Profile: Better Booch, Los Angeles, CA
After spending a week in Long Beach at KKON23, I planned to drive back home to Northern California on Friday, April 21. Before leaving greater Los Angeles, I visited Trey Lockerbie, the founder of Better Booch in Huntington Park. I spent over an hour touring their warehouse and production facility and heard about the company’s growth. Listen to the podcast to hear what he shared with me.
Trey and Ashleigh started brewing kombucha commercially in 2012, distributing at LA Farmer’s Markets. Since then, they have charted a course of steady growth to become a nationally distributed brand, producing 85,000 gallons a month.
Trey discovered kombucha when his sister was diagnosed with breast cancer at 24. After learning about the health benefits of kombucha, he started brewing it for her at home.
Both had a background as professional musicians, working with Rihanna, Lady Antebellum, Selena Gomez, and Lenka. Still, they wanted to do something that would allow them to earn a living without touring.
They bootstrapped their business for the first six years before raising $2.5 million in a funding round led by Crush Ventures. In the early days, Trey drove around Los Angeles delivering 100 cases of kombucha a day out of their minivan.
They started by renting a shared commercial kitchen, working from 11 pm to 3 am since these were the cheaper hours. They then signed a lease on their own space. Unfortunately, this was misrepresented as having all the necessary manufacturing permits. They had to completely re-do the plumbing and electrical wiring. To make the numbers work, they shared the space with a cold brew coffee company they met at a local farmers market. Ultimately, that turned into a partnership that was instrumental in the growth of both brands. Finding synergies with other brands wherever possible helped to build a community of entrepreneurs working together — swapping contacts and sharing resources. In 2022 they celebrated 10 years in business.
They’ve recently started distributing in Trey’s home state of Indiana and across the Midwest.
Ashleigh and Trey believe in the environmental benefits of packaging and distributing their kombucha in cans. This Instagram post explains the reasons:
We dig canned kombucha MORE than glass bottle kombucha. It’s more sustainable, easier for us to take on our adventures, and can save you some loot when stocking up…now that’s what we call cultivation in a can.
Better Booch’s Head of Product, and quality control analyst, Joshua Herskovitz, PhD. who qualified in Food Materials at Cornell University, and is familiar with Food Contact Material testing, addressed concerns some have that the plastic lining that protects aluminum cans from the acidic liquid might leach chemicals into the drink. He references a study underway by Dr. Gavin Sacks, who he studied under at Cornell:
The cans we use are BPANI (BPA not included) lined to prevent any corrosion and migration from the can. The manufacturer performs corrosivity testing with each one of our SKUs prior to issuing us a warranty on the use of the can for our flavor. They can afford us this warranty because they perform individualized corrosivity testing on each of our product lines. As Dr. Sacks pointed out, kombucha pH is considerably less acidic (1 whole pH point=10x) than colas which have been proven to be fine. In addition, in order to be approved by the FDA for use as a food contact material (FCM) liners must undergo extensive testing in acidic environments (such as pure acetic acid) and prove to not corrode or leach into the food product. Individual manufacturers must undergo their own FCM licensing from the FDA proving that they are capable of creating food packaging to the appropriate standards of the FDA.
Trey goes into more detail about their reasons for using cans in the first few minutes of the podcast.
Known for imaginative flavors, Better Booch offers consumers a fizzy, refreshing kombucha powered by premium loose-leaf teas, adaptogens, herbs, and botanicals, low in sugar while remaining truly raw, unpasteurized, and non-alcoholic. The kombucha, brewed and canned in-house, uses no juice, powders, chemicals, or concentrates in its 100 percent tea-based blends. Among the lowest in sugar on the market (only 5g per serving), it is brimming with probiotics and beneficial acids produced from fermentation, while polyphenols and antioxidants from the tea support overall health and immunity. Better Booch offers eight flavors:
- Ginger Boost
- Golden Pear
- Hibiscus Healer
- Morning Glory
- Rose Bliss
- Strawberry Lemonade
- Citrus Sunrise
- Island Hopper
From the start, they realized entrepreneurs will inevitably face obstacles they must overcome. They were inspired by stoic philosophers who counsel that what does not kill you, makes you stronger!
A picture of Warren Buffet hangs on the wall of Trey’s office. He acknowledged the impact meeting Buffet had on him and keeps a copy of Berkshire Hathaway Letters to Shareholders at hand.
To hear Trey tell the story of Better Booch, listen to the podcast.