pomegranate, Lemon Ginger and Maqui Guarana. Apart from the Guarana powder in our energy Kombucha all ingredients are certified organic. We are currently in the process of getting our complete product range organic certified. As all good Kombuchas produced in New Zealand, we do not pasteurise nor carbonate our product. The main difference to our brewing colleagues in the probiotic Kombucha market is the use of Tulsi (holy basil) tea in all our products. Tulsi is a well known sacred and medicinal herb in India. We believe it gives our product a unique flavour that distinguishes it from any other Kombucha.

Has there been any recent company news?

Our move last year to Maungaturoto to our own commercial kitchen facility was followed by the release of our fourth flavour, Marqui Guarana. A 330ml bottle of this Kombucha packs the equivalent in caffeine to two strong espressos, with a gentler release curve than coffee. We are very proud of this latest addition to our product range. For us, it exemplifies the perfect combination of a probiotic drink with a decent caffeine boost, normally only found in mainstream energy drinks.

It has helped my wife Lydia through many a long night in her profession as an independent midwife. Another cool product born from necessity!

After years of eyeballing Christchurch, last months we finally established a presence there at Liberty Market.

What are the plans for the business moving forward, is there any expansion on the horizon?

We are looking on solidifying our market presence across New Zealand. Specifically, the South Island, as well as the lower North Island still, has some white patches on our customer map.

More and more cafes are choosing our Kombucha for their menu. We are focusing on growing this market.

Where are your products currently available to buy, and are you looking at or wanting to expand your availability? If so, where would you like to see the product situated?

Our main outlets are health food stores and delicatessen supermarkets across the country. We envision our product to be carried by even more delicatessen stores and supermarkets nationwide.