Do Kombucha companies exploit women on Instagram?

Sex sells–no matter if you are peddling Bentley’s or ‘booch.

As Wikipedia notes:

Sex is present in promotional messages for a wide range of branded goods. Ads often feature provocative images of well-defined women (and men) in revealing outfits and postures selling things such as clothing, alcohol, beauty products, and fragrances. Advertisers such as Calvin Klein, Victoria’s Secret, and Pepsi (just to name a few) use these images to cultivate a sexy media presence. Also, sexual information is used to promote mainstream products not traditionally associated with sex.

Kombucha is absolutely one of these products.

This is the second in a series of Booch News articles looking at kombucha company’s postings on Instagram.

The first article noted that the people are overwhelmingly young, white, hip, slender, and affluent. We shared a couple of examples. We debated whether to continue the series by looking into the use of sex to sell kombucha, or save this for later, after we’d reviewed product images, brewery photos and the rest. We decided it was best to clear the air and address this issue up front. Then we can move on.

So take a look at the images in these collections–all taken from the first 230 accounts we followed on @Boochnews (we kept adding more after the review for this series was completed).

We’re not running this article out of a prurient or creepy intent. It’s blindingly obvious that if you look at these Instagram accounts many, but not all, kombucha companies choose to show a lot of flesh.

The pictures shown came from the many thousands we looked at. But they were not at all difficult to find.

Do these pictures exploit women in order to sell product?

Take a look and let us know what you think in the comments below.

Pretty faces

Pictures of attractive people appeal to everyone. The rest of us might not look like supermodels but we can all enjoy the men and women in the pictures. Maybe they are actual customers. Or professional models. Who knows? The ratio of men to women reflects what you’ll see in most kombucha company Instagram accounts.

On the Beach

Maybe it’s because the kombucha category started in Southern California (with GT Dave). Or perhaps it’s that a bottle of chilled ‘booch is great to sip on the beach.  But there are pictures of slender, tanned guys and gals in swimsuits in many of the accounts we reviewed.

There are companies that seem to relish posting a gratuitous lineup of bikini babes that gives the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition a run for their money. Again, there are some guys, just not that many.


Kombucha is absolutely part of a healthy lifestyle. No question about it. We just wonder if the target market is that impressed by accomplished yoginis strutting their stuff. As we asked in our first article, will this help companies who want to appeal to mainstream consumers cross the chasm and reach them?

Two different approaches

We hesitate to call out individual companies. But it’s interesting to compare two approaches from opposite ends of the spectrum when looking into the choices of which Instagram images to post. What motivates these companies to select the pictures they have on their pages?

Jiva Kombucha

With 580 pictures and 7,122 followers, this Australian company clearly enjoys sharing pictures of scantily clad young ladies. Heck, it doesn’t even matter if they are drinking ‘booch!

Baba’s Bucha

Founder Olga Sorzano grew up in Russia and began drinking kombucha with her great-grandmother (Baba) at a young age.  She named her company to honor her great-gran, who would find nothing to be embarrassed about in the 1,800+ images on Instagram. In the1,869 posts I honestly couldn’t find a single photo of anyone in a swimsuit or Lululemon tights. They have 4,360 followers.

In Summary

This quick tour of the way sex sells in the world of kombucha raises more questions than it answers. We assume companies deliberately select the pictures they post, and it’s a decision the owners are happy with. Or perhaps it’s up to the summer intern?

Wikipedia again:

Recent research indicates that the use of sexual images of females in ads negatively affects women’s interest. Research shows that females were more likely than males to be portrayed as nude, wearing sexual clothing or only a partial amount of clothing. A study from the University of Minnesota in 2013 of how printed ads with sexual content affects women clearly showed that women are not attracted to them except in the case of products being luxurious and expensive. Besides alienating women there is a serious risk that the audience in general will reduce support to organisations that uses the sexual images of women without a legitimate reason.

The two examples were interesting. Jiva posted a third of the number of pictures of Baba’s and yet had nearly twice as many followers. There’s an idea for a research project. Is there a relationship between the number of followers and the amount of bare flesh?

To the extent that social media is part of their brand identity,  all companies should carefully consider if their customers would find too much sex a turn off.

Unless, that is, you live in the land down under.

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2 Responses

  1. Ian says:

    Interesting to see that when we tried to promote this posting on Facebook it was rejected. It did not “follow Facebook’s Advertising Policies” which primarily restricts for “Personal Attributes & Sexually Suggestive Content”. Not a big loss for Booch News, but it reinforces what we’re saying about Kombucha companies who are using these images to promote their products.

    Facebook Ban

  2. the_editor says:

    What a difference a year makes! It’s refreshing to see that Jiva Kombucha from Sydney, Australia who we used as an example of the ‘bare all’ approach to marketing kombucha on Instagram has only posted four yoginis and one swimsuit model to their Instagram in the past 52 weeks. Way to go, guys, good on ya!

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