Brewed Here, Popular Everywhere
While the word "kombucha" may have its roots in Japanese, it was all Greek to Quebecers for the longest time. Today, the fermented, tea-based sparkling beverage is better known inside the province, in part thanks to Montréal company RISE Kombucha, whose bottles sit on the shelves of all the big supermarkets.
It's hard to describe kombucha to those who've never tasted it: effervescent, a touch sweet, rich with a slight taste of vinegar, to which the manufacturer adds their unique flavour. RISE offers six, including ginger, rose schizandra, and the very Québécois combination of blueberry and maple syrup.
The company was born inside the Crudessence restaurant kitchen. Their homemade kombucha, the first brewed in Québec, was the delight of customers looking for healthy and organic food. The beverage was so popular that the establishment's owners decided to dedicate an entire division to it in 2012. RISE was born.
Today, the Mile End office is no longer in use; its production capacity can no longer meet demand. Yet Giacomelli never considered leaving the metropolis. Montréal has a "very advanced" culture of innovation, a "highly qualified" workforce, and is receptive "to what we produce." He therefore opted for Saint-Leonard, and a factory where 80 employees will soon be able to churn out 1.2 million bottles per month.
This capacity is essential to tackle RISE's next challenge: breaking into the American market. According to a MarketsandMarkets report, worldwide sales of kombucha will amount to US $1.8 billion by 2020, and a substantial part of this market is going to be concentrated in our neighbour to the south.
The businessman's ultimate objective, however, is not to monopolize market shares but to "kill sugary soft drinks by replacing them with healthier dietary habits. It's our craziest dream."
RISE Kombucha is one of the 30 companies that participated in Montréal's Parcours Innovation PME 2015 [in French], an initiative whose objective is to stimulate growth in Montréal's small and medium-sized enterprises. The program's participants benefit from personalized services and consulting to help solve their business issues, such as the development of new markets internationally.