By Charndré Emma Kippie
Most people want to make decisions that benefit their health and their environment, but don’t know where to start. For Brew Kombucha founder Alex Glenday, it all starts with changing the way we consume. The self-empowered brewer made her first batch of kombucha, a fizzy, fermented drink in her mom’s kitchen in 2015. Since then, she’s built a thriving kombucha business that emphasizes the well-being of our planet. Alex launched Brew Kombucha as of 2016. The company became South Africa’s first and only provider of certified organic rooibos tea kombucha. Brew Kombucha is committed to sustainability at every point of the production process – from carefully selected suppliers to certified organic ingredients and 99% single-use plastic free packaging, made up of recycled materials.
The company attended the World Beverage Innovation Awards in Germany, in 2019, alongside industry leaders. These were, namely, brands such as Pepsi, Distell and Coca Cola. Brew Kombucha was recognised as one of three finalists for their corporate social responsibility and sustainability initiatives. And in 2020, in the midst of a global pandemic, Brew Kombucha received a number of awards at the International Aurora Taste Challenge, including double gold for their buchu-flavoured kombucha, gold for their floral African rose flavour, and silver for their original rooibos flavoured kombucha.
Please give us a brief background on Brew Kombucha.
Brew Kombucha is South Africa’s first and only provider of certified organic kombucha. The company is committed to sustainability at every point of the production process – from carefully selected suppliers, to certified organic ingredients and 99% single-use plastic free packaging, made up of recycled materials. In 2020, Brew won a number of awards at the International Aurora Taste Challenge, including double gold for their buchu-flavoured kombucha, gold for their floral African rose flavour, and silver for their original rooibos flavoured kombucha.
What are your main career objectives for your business? How do you hope to make a difference?
I hope that by developing new ways to approach the beverage industry, we can inspire individuals to make more discerning purchasing decisions that are better for their health and lessen their environmental impact. We also hope to encourage more eco-conscious practices in the industry overall.
Please could you tell us a bit about your professional background – how did you get to this point?
After travelling internationally for 9 years in the fashion industry as a model, I completed a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and English Literature. During that time, I became interested in the connection between industry and environmental well-being, and self-studied in the field of health and wellness. With an exposure to global trends, I was seeing the evolution for functional beverages, and I recognised the market gap at home in South Africa.
Kombucha in SA – How are you finding the market? Is it highly competitive?
Kombucha in South Africa is now saturated with micro industry. Being early in the trend wave was imperative for the sustainability and potential of our business. Additionally, having a fantastic scaled and audited food safety facility has really helped Brew Kombucha stay ahead. The company also holds a transparent commitment to quality and the environment.
How do start-ups in your field differentiate themselves? Please provide 3 pieces of advice for those aspiring to make it in the Beverage Market.
- I was told by a beverage consultant who was developing a portfolio in SouthEast Asia that the statistic is that 80% of beverage startups fail. So be able and willing to take that risk, and be resilient.
- Be the first to do something. Don’t just be another brand in a saturated category, it won’t help you or the brands who were trying before you. Make sure you have some seriously strong and unique selling points.
- Make an excellent product. No one will keep coming back to something after they have had a bad experience. People expect and trust consistency.
What 3 tips do you have when it comes to customer service in your industry?
Be genuine and make people feel heard. Knowing that you have taken the time to fix or repair an issue goes a long way in developing a relationship with your customers.
Have you read any books or listened to any podcasts that have inspired you and your career thus far?
BOOK: Let my People go surfing! by Yvonne Chouinard.
PODCAST: Built to sell by John Warrillow
What is your ‘why’ i.e. Bottom line? And how do you stay motivated?
If only smaller businesses are focused on the environment, the change the world needs won’t be big enough. We hope to both build a bigger business based on the right driving philosophies. We also hope to have some influence on bigger businesses ahead of us in the game. We want to build a greener world from the bottom up, and this is how we’re going to achieve it.
Please could you tell us about 3 career highlights/milestones you’re proud of thus far.
- Being South Africa’s first and only Certified Organic kombucha brand.
- Being nominated as one of three finalists at the 2019 World Beverage Innovation Awards for the Sustainability and CSR category.
- Winning double gold, gold and silver awards at the 2020 Aurora International Taste Challenge.
What advice do you have for women entrepreneurs struggling to make a breakthrough?
You don’t need to qualify yourself or soften your negotiation tactics and your boundaries because you are a woman – your professionalism is enough.
*Interested in learning more from Top Women entrepreneurs? Check out the 16th edition of the Standard Bank Top Women Leaders publication on Issuu – Digital Publishing Platform – here.