Stephen Hamway
The Bulletin

More than seven years after being founded, Bend’s Humm Kombucha is poised to become a national brand of fermented tea after inking a deal that will put it in more than 1,500 Target stores.

“2017 is the year to go national for us,” said co-founder Jamie Danek. “It’s the year to be positioning ourselves as we really want to be.”

Danek said Humm Kombucha, which was founded as Kombucha Mama in 2009, has been looking for large stores to partner with for around 18 months. The company sat down with Target early this year for a meeting that paved the way for the eventual deal. Humm will be the third kombucha tea brand in Target stores nationally, behind GT’s Kombucha and KeVita, two larger brands.

Between Saturday and Tuesday, Target added four flavors of Humm’s bottled fermented tea into 1,571 stores across the contiguous United States, Danek said. She added that 12-ounce bottles will retail at $2.99 apiece.

“It was the first time we had gotten validity from a national chain,” Danek said of Target.

Today, Danek said the company is in around 5,000 stores in all 50 states. Humm has grown rapidly by embracing a market that many other brewers of kombucha fail to reach or openly shun: mainstream American consumers.

Referring to numbers from the end of 2015 from Spins, which provides industry data for natural and organic products, Humm is just the 13th-largest kombucha seller in natural food grocers. However, Humm was eighth in kombucha sales in conventional grocery stores, and second nationally in sales in convenience stores.

In Bend, retailers from Newport Avenue Market to K Market, the convenience store at NW 14th Street and NW Albany Avenue, carry a mix of flavors. Additionally, Humm Kombucha inked a deal with the Seattle Seahawks in 2015, which Danek said makes it the first kombucha maker to partner with a National Football League franchise.

“As soon as the mainstream (market) is ready, we’re ready for them,” Danek said.

There are signs that the market is nearly ready. According to a report from Markets and Markets, a research firm, the kombucha market is projected to be $1.8 billion by 2020, with 25 percent growth each year. Danek said a lot of that growth will come from big box stores taking a chance on healthier options.

Along with Target, Humm Kombucha is in Safeway stores in five states. Earlier this year, two Safeway stores in Bend added taps for Humm’s tea. Rochele Anderson, store director for the Safeway on SW Century Drive, said the store currently has four flavors on tap.

“People love it here,” Anderson said of Humm.

Additionally, Danek said Humm is working with Costco Wholesale Corp., with an eye toward being in certain locations of the superstore by 2017.

In addition to the obvious benefits of increased sales and exposure, Danek said the Target deal helps cut costs for Humm. Rather than shipping bottles of kombucha to consumers, they can pick it up at Target instead.

“Everyone has a Target nearby,” she said.

Humm Kombucha will also be moving into a 40,000-square-foot brewery on Brinson Boulevard around the beginning of next year, and hiring around 15 new employees in 2017. Humm co-founder Michelle Mitchell said the new brewery should help the company keep up with the growing demand.

“This will be the first time in our company’s history that we, in theory, should be able to produce more than we can sell for a little bit,” Mitchell said.

—Reporter: 541-617-7818, shamway@bendbulletin.com

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