The organic rise of kombucha’s kingpin

GT Dave, the founder of an eponymous kombucha company, has brewed his way to billionaire status while outcompeting Pepsi and Coke.

George Thomas Dave — AKA “GT Dave,” in the big-bev biz — launched his kombucha company in his parents’ kitchen. Since then, GT’s Living Foods has become the world’s largest kombucha-crafter.

The organic rise of kombucha’s kingpin

Today, GT’s does $275m in annual sales according to a report from Forbes. The company has taken no outside funding, and GT Dave, as sole owner, is a billionaire.

A fizzy, fermented family

Laraine Dave (GT’s mom and the type of LA mother who vacations at ashrams in India) got a kombucha starter from a vegan friend, who had gotten it from a Buddhist nun.

GT hated the stuff. But later, when his mom made a miraculous recovery from breast cancer, he became obsessed with it.

After launching in 1995, GT ran his company by himself for a year — before hiring his mom as his first employee. In year 1, GT’s did $150k; by year 4, GT’s was stocked in Whole Foods.

The ’booch boom

The kombucha industry exploded from $70m in sales in 2011 to $800m last year, and today there are 350 different kombucha companies.

GT’s was the first major maker, and with a 40% market share, it’s still the biggest of the bunch. GT’s is worth around $900m.

But the kom-petition is fierce. Kevita (owned by Pepsi) and Health-Ade (which is funded by Coca-Cola) beat GT’s to Europe, and Health-Ade has undercut GT’s prices.

The future of the fizz

The kombucha category, which is still growing 40% year over year, is expected to be a $2B industry by 2020.

As big companies have entered the market, GT has diversified.

Two years ago, GT’s acquired a fermented-coconut company called CocoKefir. More recently, GT’s launched Alive (a probiotic apple cider drink), CocoYo (a dairy-free coconut yogurt), and Dreamcatcher (a sparkling CBD water).

But, according to GT, the company’s real secret ingredient is — you guessed it — himself.

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