What Kombucha Labels Tell Us

Nutritional Information

As with all foods, kombucha brewers are legally required to include nutritional information on their bottles and cans. This allows us to see the amount of calories and sugar in each brand.

However, labels in USA differ from those in the UK and Europe.

The United States

In the US, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for labeling. They publish detailed compliance requirements. The values come from independent laboratory testing. Interestingly, the regulations state “Regardless of its source, a company is responsible for the accuracy and the compliance of the information presented on the label.” Also, the “FDA does not have the resources to analyze products upon request. However, FDA will collect surveillance samples to monitor the accuracy of nutrition information. The manufacturer, packer or distributor would be advised of any analytical results that are not in compliance. Additionally, depending on circumstance, FDA may initiate regulatory action.”

In other words, companies are responsible for the accuracy of their nutritional information, unless, and until “surveillance samples” are taken. How often does that happen?

Source: https://www.fda.gov/food/food-labeling-nutrition/changes-nutrition-facts-label

The nutrition facts label must include serving size, calories per serving size, calories from fat as well as the percentage of daily recommended values for fat based on a 2,000 calorie diet, plus vitamin and mineral content, expressed in terms of their percentage of daily recommended values.

Europe and the UK

The Guardian reports that

While labels in the US have been regulated since the early 1990s, the same level of uniformity was only recently introduced in EU. Last December [2014], the EU passed a comprehensive provision on the required content and presentation of nutrition labels, which will become mandatory in December 2016, but technically in the EU the nutrition labels are still voluntary. The provision includes minimum font size for mandatory information, a standard presentation of allergens and required nutritional information such as energy – fat- carbohydrate, sugars, protein and salt.

Key differences between US and EU nutrition labels

  1. The EU does not require the indication of the number of servings.
  2. Perhaps the largest discrepancy between the two systems how they communicate calories. In the US, nutritional labels must indicate the number of servings per container. In the EU, all calorie listings are based on 100 mL (3.5 oz).

The Guardian notes:

Each method has its advantages – in the EU, because all packaged items’ calorie counts are measured by 100g or mL, the metrics are the same, making it easy to compare the nutritional content of food items [e.g. kombucha vs. soda]. However, in the US, carefully researched portion sizes are meant to eliminate the need to do math at all.

In both cases, consumers who drink the whole bottle (doesn’t everyone?) must check to see either how many servings are included (typically two servings in a 16oz bottle) or how many mL (typically 275mL) and multiply accordingly. However, some companies in the US (like Whalebird Kombucha, see below) will report values for the whole can or bottle.

Other beverages

To keep things in perspective, take a look at the nutritional information of a couple of other beverages. You’d have to drink a heck of lot of ‘booch to match the sugar and calories of one serving of these beverages.

Creative Labels

In addition to the ‘raw data’ required by law, we’ve come across a couple of creative labels, which help the ‘booch drinker decide on the buzz the drink will give them, as well as the flavor profile. Coincidentally, these were on cans not bottles.

Kombucha Town in Bellingham, WA indicates the caffeine content. The graphic clearly shows the can of Original Ginger pictured below has 32mg of caffeine per serving.

Kombucha Town CEO Chris McCoy states that “the amount of caffeine varies a small amount from batch to batch but it’s safe to say that it is 30-32mg per serving. Only a small amount of the caffeine is consumed in the fermentation process.” The graph below shows the caffeine for each of their flavors.

Whalebird Kombucha in San Luis Obispo, CA shows the flavor profile of their ‘booch. They also list the caffeine content per 16oz can (in the vertical gold bar to the right of the flavor image). Founder Mike Durighello states that he developed these graphics because he “wants to highlight the flavor, since we are a craft brew where flavor on top of the base ‘booch is important, and consumers can see this at a glance.”

Dry Hopped Pamplemousse (L) and Passion Green Tea (R)

Future Labels

With the Kombucha Brewers International initiative to quantify a standardized sour/sweet numerical value for different brews, expect to see more along the lines of the Whalebird label in future.

Here’s an example from the wine industry of a complex flavor profile chart listing differences in terms of: Floral, Citrus Fruit, Stone Fruit, Tropical Fruit, Honey, Creaminess, Minerality, Bitterness, and Herbal/Green.

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5 Responses

  1. the_editor says:

    Fascinated to see that ‘hard’ booch does not require any nutritional information on their label, as this bottle from Boochcraft shows:

    Boochcraft Label

    The reason is found on p.33 of the FDA Food Labeling Guide:

    Further, the labeling of all malt beverages, regardless of alcohol content, and of liquors and wines containing 7 percent or more by volume of alcohol is regulated by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). TTB does not require that the products it regulates bear nutrition labeling.

    Sláinte to that, eh!

  2. the_editor says:

    Here’s LA Brewery from Suffolk, England who include a graphic showing fermentation time on their label

    LA Brewery Label

  3. the_editor says:

    Ohio-based CTM Labeling Systems covers some of the key considerations for both hard and non-alcoholic kombucha in this June 2021 blog post.

    They cover TTB requirements as well as the rules around health claims and more.

    Of interest:

    Organic: At least 95% of ingredients excluding water and salt are organic. Non-organic ingredients can’t be used if there is a commercially-available organic version.

    Made with organic ingredients: If the product is at least 70% organic, the label can carry the statement “Made with organic” followed by one to three ingredients.

    Authorized health claims: These claims meet the Significant Scientific Agreement (SSA) standard, and statements are shown to be supported by publicly-available scientific evidence. You can find a list of approved claims here.

    Qualified health claims: These claims don’t meet SSA standards, but are still backed by some significant scientific studies. Qualified health claims usually start with “Scientific evidence suggests, but does not prove…” You can find a list of FDA-approved claims here.

    Nutrient content claims: These claims are based solely on the nutrients in your product. Such claims use phrases like “Free,” “High in,” “Good source of,” and “Enriched with.” The FDA has strict guidelines on these claims, covered in the FDA Food Labeling Guide, Appendix A: Definitions of Nutrient Content Claims.

  4. the_editor says:

    Missouri-based labeling company Pack Leader USA have a summary of ‘FDA Compliance Considerations for Your Kombucha Label.’

    They note:

    While understanding all of the FDA label guidelines can seem overwhelming, there are some basic rules to keep in mind. 

    Principal Display Panel (PDP): This is the part of the label most likely to be facing a consumer when the product is on a store shelf. 

    Common name for the product/Statement of Identity 
    Your product’s brand 
    Net quantity 

    Information Panel: This is the label immediately to the right of the PDP as facing the product.  

    Name and address of the manufacturer 
    Name of the packer or distributor (if different from the manufacturer) 
    Ingredient list 
    Nutrition facts 
    Any required allergy labeling

  5. the_editor says:

    Ron from STEALTH Naked Kombucha in Massachusetts shares his mission statement and detailed profile information for the batch contained in each bottle.

    STEALTH Naked Kombucha bottle label

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