Petaluma's Revive Kombucha refines its business brew as wholesale market set to reach $1.2B
Launched at a Sonoma County Farmer's Market in 2010, Revive Kombucha, founded by co-owners Sean and Rebekah Lovett, is being taken to a new level with an infusion of capital that its founders say will enable them to expand Revive's brand awareness, grow brewery operations and broaden its distribution network.
On Dec. 20, Peet's Coffee announced it was taking a majority stake the maker of the fermented, lightly effervescent, sweetened black or green tea drink.
“Peet's approached us in early 2017, becoming an investor later that year,” said Sean. “As we worked together over the last 18 months, we had a number of discussions about what it takes to be an evergreen, sustainable, purpose-driven and profitable business. We saw the greater opportunity to fulfill this vision if we became business partners.”
Under terms of the agreement with Peet's, the Lovett's will keep their equity and leadership positions at Revive while maintaining the brand's innovative approach to batch brewing and natural fermentation methods, according to the Peet's Coffee press release. Sean is CEO at Revive, and Rebekah is director of operations and the director of compliance.
“We were self-funded for the first six years,” said Sean. “Seeking outside capital was not an easy decision or anything we ever considered when starting. Investors provided an initial $2.1 million in 2016. After moving into a new facility in Petaluma, we knew we didn't have enough resources to sustain operations and fund growth. We're very grateful for the partners that believed in the vision we had for revive.”
The same partners, with addition of Peet's Coffee, funded another $7.5 million round of capital in late August of 2017.
In 2018, Revive experienced rapid growth in California of more than 168 percent versus the year before, based on 52 weeks of IRI multioutlet market research as of Nov. 4.
Nationwide, the kombucha market was up 41 percent last year, and the wholesale market is estimated to be $354 million, up by triple digits, according to Beverage Marketing Corporation data. This category is expected to reach $1.2 billion wholesale by 2021.
TECHNOLOGY AND A DASH OF STARBUCKS EXPERIENCE
The Lovetts lived in the Chicago area before coming to Sonoma County. While there, Sean began his career during the booming dot-com era. Together his older brother, Jim Lovett, the duo founded Integrated Computer Services, a company building data centers and fiber optic networks for many Fortune 500 companies. They ramped that business to over 100 employees by 2001, when Sean decided to start his own enterprise.
“I was born into a family of tech entrepreneurs," Sean said. "Dad built several successful businesses in the car audio and electronics sectors. As a kid I loved taking apart - and blowing up - speakers and amplifiers. Technology and innovation have always been attractive to me, but like many kids, I really didn't know what I wanted to do.”
While paying his own way through college, he worked at Starbucks learning about important aspects about the beverage business and the retail sector.
“I was a pretty darn good barista!" Sean said. "Then my brother called me in 1995 and asked if I would help him with his new venture. It was a once in a lifetime wild ride, we grew fast and I worked in many different environments building computer networks, from railroad steel mills, injection molding plants, True Value distribution centers, to MCI call centers in London. I quickly learned how hundreds of different businesses operate.”
In Chicago, Rebekah was working at Whole Foods Market. She introduced Sean to kombucha as a way to kick the Coca-Cola habit.
“I was not impressed with the taste, but I kept drinking it and loved the affect it had on my body.” said Sean.
“In 2007, I exited my last business, a high-end custom home integration firm. Rebekah supported me while I searched for my next entrepreneurial journey. At the time, I was focused on improving my personal health, working out 40-50 hours a week, but I still loved to drink soda. After trying kombucha, I said to myself, I can make this better with a flavor as delicious as the beverage is healthy - something my fellow Midwestern's would drink.”
The Lovett's move to the west coast was originally inspired by a desire to learn more about the wine business.
“We have property in India that we wanted to turn into an estate winery. While I had some sommelier experience, I had never made wine. I also had never finished my degree, after dropping out to run the business with my brother. I heard that Sonoma State University had a Wine Business program. So, I figured I could finish my degree and get hands on experience working in wineries at the same time. Since Rebekah could get a job at Whole Foods anywhere, I said, let's move to California. She replied, ‘Let's do this.' So, we packed up a truck with our two dogs and drove to California in May of 2009.”