The rising popularity of kombucha

Google Trends is a free tool that offers insights into the trends of Google searches – not necessarily showing us how many people search for something in a day (pure volume), but which searches are most popular and when. (See the Footnote below for a more detailed explanation.)

Kombucha in the USA

This Google Trends graph shows the rising popularity of kombucha over the past 16 years in the USA. It took off five years ago when searches started to rise.

Source: Google Trends

People living in Oregon were the most active in searching for information about kombucha on Google. Indeed, over the past 16 years, it was primarily a coastal phenomenon. Those states with the least interest are in the Midwest and Deep South.

Source: Google Trends

More recently, over the past year, the cities where kombucha was a hot topic include Bend, Oregon (Humm, I wonder why?), Marquette, Michigan (a Superior place to brew?), San Diego (home to no fewer than 15 breweries), Anchorage (home to two), and the Santa Barbara-SLO region (three brewers).

Source: Google Trends

Worldwide

Worldwide, over the past 16 years, New Zealand showed the most interest. This is also the country with the highest number of kombucha brewers per capita according to the Booch News Worldwide Directory.

Source: Google Trends

Looking at more recent data, New Zealand still leads, but over the past year Sweden, Australia, Canada, and Singapore are now in the top five.

The UK

Zeroing in one one region, the UK, we can see how much later interest in kombucha happened. Things didn’t take off until 2018.

Source: Google Trends

The recent spike in searches that happened in January 2020 was most likely due to a BBC One TV program, that featured kombucha as one of “eight simple things you can do to live better”.

Professor Tim Spector from King’s College London looked at Steph McGovern’s microbiome (or gut ecosystem) and found her community of gut bacteria was seriously lacking. He recommended eating harder-to-digest veg, fermented yogurts and cheese along with kimchi and kombucha, for happier microbes.

This was identified by a custom Google Trends report for January which listed Steph McGovern under ‘Related Searches’.

Google Trends as a marketing tool

From interest over time, by geography, to lists of rising queries, and related searches, Google Trends is a useful tool enabling kombucha companies to research their market. Individual brands can see the peaks and valleys in the number of searches when compared to others. Here are search results for three national brands over the past year. Can you guess which is which?

Click to see which brands are which

Something happened the weeks of July 28th and October 6th which boosted the popularity of the ‘blue’ brand to within the same range as the more popular ‘red’ and ‘yellow’ brands. Marketing and sales teams can use reports like this to diagnose what happened in the real world that caused a spike in the popularity of online searches.

Savvy marketers know that it’s not just about how, when, and where people search. It’s about the deeper insights that only related searches can reveal. When does interest in a relevant term spike? What about interest in a competitor’s brand name?

Use it to look for seasonal trends. Spot searches that were popular at this time last year to predict what may arouse the interest of your customers today.

You’ll also want to see what is trending in your region. Instead of looking at the entire country, drill down into specific regions to see what topics are popular.

Search by other categories than the default ‘Web Search’. For instance, here are the results of searching for kombucha in ‘Google Shopping’ over the past year in California. This is a popular search in the rural areas of the State where there might be less availability in stores compared to the metro areas.

Source: Google Trends

Of the seven most popular worldwide rising search topics related to kombucha over the past year, three were for fermented foods (sourdough, miso, and sauerkraut). These are products that the savvy brewer might want to expand into. The most popular rising search queries (apart from the first six which were all about Brittany Broski, the annoying ‘kombucha girl’ ) list a number of national brands plus a couple of Scandinavian-language searches for kombucha recipes.

Footnote

If you want to geek out more specifically on what Google Trends represents, then check out this reference which states

Google Trends normalizes search data to make comparisons between terms easier. Search results are normalized to the time and location of a query by the following process:

Each data point is divided by the total searches of the geography and time range it represents to compare relative popularity. Otherwise, places with the most search volume would always be ranked highest.

The resulting numbers are then scaled on a range of 0 to 100 based on a topic’s proportion to all searches on all topics.

Different regions that show the same search interest for a term don’t always have the same total search volumes.

This blog post clarifies the value of normalized data:

That normalization is really important: the number of people searching on Google changes constantly — in 2004 search volume was much smaller than it is today, so raw search numbers wouldn’t give you any way to compare searches then and now. By normalizing our data, we can make deeper insights: comparing different dates, different countries or different cities.

Understanding the percent increase in a search topic can be a useful way to understand how much rise in interest there is in a topic. This percent increase is based on a topic’s growth in search interest over a distinct period of time compared to the previous period.

Those “spikes” are a sudden acceleration of search interest in a topic, compared to usual search volume. We know these are interesting because they are often reflective of what’s going on in the real world.

Finally, here’s a explanation of the difference between ‘rising’ and ‘top’ related searches:

Top searches are terms that are most frequently searched with the term you entered in the same search session, within the chosen category, country, or region. If you didn’t enter a search term, top searches overall are shown.

Rising searches are terms that were searched for with the keyword you entered (or overall searches, if no keyword was entered), which had the most significant growth in volume in the requested time period. For each rising search term, you see a percentage of the term’s growth compared to the previous time period. If you see “Breakout” instead of a percentage, it means that the search term grew by more than 5000%.

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