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Former international winemakers Kevin and Alexis Moore launched Goodmore Kombucha two weeks before their first baby was born.
That was two years ago, and now bottles of their hand-crafted fermented tea are sold across the province in slightly sweet and tart flavours like oolong rooibos rose and green mint chamomile.
“When we decided to move home to Nova Scotia to be closer to our families and have our own family, we knew we wanted to start our own flavour-inspired business,” Alexis Moore says from the company’s Dartmouth brewery overlooking Lake Banook.
“Kombucha was an easy fit given how much we were making for ourselves.”
Goodmore Kombucha is one of dozens of new craft kombucha breweries that have cropped up in Atlantic Canada in recent years.
Rising demand, unproven claims
Demand for the effervescent beverage is on the rise, and it’s now available at farmers’ markets, cafes and grocery stores across the region.
“Sales of kombucha in Canada are at about $1.2 billion and could reach $2 billion by end of 2021,” says Sylvain Charlebois, professor in food distribution and policy at Dalhousie University.
It’s being positioned as a luxury health product, he says, with a price point to match.
“It is seen as a premium product that provides health benefits,” says Charlebois, the senior director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab. “I suspect Health Canada will be looking at those health claims more closely as the industry grows.”
The drink is made using sweetened tea that is fermented by a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast — or Scoby for short. Flavours can be added using fruit, herbs and spices.
The result is a fizzy product with a tangy taste that contains antioxidants and probiotics – healthy bacteria that may improve digestion and reduce inflammation.
While other claims include that kombucha may reduce heart disease, help manage type 2 diabetes and protect against cancer, these remain unproven. Critics chalk up the buzz to the residual alcohol in the fermented drink.
“From the outset of our business, we've made the conscious decision to focus on flavour, rather than on promoting the health benefits of kombucha,” Moore says.
But she adds that as awareness grows around the benefits of fermented foods, “we will no doubt see more research clarifying the specific health benefits of kombucha.”
Good for what ails you?
Although scientific evidence may be lacking, anecdotal accounts abound.
Crystal Fudge, co-founder of Bonabooch Kombucha Co. in Bonavista, Nfld., says her husband started making kombucha at home for health reasons.
“He suffered from acid reflux and heartburn,” she says, noting that his symptoms went away after he started drinking kombucha. “He doesn’t take medication anymore.”
After her father-in-law’s regular bouts of gout cleared up with kombucha, she says people in the community started asking for the beverage.
“It was really something we just started for ourselves and it grew into a company naturally,” Fudge says.
Bonabooch Kombucha is now available across Newfoundland, featuring flavours made with local ingredients like blueberries, raspberries and chaga – a mushroom-like fungus that grows on trees in the province.
In Nova Scotia, Cove Kombucha plans to soon launch Canada’s first ever kombucha infused with cannabidiol, or CBD — a non-psychoactive derivative of cannabis that may help treat conditions like pain, insomnia, and anxiety.
The company, one of the fastest growing kombucha brewers in Canada, recently closed a $1.2 million seed fundraising round to help cover research and development costs.
“We’re trying to become a full wellness company and that’s where CBD comes into play,” says John Maclellan, CEO and co-founder of Cove Kombucha.
“As soon as we heard it would be become legalized, we jumped on that opportunity and started meeting with licensed producers.”
Charlebois says it’s a smart move for the company, already on store shelves at Sobeys and Costco in the region.
“I do see value in the strategy between kombucha and CBD,” he says. “It could complement kombucha quite well and attract more consumers.”