The organic rise of kombucha’s kingpin
The Hustle

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.

May 10, 2019

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.

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.

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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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