As consumers continue to look for beverages that offer functionality and flavor with fewer calories, Caveman Foods Water Kefir, a fermented natural soda, is gearing up its distribution at the right time. A product of Ann Payne’s Caveman Foods, LTD, based in Mendenhall, Pa., the brand is a naturally fermented soda that is organic, caffeine-free, alcohol-free, low in calories (40 calories per 10-ounce bottle) and, because of the live cultures in the product, it’s probiotic.
“After the fermentation, we choose not to pasteurize or heat the product so it stays completely raw, which means the cultures actually stay alive so the product is also naturally probiotic,” says Ed Coffin, chief marketing officer for the company. He describes the product as being similar to kombucha, but not as sour, and compares it to a dry sparkling wine.
Looking to remain unique in the market, the company chose flavors that are unconventional for a soft drink, such as vanilla, tarragon, rose, black pepper and saffron.
Available nationally and in Canada, the product is sold in independent, natural and gourmet retailers. Coffin says that the company is negotiating with national retail chains so consumers could potentially be seeing a lot more of the brand next year. “With this type of a product, and I think this is also true with a lot of the other functional beverages that are out there at the moment, people are apprehensive when it comes to new things,” says Coffin. “They really have to taste it first. That’s part of the reason why we feel doing the in-store demonstrations and getting products into the hands of consumers is so important. ”
The product first found its success while being served in a small café called Clock Tower in Paoli, Pa. Now closed, the organic foods café was serving its own fermented kombucha as well as other fermented drinks that were popular among customers. Coffin, along with George Sampson, CFO, and Leslie Zimmer-Payne, CEO of Ann Payne’s Caveman Foods, decided to take the homemade fermented drinks and make it into a business.
“Someone had told us about these water kefir cultures,” Coffin recalls, “so we decided to go ahead and get a small sample of them. We really liked what we were tasting and we noticed nobody else was doing it.”
Initially, the company was using a co-packer to produce the product, but as sales began to pick up, demand was outpacing supply. So last year, the company opened its own 8,000-square-foot production facility in Toronto, Canada with production capacity of 8,750 cases of Water Kefir.
Coffin points out that Caveman Foods isn’t associated with the paleo, a.k.a. “caveman” diet. The name Caveman was chosen because the cultures used to make the product can be traced back to about 7,000 BC during the Neolithic period in China.
What’s next from Caveman Foods? Well, there are no plans for any line extensions just yet, but Coffin says the possibility of seeing another prehistoric-inspired beverage isn’t off the table.