In their mission ‘To give the world sustainably sourced functional plant medicine’, Boulder, CO-based Rowdy Mermaid Kombucha has maintained a laser focus on function-forward beverages. Their kombucha is botanically-infused with ingredients specifically chosen to improve your well-being, and with their recent shift from bottles to cans, they are getting their function-forward beverage to more people than ever.
“We believe functional health extends to the environment we live in as well as ourselves. In an effort to increase our presence and offerings while being mindful of environmental concerns, we’ve shifted to clean supply chains and more sustainable packaging. Cans are lighter to ship, require less energy to recycle, and keep our products fresher longer for the consumer to enjoy.” - Jamba Dunn, CEO and founder of Rowdy Mermaid Kombucha in an interview with BevNet
Sustainability and quality control are central to Rowdy Mermaid Kombucha’s mission, so the move to cans was an easy decision for them. With most of his background in the beer world, Rowdy Mermaid Kombucha’s Director of Manufacturing, Charles Condon, knew this portable alternative was the best package for their product and the “on-the-go” lifestyle of their consumers. With a functional beverage and a functional vessel, Charles went on the hunt for a functional canning line. Their bottling line was high-maintenance, quite manual, and wasn’t going to be able to grow at the pace that they required, so he was looking for something automated, fast, and scalable. When his chosen line included Ska Fab equipment, he knew he would get just that.
“Ska was part of the package that I asked for - I bought my canning line through PSA (Pneumatic Scale Angelus), and they put together a package of equipment and the Ska depal was part of [it]. Outside of that, I come from the beer industry so obviously Ska is a really well-known name… I have spoken to countless brewers that have one piece of equipment or another from Ska and they come with a good reputation so when I saw them as a part of the package, I felt very confident about that being the choice.” - Charles Condon
Soon after finalizing their canning line, Rowdy Mermaid Kombucha moved their operations into a brand new 29,000 square foot facility. Ryan Landrum, their lead packaging technician, felt the immediate impact of this new line. Prior to upgrading, his team would manually load bottles into the line, which meant that production was restricted by how fast someone at the beginning of the line could throw down their bottles.
“The beginning of the packaging line can be a big choke point… it was about 6 bottles as fast as you could put them on by hand, which is about 18 bottles per minute. Now we can produce much faster, even faster than I can make machines run, based on our current Ska depal... currently, we can run up to 120/130 cans per minute off that depal… we’ve been able to double production on a daily basis with half of the man-hours. ” - Ryan Landrum
Since the transition to cans, the brand has seen a 30% increase in sales velocity and produced 29% of its annual volume in the first month and a half. An impressive amount of growth, especially considering that they have been able to maintain the high quality that their product and brand is known for. Their state of the art lab makes it possible to test every single batch of booch for both alcohol and sugar to make sure that they are below the required .5% alcohol and that their sugar is right on. With their canning line, they are confident that those benefits are transferred reliably to their customers. Cans provide protection from light pollution which adds to shelf-life, beverage integrity, and allows for 24 hours of refrigeration-free shipping.
“The jump in the level of packaging equipment for us was a big one, and I think that it took a lot of people by surprise on my team, what a drastic jump we were making. But honestly, overall the transition was very smooth... we have extended our shelf life, and I do think that cans were part of that - just upgrading the quality of our packaging equipment - but also just less annoying work. That was literally someone's job - to stand there and take bottles off of a pallet and load them onto a table. So the [Ska Fab] depal really allowed us to take an entire person and move them around to somewhere where it was a better use of labor.” - Charles Condon
It goes without saying that Rowdy Mermaid Kombucha’s focus on function has paid off. They have already accomplished so much in the last 6 years, but that isn’t stopping them from continuing their meteoric rise to the top of the kombucha industry. Thankfully, their packaging process won’t hold them back, either.
“Luckily with the [Ska Fab] depal that we bought, it’s gonna provide us with the beginning of a line for this current canning line that we have, and any future canning lines that we might have, just because we bought a depal that does work a little bit faster than our current machinery, so we can expand (as we’re planning on doing) so that we can produce even more kombucha in a day.” - Ryan Landrum
Although their canning line has only been in operation for a few months, they already have their eyes on the future. They closed an impressive Series A funding round at the beginning of 2019 and have capacity to increase their current production output by 20x. The launch of their new cans happened alongside tremendous retail distribution expansion with partners like The Fresh Market, Walmart, Market of Choice and Town & Country. Rowdy Mermaid Kombucha is now available in close to 1,000 stores across 42 states, including partners Whole Foods, Natural Grocers and King Soopers.
“This move is in anticipation of some pretty rapid growth for us - so we are really going to be pushing the pedal to the metal in the next year or two.” - Charles Condon