Municipalities are eager to find new ways to fund their operations and programs. Lately it has been popular to enact a “sugar tax” on non-alcoholic beverages that exceed whatever threshold the municipality has deemed as acceptable. There is a long history of enacting “sin taxes” on products that are perceived or proven to have a negative impact on the health of consumers in an attempt to limit their behavior.

Kombucha is a traditional fermented beverage made from tea and sugar. During the fermentation process, most of the sugars are consumed by the microorganisms present in the SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast) and converted into trace amounts of ethanol and organic acids. Each producer has their own fermentation process and method as well as their own flavor profile – some of which may skew sweeter in order to attract a certain type of consumer.

However, despite having some sugar present, the fermentation process materially changes the structure of the sugars – the disaccharide sucrose (table sugar) is broken into its monosaccharide components thus creating a lower glycemic impact. Also, the living organisms and nutrition in a living form (trace amounts of B vitamins, vitamin C, amino acids, etc) contribute a net positive effect to the consumer unlike comparable non-alcoholic beverages – i.e. sodas, energy drinks, juices, etc.

Moreover, many of these statutes include exemptions for products such as diet soda which, while their sugar content may be low, do contain known carcinogens. The unintended consequence is that products that are healthier end up taxed while less healthy options cost less and could influence consumer behavior in a negative way.

While KBI has been active in supporting its members who are dealing with these local statutes, ultimately, the decision whether or not to tax Kombucha falls to the cities themselves. Any taxes required are charged at the discretion of those locales and are not in any way under the purview of the Kombucha producer.

REFERENCES

  1. Jayabalan, Rasu, et al. “A review on kombucha tea—microbiology, composition, fermentation, beneficial effects, toxicity, and tea fungus.” Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety 13.4 (2014): 538-550.

Rev.090617 Adopted by KBI Board Oct 2017

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(from L to R: Elixir, Funky Fresh, Golda, Humm, Craft, High Country, KBI, Health-Ade, Bootleg Bucha)

On Wednesday, March 22nd, KBI members from around the United States converged in Washington DC to educate lawmakers about our growing industry and regulatory needs. In total, 15 member brand attended 28 meetings with members of Congress and the Senate. After a long day on the Hill talking about the KOMBUCHA Act, everyone was invited to attend a Kombucha tasting reception on the Hill. We had a fantastic turn out as over 100 different Hill staffers came out to nosh and enjoy some booch (some were seen squirreling bottles away as they left!).

KBI hopes that this buzz will turn into additional bipartisan co-sponsor signatures for the bills in the House and the Senate. Since it deals specifically with updating the tax code, the goal is to include it in any bills that might be up for a vote on the issue of tax reform.

Thank you to those who attended the Hill Climb:

Aqua ViTea Kombucha (VT)

BAO Food & Drink (NJ)

Blue Ridge Bucha (VA)

Bootleg Bucha (NY)

Craft Kombucha (DC)

Elixir Kombucha (KY)

Funky Fresh (PA)

Golda Kombucha (GA)

GT’s Kombucha (CA)

Health-Ade Kombucha (CA)

High Country Kombucha (CO)

Holy Kombucha (TX)

Humm Kombucha (OR)

Ninja Kombucha (VA)

Sole Kombucha (PA)

WANT TO GET INVOLVED? HERE’S HOW:

  • Send your Congressperson and Senator an email requesting their support.
  • Invite your Congressperson/Senator to visit your facility when they are next in-state.
  • Traveling to DC or your state capitol? Set up a meeting with your Rep or Senator. Email KBI to get a copy of the talking points.
  • Stay tuned to the KBI newsletter for updates on how else you can be involved!

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 16, 2017   Hannah Crum, President Kombucha Brewers International 424-245-5867 info@kombuchabrewers.org   KBI Applauds Senators Wyden and Gardner, Congressmen Polis and Tipton for Introducing Legislation to Assist Kombucha Makers   Los Angeles, CA – ​Hannah Crum, President of Kombucha Brewers International (KBI), released the following statement today after U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Cory Gardner (R-Colorado) and Representatives Jared Polis (D-Colorado) and Scott Tipton (R-Colorado) introduced bipartisan legislation in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House, respectively, that would help kombucha brewers continue to grow, thrive and hire more workers by ensuring that kombucha products are not unfairly subject to the federal excise tax on beer under the Internal Revenue Code:   “On behalf of the more than 250 kombucha brewers of which 150 that are members of KBI across the United States, I am extremely pleased that we have such strong advocates for our industry in the United States Congress,” said Crum.  “Senators Wyden and Gardner and Representatives Polis and Tipton – and their staff members – are terrific champions for kombucha makers, and we are deeply appreciative of their efforts and work on this important legislation.  They recognize that the law, relative to kombucha brewers, is outdated and needs to be changed, and they seized this opportunity to do so.  We applaud them for focusing on this effort to help these small businesses.”   Among other things, the legislation – the “Keeping Our Manufacturing from Being Unfairly Taxed while Championing Health Act,” or KOMBUCHA Act – would do the following:   ·​         ​Create an exception in the Internal Revenue Code’s definition of “brewer” for kombucha makers. ·​         ​Provide an exemption to the federal excise tax imposed on beer for kombucha. ·​         ​Define “kombucha” as a beverage that is “(A) is fermented solely by a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, (B) contains not more than 1.25 percent of alcohol by volume, (C) is sold or offered for sale as kombucha, and (D) is derived from – (i) sugar, malt or malt substitute, tea, or coffee, and (ii) not more than 20 percent of other wholesome ingredients.”
Kombucha – a combination of tea, sugar, water, and a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY) – has trace amounts of alcohol that can trigger federal excise taxes under current law. The KOMBUCHA Act would increase the applicable alcohol-by-volume for kombucha from 0.5 percent to 1.25 percent.  Kombucha would still have to meet the health and safety requirements generally applicable to nonalcoholic beverages. “This is good common-sense, pro-business, pro-consumer legislation,” said Crum.  “We are looking forward to working with Senators Wyden and Gardner and Representatives Polis and Tipton to try to get this important bill enacted into law.”   —- Kombucha Brewers International (KBI) is the international, non-profit trade association for the kombucha brewing industry.  To learn more about the kombucha industry, or for more information on membership, please contact KBI President Hannah Crum at info@kombuchabrewers.org or visit kombuchabrewers.org

KOMBUCHA ACT – Join the Effort!

We are thrilled to announce that the KOMBUCHA Act, a bill that would raise allowable ABV for kombucha to 1.25%, has been introduced in Congress!

On Weds Feb 15th, H.R. 1089 was introduced by Reps. Jared Polis (D-CO), Scott Tipton (R-CO), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Greg Walden (R-OR) in the House. The companion Senate bill, S. 389, was introduced by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Cory Gardner (R-CO).

The Congress Members above, who sponsored this bill and are advocating for our industry, understand that kombucha brewers are being unintentionally subject to the federal excise tax imposed on beer due to an outdated tax code. The KOMBUCHA Act would modernize the tax code so that kombucha brewers can continue to produce the raw, naturally fermented beverages that our consumers love, without being subject to excise taxes or regulations intended for the alcoholic beverage industry.

This is an exciting time for our industry, but in order to get this bill passed, we need your support!

What you can do to help:

  1. Write an email to your Congress people (Senators and House Reps) asking them to co-sponsor the KOMBUCHA Act.
  2. Invite your Congressional representatives to tour your facility, so that they feel connected to you.
  3. Join us in DC on March 22 to hold in-person meetings and educate Congressional staffers about kombucha and our businesses.

We will provide template emails, your reps’ contact info, discounted hotel rates and logistics info for those wanting to come to DC, and anything more that makes your participation in this effort easier. Please reach out to Hannah or amelia@health-ade.com with any questions or requests.

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On Tuesday, March 15, KBI President Hannah Crum, Operations Administrator Morgan Meredith and several KBI member brewers met with representatives from Congress. Since Congress was in session, many sent staff aides and legislative assistants to meet with the group.

After the meeting, all of the members met individually or in small groups with legislative aides to share samples, educate about our industry and discuss regulatory concerns with the goal of uncovering potential solutions. They also discussed ways in which the industry can generate additional kombucha commerce in their states.

The breweries represented include: Aqua ViTea, Capital Kombucha, Barefoot Bucha, Sole Kombucha, Buchi, Health-Ade, and Holy Kombucha.

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As an additional highlight, Mike from Buchi Kombucha played live music in the hall in order to generate more interest in our meeting and bring more people into the room!

The legislative assistants listened intently to our concerns and offered helpful feedback for KBI’s future endeavors. Here are some of the ways members and non-member Kombucha companies can find additional resources:

-Contact each state regarding its own Value Added Producer grants for brewers

-Contact agriculture coalitions and boards in your state

In discussing strategies to create legislation to protect the industry, it was recommend that we:

-Connect with more brewery associations

-Connect with Congress members who sponsored the Cider Act

We are delighted to have taken this next step, and are already planning a more formal gathering for Congress members in September, coinciding with Natural Products Expo East.

Want to be more involved? Contact Morgan to find out how you can assist with government outreach.

We grow together!

IMG_3023KBI President Hannah Crum will be meeting with lawmakers at a round table discussion on Capitol Hill immediately following the AOAC Mid-Year meeting. The Congressional meet and greet will take place March 15th at the Congressional offices on the Hill. 

March 15, 2016
12-1PM
402 Cannon House Office Bldg
Washington, DC 20515

As mentioned at KombuchaKon16, KBI is ramping up our grassroots lobbying efforts in order to connect with legislators who can help our industry navigate the governmental and regulatory landscape. First and foremost, will be to introduce kombucha to Congress! When Hannah was in DC for the TTB meeting in early February, she also stopped by several Congressional offices to share the KBI Fact Sheet. Not surprisingly, several of the receptionist interns hadn’t even heard of kombucha! So education is a primary focus for this first lobbying session.

In addition to bringing samples to share, we will also share Kombucha 101 to give a basic background on our product. Key to communicating the importance of our product will be founders stories because most member companies evolved out of specific health challenges that were overcome by consuming kombucha. We will also discuss the needs of our rapidly growing industry as well as share the regulatory challenges we’ve faced thus far and to discuss potential solutions.

Kombucha Brewers International expects approximately 12-20 Congressional aides at this meeting. Want one of them to be yours? Would you like your voice to be heard? Join Hannah in DC on March 15 & 16th to attend this session and to meet your Congressperson!

To participate, please drop an email to Morgan so we can include you and your Congressperson on the guest list. Also indicate if you are willing to bring samples and if you are available both days or just one. If we are not able to secure a room for the Roundtable (pending notice from our Congressional liaison), we will still be doing in person meetings on the Hill for those 2 days to spread the word about our industry.

 

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak joins members of the U.S. Congress in applauding those members who fought in the Korean war during President Lee's address to a joint meeting of U.S. Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, October 13, 2011. REUTERS/Hyungwon Kang (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)

On February 2nd, 2016, Hannah Crum, KBI President, met with several members of the TTB (Alcohol Tax and Trade Bureau) to discuss the trace amounts of ethanol naturally produced by the kombucha fermentation process and what steps the industry is taking to ensure companies remain in compliance of the current legal threshold for taxation of .5% ABV (alcohol by volume). Talking points included discussing the agency’s desire for the industry to self-regulate, the ethanol testing standard being developed with the AOAC, and an informative discussion on the numerous techniques utilized by the industry to reduce alcohol in addition to refrigeration.

The hour-long meeting was yet another step in establishing a closer relationship with the TTB in light of the letters that were sent to a handful of KBI members in 2015. Since kombucha is not intended as an alcoholic product, the TTB stated that it has no desire to regulate kombucha and prefers that the industry do so on its own. KBI agreed that self-regulation, just as in every other industry, would be the best way to reduce potential mislabeling and product quality concerns. To that end, KBI has already developed a set of Best Practices for all kombucha brewers that relate not only to alcohol testing but also to sanitary and business practices.

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While the TTB is a partner in the AOAC process, it also reiterated that its participation in the consensus-based standards development process did not guarantee adoption of the new testing standard once fully vetted. The TTB maintained that its current testing methods (distillation and densitometry), which have been in use for over 100 years and are used to test the ethanol content of all kinds of products including foods, additives and other ingredients, are sufficient for detecting even low levels of ethanol. However, the TTB representatives also acknowledged that any other testing method may also be utilized provided it is validated. KBI has submitted the current approved testing methodology with validation to the TTB.

TTB staff were glad to learn of the several techniques already utilized by the industry for controlling ethanol production in kombucha. These include filtration, dilution, culture selection based on organisms, and aeration in addition to insisting on cold storage throughout the supply chain handling. Moreover, kombucha often contains similar amounts of ethanol to juice, sodas, and energy drinks, especially in light of the fact that the flavorings for these products are often in an alcohol-based carrier.

 

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Overall, the meeting was a huge success and confirmed that both the TTB and the kombucha industry have the same goals – safe, compliant products that adhere to Best Practices. After the meeting, several TTB staff offered assistance to KBI and the kombucha industry as we continue to develop appropriate controls and protocols while determining what methods of testing will provide accurate and repeatable results. With the measures KBI is taking both with AOAC and the Verification program, we are on the path of self-regulation.

On Sunday, September 27th, KBI president Hannah Crum and and Heath-Ade CEO Daina Trout, head of LGO committee (Special Projects Team) presented to the Stakeholder Panel on Strategic Food Analytical Methods (SPSFAM) at the annual conference of the Association of Official Analytical Chemists (AOAC) to establish a new Working Group with the aim of developing a new testing standard for the low levels of ethanol in kombucha. Experts across various industries specializing in manufacturing, food chemistry, and laboratories were present as well as representatives from government organizations like the TTB.    

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Erik Konings of Nestle presiding over the SPSFAM with presenters Daina Trout of Health-Ade & Hannah Crum of KBI

Hannah and Daina shared with those in attendance the explosive growth in the kombucha industry while enumerating the difficulties with the testing methods in use by regulators in the US today. The message was clear: currently, an accurate, standard method of testing that takes into consideration the complexities of kombucha such as the strands of living culture, yeast bodies, organic acids, low pH and other factors simply does not exist. The Q & A was lively with questions, support and enthusiasm from the audience for this fascinating scientific problem and very much echoed that current methodologies need to be revised.  

The stakeholder panel eagerly took up the process of formulating a Fitness for Purpose (FOP) statement. The FOP is ultimately the parameters that the Working Group will establish before sending out a request for methods to the international membership. 

Fitness for Purpose statement: Methods need to accurately and precisely measure the ethanol concentrations to comply with alcohol and non-alcohol declarations in Kombucha in-process and finished products.  

The Working Group will now proceed under co-chairs Hannah Crum and Sam Labonia of Cornerstone Labs. The goal is to hone in on the issues that will be necessary to take into consideration for determining accurate testing methods. KBI anticipates presenting the Standard Method Performance Requirements (SMPR®) to the SPSFAM Panel at the AOAC Midyear Meeting in March 2016 in Maryland. Since AOAC standards are in use by governments around the world, including the US, the TTB (Tax & Trade Bureau) has also been invited to participate in the process and are members of the Stakeholder Panel that will vote to determine the ultimate methodology that is selected.

Armen Mirzoian Cathy Halverson of TTB Daina Trout Hannah Crum
Armen Mirzoian, Chief Science Officer, and Cathy Halverson, Head of Alcohol Testing Lab, of the TTB attend the AOAC Stakeholder Panel and continue to participate in the Working Group spearheaded by KBI, Health-Ade and other KBI members

The reaction from not only the stakeholders, but the general AOAC attendees was overwhelmingly positive and enthusiastic about the direction of this research. Not only was the presentation very well received, the questions asked after were informed and thought-provoking.  Overall, KBI is thrilled to get the opportunity to work with the AOAC to find a method of testing ethanol in kombucha that produces accurate, consistent, repeatable results.  “The AOAC is pleased to be working with the kombucha industry, regulatory bodies, and other stakeholders to develop such a standard,” stated E. James Bradford, Ph.D., Executive Director of AOAC International.

The working group meets regularly (biweekly) to refine definitions and identify criteria for the SMPR® 

Get the latest updates on the Working Group in the Alcohol – Testing & Control Group on the KBI Member Forum.

Kombucha is a complex, living product with an enormous range of styles and flavors that delight the senses and enliven the body. Mixed with juice, spices or brewed with other beverages; it is most often consumed raw but can also be filtered, force carbonated or in some cases pasteurized; and it can be fermented with a variety of substrates yielding new and exotic combinations. This amazing diversity of expression is part of the mystique of kombucha but also presents difficulty when testing for ethanol due to its inherent biodiversity and complexity, as well as the wide spectrum of serving possibilities.

Kombucha companies currently rely on individual labs to test for ethanol. The KBI Special Projects Team (sub-committee of LGO) contacted over a dozen labs with experience working with kombucha and discovered that each lab has its own method for testing for ethanol. Three main methods are being utilized for testing ethanol in kombucha – alcolyzer (refraction), densitometry and gas chromatography. Moreover, each lab will apply their own tweaks and adjustments to the process in order to account for kombucha’s unique characteristics. The inconsistency in methodology is concerning because kombucha has so many quirks that need to be accounted for and numerous decisions in the testing process can have a significant effect on the final result. With so many changing the methods ever so slightly, it is little wonder that consistent results are simply not achievable.

Oftentimes, the sample is simply run through a beer alcolyzer system designed to effortlessly detect the much higher, and therefore easier to measure, levels of ethanol. Kombucha, being far more complex than beer, contains organic acids, fermented sugars, and live culture strands that are simply not present in most commercial beers. Moreover, the unique kombucha culture is a symbiosis and the bacteria consume the ethanol created by the yeast into organic acids that may have a similar density to ethanol thereby creating false positives.

Just a handful of labs are currently using more sophisticated techniques, like headspace gas chromatography to suss out the nuances. This method shows a lot of promise as it opts to use far lower detection limits than is recommended in the AOAC method for testing beer, consistent with the lower levels of ethanol observed in kombucha. Another difference in sample handling is to not centrifuge it to avoid adulterating the analyte.

Still others utilize AOAC 983.13 method for testing wine that relies on centrifuging the kombucha sample to remove the high levels of sediment present in kombucha and then later factors in the removed sediment into the final mass percentage.  This method shows similar results to the modified 984.14 method, and shows promise when adjusted for kombucha’s low detection levels. What is abundantly clear, however,  is that there is no consensus available for the appropriate method to use when testing kombucha.

In one lab, the same bottle of kombucha was tested using the beer alcolyzer and a modified AOAC 984.14 method for testing beer. The beer alcolyzer system claimed that the kombucha contained levels of ethanol higher than 0.5%, the level above which a beverage must be marketed as alcoholic. When analyzed using the modified AOAC method, a gas chromatography method, the kombucha was tested to be well under 0.5% ethanol. Because the limit for alcohol content in non-alcoholic kombucha is so low at 0.5%, it is imperative that the testing is done accurately and precisely. When an unmarked bottle of Bud Light was tested, both the beer alcolyzer system and the gas chromatography method were highly precise, possibly because its higher alcohol content is easier to detect with higher detection limits.

The lack of consistency is evident even at the same lab. The same samples were sent with different labels to a lab and the test results for the exact same samples had a variance of +/- 1% ABV – that’s more than double the legal limit! So, how do we all get on the same page and find an accurate, repeatable, consistent test for ethanol in kombucha? Collaboration, of course! We are symbiotic after all.

The kombucha industry is reaching out to collaborate with the most educated body of scientists to establish a new testing standard for ethanol in kombucha. By partnering with AOAC, KBI participates in an ethical, scientific process for creating testing methods. Moreover, the TTB, FDA and other government, non-profit, academic and others will work together and decide through consensus on the appropriate method for accurate, consistent and repeatable results. The lack of definitive research in this field has frustrated kombucha brewers who are taking measures to brew compliant products and regulatory agencies. Working with industry experts, KBI hopes to reach a universal truth for testing kombucha to better serve and inform consumers.

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What is a HACCP Plan?

A Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points or HACCP Plan is a systematic approach to the identification, evaluation, and control of food safety hazards (biological, chemical, and physical) throughout the production process to prevent the risk of foodborne illness or other safety concerns. HACCP is based on the following seven key activities:

  • Conduct a hazard analysis
  • Determine critical control points (CCP)
  • Establish critical limits
  • Establish a monitoring system
  • Establish a procedure for corrective action for use when monitoring a CCP indicates a deviation from an established critical limit
  • Establish procedures for verification to confirm the effectiveness of the HACCP Plan
  • Establish documentation concerning all procedures and records appropriate to these activities and their applications

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Which industries require it?

HACCP should be used in conjunction with other food protection programs and is mandatory for meat & poultry (USDA), seafood (FDA), and juice (FDA), and voluntary for all other food and beverage industries. That is, while HACCP is not technically required for the Kombucha industry, KBI highly recommends that all commercial Kombucha brewers have a HACCP Plan in place.

Why does KBI recommend it?

KBI’s newly established Best Practices list having an HACCP Plan in place as an important action item for commercial Kombucha brewers. These Best Practices have been voted into place by KBI’s own member organizations, which represent the majority views of some of the world’s leading Kombucha producers.

Furthermore, products produced by the Kombucha industry are often raw (unpasteurized) and are consumed by people around the world primarily for their health benefits.  Therefore, it is in the best interest of public health to take as many precautionary measures as possible to produce healthful, safe beverages which meet established food safety standards. As this rapidly growing industry continues to expand, we feel that it is important to operate our brewing companies with integrity, safety, and quality in mind, while also keeping in mind the extra layer of protection a HACCP Plan can offer the public.

In addition, when local, state, and/or federal inspections occur, an established HACCP Plan highlights the company’s efforts to produce safe products and demonstrates/documents all of the key elements required.  HACCP Plans also make it much easier to communicate with inspectors who may not be familiar with Kombucha products and/or the Kombucha industry as a whole.

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How do I develop an HACCP Plan?

Developing an HACCP Plan can be very time consuming and rigorous . Fortunately, KBI has developed a hazard analysis template, which is available to brewery members within the HACCP Plan Docs Forum. To view this template and other HACCP related documents, please join the HACCP forum by visiting our Member Forums page and requesting membership.

Not a KBI member yet?

Whether you’re just starting out or already have an established Kombucha company, we invite you to join KBI to take advantage of our many member’s only resources and benefits, including the HACCP Plan template mentioned above. To learn more about our member benefits, to view our membership requirements or to join KBI, please click here.