Kombucha in California: Part 1 of 4
Kombucha showing signs of search recovery in the Golden State
This is the first in a series of posts looking at the kombucha category and consumers in California.
In this industry, high-quality data on the kombucha category is difficult to come by. Making well-informed decisions about your brand, products, messages, and marketing is challenging. Consumer search offers a unique view into what is important for consumers. By identifying which words are typed into a search engine, it is possible to identify their needs, preferences, and intentions. It’s a powerful way to access insights about your customer. And with over two million searches in California in the last 12 months alone, it’s a huge resource for any kombucha brand.
In March of this year, we posted an update on kombucha in the UK based on a report from Searchabull. I’m now excited to announce that they have released their California Kombucha Category Report specifically for kombucha brand owners from the biggest, to some of the niche brands. It is a detailed, 50-page analysis of kombucha-related Google searches in California over the four years to October 2023.
I’ve had a preview, and it’s astounding the degree to which their report shines a light on the key consumer trends, including health and wellness, how the category is performing overall, which brands are the most popular, through to which new flavors consumers are looking for.
In this and the following three articles, we’ll highlight some of the key insights they have identified.
The global commercial kombucha industry was launched when GT Dave began selling his homebrew in Los Angeles 25 years ago. Google search numbers support its continued dominance. California is the heart of kombucha in the US by search size and is amongst the highest in search per head of population.
California is a mature market, ranking highly across key kombucha search terms, particularly for brands and health aspects.
Across California, kombucha saw significant search growth over the last 20 years. Interest peaked in late 2019, declined during COVID, but has recently stabilized.
This stabilization is shown when looking at the year-over-year changes in search volume in California for any mention of the term ‘kombucha.’ The numbers show that the search for the kombucha category in California has fallen 20% in the past three years. However, it now shows signs of stabilizing at two million searches annually.
Brand ranking and performance
The bulk of searches are ‘generic’ questions about kombucha-related topics. However, around a quarter are related to specific brands. The market leaders account for almost 70% of the total. We can assume that branded search queries are usually “high intent.” People who type your brand name in a search box already know you.
Looking at the top 20, we see a close correlation with the number of Instagram Followers of California brands we report each January.
The top three brands by number of Instagram Followers match those with the most searches recorded over the 12 months from October 2022 to October 2023. There are some interesting divergences:
- Californians searched for five out-of-state brands (*)
- Several brands have good social media presence but are not listed in the top 20 by search volume (#)
- Other brands that show in the top 20 search table are not prominent in the social media table (/)
The effect of branded searches linked to major retailers such as Costco, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s will be examined in a future post.
Despite claims that public interest in kombucha rose during the COVID pandemic as people searched for ways to build their immunity, the data shows a decline in overall searches that is now stabilizing.
There is generally low brand presence in kombucha-related searches, reflecting the emerging nature of the market. Contrast this to the beer, mobile phone, and automobile markets where heavy ad spends generate branded searches. Gone are the days of people asking, “What is a car?” or “Are cars safe?” They are now more likely to ask, “MPG of a Ford F-150” or “How many calories in Miller Lite?”
Indeed, apart from the handful of leaders, much of the marketing in our industry is grass-roots, person-to-person, and hyper-local events. However, as we will show in future posts in this series, there’s value in the generic searches asking about health and wellness, flavors, and home brewing.
The content of this article is accurate to the best of our knowledge and is presented for general informational purposes only. We have no financial interest in Searchabull and make no recommendation about their products. All data (except where noted) is from Searchabull. The opinions are those of the editor.