Kombucha founder GT Dave’s sales slump recovery and direct to consumer


  • GT Dave, founder and CEO of GT’s Living Foods, began his firm as a teen in 1995, home-brewing in his mother and father’ kitchen and pitching his means into well being and grocery shops.
  • The coronavirus pandemic has been a curler coaster for the corporate — it began with a spike in sales, then a dramatic drop.
  • This pushed GT’s to change its advertising and marketing technique and begin direct-to-consumer sales to meet the demand for its well-liked drink. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for extra tales.

Kombucha, the fermented tea drink that tastes a bit like glowing apple cider vinegar, has gained mainstream reputation in recent times for its supposed well being advantages — although the drink is assumed to have originated greater than 2,000 years in the past in Manchuria, China. 

GT’s Living Foods is the most well-liked kombucha maker within the US, with 48% market share in accordance to wellness-focused information tech firm SPINS. Founder and CEO, GT Dave, began the Southern California-based firm as a teen in 1995. He residence brewed bottles in his mother and father’ kitchen and then pitched his means into well being and grocery shops. 

The coronavirus pandemic has been a curler coaster for the corporate. It began with a spike in sales as individuals frantically cleaned retailer cabinets and stocked up on well being merchandise. Then got here a dramatic drop in sales as extra individuals labored from residence, or misplaced their jobs, and lower their spending. Basic necessities like milk, eggs, and orange juice dominated the refrigerated aisles.

“People weren’t going to work, which influences their shopping behavior. They’re spending a lot more time at home, which influences their eating behavior,” Dave advised Business Insider.

The slowdown lasted a few month till shops found out how to handle cabinets and meet demand. GT’s step by step rebounded and sought new methods to attain its prospects, like promoting direct-to-consumer for the primary time. 

Through the ups and downs, Dave discovered new advertising and marketing methods and management abilities. He shared his perception with Business Insider.

Identifying demand for a pivot from shops to residence supply

GT's Living Foods kombucha bottles

GT’s Living Foods produces kombucha in a number of completely different flavors.

Courtesy of GT’s Living Foods


The greatest change for the corporate got here when it pivoted to ecommerce. GT’s seen a requirement for on-line sales as grocery retailer traces bought longer and individuals have been nervous to depart their houses. 

“We saw the whole spectrum of the reasons why people couldn’t access our product, but the one common denominator is they still wanted our product. So we needed to make sure that we had a solution to that,” Dave stated. 

Customers requested if they might buy GT’s kombucha on-line, and they have been keen to pay the transport price. The firm shortly partnered with a neighborhood distributor that was wanting to make up enterprise misplaced in the course of the pandemic. GT’s began by providing residence supply within the Greater Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Diego areas and plans to broaden to different states. 

Ecommerce isn’t but 10% of GT’s sales, however Dave believes it is a mandatory step to adapt to accelerated traits in the best way individuals need to store. A platform like Amazon would not be proper for GT’s, even when it will’ve been loads simpler. Like many manufacturers, the corporate can have to carve out its personal ecommerce options to meet on-line demand.

“We have learned we really need to develop our own network, whether it’s utilizing retailers, distributors, our own warehouses, or all the above, to find a way, regardless of where somebody lives, to get them product,” he stated. 

Clarifying advertising and marketing to clear up product misconceptions 

GT Dave, founder of GT's Living Foods

GT Dave began his firm in 1995 out of his dad or mum’s kitchen.

Courtesy of GT’s Living Foods


GT’s discovered itself in a precarious place from the onset of the pandemic, as prospects requested whether or not kombucha would assist struggle signs of COVID-19 and even stop them from contracting the virus. The model does not substantiate these claims, nor are the advantages of kombucha backed by a lot scientific analysis, however GT does swear by the drink’s help to his total well being. 

The firm shifted its advertising and marketing away from product photographs and promotions to concentrate on a holistic, wholesome life-style to discuss issues like the advantages of ginger and turmeric, or getting extra sleep and ingesting extra water.

“There was this impression that a lot of brands were trying to profit from the pandemic and making somewhat empty promises about what their products could do in relation to COVID,” he stated. 

The drink appealed to a brand new, curious buyer throughout quarantine, who Dave stated was unfamiliar with kombucha however wished to be taught extra, like which flavors are the healthiest. 

“It’s always been our philosophy that if you take care of your body and you exercise and eat right, your immune system will be as strong as it can be,” Dave stated. “So at least you will be more resilient to any kind of disease or illness.” 

Becoming a extra empathetic chief

GT Dave, founder of GT's Living Foods

Dave stated the pandemic made him a extra empathetic chief and taught him better communication.

Courtesy of GT’s Living Foods


The previous couple of months have taught Dave to be extra delicate and communicative along with his workforce. “There’s more to this world than just work and people have their personal lives,” he stated. 

Dave discovered that working remotely could make it tough to sense how somebody is admittedly feeling or reacting to your interplay. He says it is vital to be extra accessible to his staff and much less inflexible in how and the place his workforce can talk with him.

“It taught me the importance of explicit communication,” he stated. “So you almost have to go add like a 10 or 20% greater effort in your communication when you’re in those remote environments.”



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