Rebranding KÖE: It’s Kombucha, Only Better.

Serial re-brander KÖE, the Los Angeles-based purveyor of the “easiest drinking kombucha on the market” who debuted a rebranded website in 2019 “reflective of the marque’s refreshed image,” is, according to BevNET, preparing another “colorful rebrand” in the Spring of 2022. With reduced sugar, a new look, and a new strapline:

It’s kombucha, only better.

What is meant by “better”? Merriam-Webster defines it as

  1. “to make more tolerable or acceptable.”
  2. “more attractive, favorable, or commendable.”
  3. “more advantageous or effective.”

More tolerable

The first of these definitions fits KÖE well. Their website claims they sell “the only kombucha that’s deliciously fruity, USDA Organic, and packed with probiotics.” They state that “KÖE’s flavors and our can set us apart from other kombuchas and drinks. Our five fruit-forward varieties – Raspberry Dragonfruit, Mango, Blueberry Ginger, Lemon Lime, and Strawberry Lemonade – taste like sparkling juice. KÖE is also one of the only kombuchas that comes in a convenient can and doesn’t require refrigeration to stay fresh.”

So the new slogan implies that this is “better” than other kombucha because it lacks any vinegary notes. Pasteurization eliminates the risk of continued fermentation in room temperature cans. Before canning, they assure customers, the product is “fermented for over four months.” Reports note that

According to KÖE, the formula is fortified when it’s canned, which allows those microorganisms mentioned earlier to survive the pasteurization process needed to make the beverage shelf-stable; the company worked for years to perfect its methods., May 29, 2020

The people this slogan appeals may well be the ‘kombucha curious’ who’ve tried other brands and found them too tart but are intrigued enough to try something “better.” There are also, of course, the 80%-plus of the population who have never tried any kombucha and might be willing to give something “better” a try.

It’s an interesting slogan that leverages the growing market acceptance of kombucha (which most would not have heard of a few short years ago). At the same time playing off the kombucha face response of some first-time drinkers, positioning itself as more tolerable. Not your father’s hippy kombucha.

More attractive

Comparing the current brand to the new look highlights another difference. The umlaut has gone. Goodby KÖE, hello Koe.

Pictures of the fruit shrink in size in favor of cans of different colors.

More effective and advantageous

The third definition is perhaps the most challenging. As a pasteurized product, it contrasts with the claims made by raw, unpasteurized brands like category leader GTs and Brew Dr. These are, as GTs labels claim, “Always unfiltered and unpasteurized, every effervescent sip will revitalize your body and replenish your gut with goodness only Nature can provide.”

Some consumers might appreciate the ‘fruit-forward’ taste of Koe, others the taste of OG or ‘original’ unflavored brands such as Real Kombucha and Left Field. Some beer drinkers quaff Bud Lite, others Guinness. As the French say, chacun à son goût. Like real ale champions, kombucha purists promote the benefits of a raw drink, ‘floaties’ and all. That didn’t stop pasteurized beers like Watney’s Red Barrel from taking the UK by storm back in the 1960s and 1970s. At the time, reports reveal, the brand aimed to

… give the beer a new smooth pleasant taste. We’ve also given it a much better head and altogether a more attractive appearance. Gone is any suggestion of bitter after palate; instead, there is a pleasant malty mealiness.…

Sound familiar?

Taste aside, for retail outlets, shelf-stable cans free up scarce chiller space and is “more advantageous.”

Build Back Better

As the market for kombucha evolves, there is room for a wide variety of drinks. A recent BevNET report highlights the move of brands to “go platform” noting:

Broadening brand platforms through new innovations also goes well beyond Brew Dr. Since last year Health-Ade not only rebranded its core line with more mainstream friendly packaging, but also debuted its kombucha-based cocktail mixers, a functional Health-Ade Plus line and its healthy anytime Pop line. Humm Kombucha has emphasized shelf-stable expansions to increase placements in store and has debuted zero sugar options, a Whole30 Approved line, and most recently introduced an energy drink. Smaller brands have also expanded their portfolios beyond kombucha to fuel growth; Rowdy Mermaid is appealing towards wellness-minded consumers with its Adaptonic line, Tribucha has also entered the functional “pop” set, and recently-acquired Big Easy Bucha has moved into juice shots and tepache.

The 2022 Koe rebranding is part of this trend.

As catchy as the new slogan is, it’s useful to consider how it would work for other beverages:

  • It’s beer, only better.
  • It’s wine, only better.
  • It’s milk, only better.
  • It’s soda, only better.
  • It’s coffee, only better.

What changes to these beverages would consumers expect to find? Some of these *did* herald “better” (bigger, newer, faster) trends. Out with a plain cuppa Joe, in with Pumpkin Spice Frappucino. Coke Zero. Oatly. Varietals. Goodbye Bud and Miller, hello Craft beers.

As the market for kombucha, in all forms, grows, we can expect to see more variety. The ads might say “better”. A matter of taste. But we can all agree on “different.”

What say you?

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2 Responses

  1. the_editor says:

    The day after this posting, an advert from The Bu showed up in my Instagram which also uses “Better” in their slogan. Great minds?
    The Bu Sponsored Instagram ad.

  2. the_editor says:

    Koe announce the rebrand in this press release noting:

    Koe’s new look embraces evolving trends in fashion, art, and pop culture, with a colorful background and distinctive retro “sunset stripes” that nod to the brand’s California roots. This striking design combined with Koe’s crave-able taste and real health benefits make it ideal with breakfast, to take on-the-go, with lunch at the office, poolside, to fill the cooler at your next party, at happy hour, with a snack, or at dinner — the options are truly endless.

    Adds Louisa Lawless, Chief Strategy Officer:

    “Koe is kombucha for the masses and we make it easier to make a healthier choice without suffering through the sour, vinegar-y flavor most people associate with kombucha. I like to say Koe is ‘sessionable,’ meaning it’s deliciously sippable any time of day, sometimes more than once a day! We embrace vibrancy in all facets of life and our juicy kombucha supports this. As our cans say, ‘It’s kombucha, only better’ — and we are firm believers in Koe’s better flavor, better ingredients, better packaging, and better benefits.”

    Good to know better packaging is one of four “betters”. Just what consumers want, a better can!

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