Global Kombucha Market: Insights into Kombucha’s Growing Legacy

The stumbling soda sales have cleared the way for a variety of functional beverages, including kombucha. According to Inkwood Research, the global kombucha market, set to reach a revenue of $13898.60 million by 2032, is expected to record a CAGR of 14.83% during the forecast period, 2024-2032. Kombucha is a tea beverage fermented with a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY). The steady kombucha sales are attributed to its purported health benefits, growing health consciousness, and the resulting demand for functional beverages.

Kombucha’s march to Fame & Functionality 

According to World Kombucha Day, the kombucha origin claims start in China around 221 BCE. Thereon, the kombucha fever, after serving a couple of dynasties, spread to Europe in the early 20th century, notably in Germany and Russia, attributed to trade route expansions. After a dip in international popularity during the second world war due to the shortage of sugar and tea supplies, it regained popularity post a 1960s study in Switzerland. The study compared its health benefits to those of yogurt.

Kombucha Market - Inkwood Research

Furthermore, kombucha gained popularity in the United States during the HIV epidemic in the late 1980s and early 1990s as it was touted to support compromised immune systems and increase T-cell counts. However, it lost favor following a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report in 1995 that linked the beverage to two severe cases of metabolic acidosis. Nevertheless, it resurged as a health product in the early 21st century, facilitated by awareness about the possible health benefits of fermented foods and probiotics

Initially, kombucha was distributed at grassroots levels in the United States, with enthusiasts sharing SCOBYs (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast disc) to homebrew the tea. With kombucha going public, Norman Baker and Betsy Pryor established Laurel Farms, a kombucha distribution outlet in California, in 1994. Its popularity caught on swiftly, with products getting shipped monthly. 

At the same time, a large consensus attributes the formal start of the domestic kombucha industry to GT Dave, who founded GT’s Kombucha. The brand has consistently led the domestic market prospects with a mission to ‘combine the wisdom of ancient medicinal foods with the resources of the modern day to create products that uplift and enlighten the health of all those who enjoy them.’

Today, GT’s Synergy is a prominent brand in the country, worth over $900 million in 2020, as per CNBC.

Kombucha’s ‘Healthy’ Saga

Kombucha has been chronicled as ‘healthy’ in scientific literature and industry research reports. Also, terms like ‘live culture’ and ‘healthy for your gut’ are commonly used to promote kombucha’s healthfulness in the US market. For instance, in a case study with kombucha drinkers, 296 consumers reported that kombucha fulfilled their perception of a healthy diet. 

Kombucha is a low- or non-alcoholic functional beverage, slightly carbonated and acidic. It is obtained through a process, SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast), which is the fermentation of sweetened tea with probiotic microorganisms. The number of bioactive compounds, like polyphenols, minerals like Ni, Zn, Cu, Mn, and Fe, and vitamins B & C, in kombucha increase with a higher fermentation time. 

Furthermore, microorganisms most associated with the probiotic function are yeasts of the genus Saccharomyces, Propionibacterium freudenreichii, Bacillus cereus, Bifidobacterium, and Lactobacillus. These enable benefits with regard to the health microbiome and produce other relevant compounds like sugars, organic acids, amino acids, etc. Accordingly, many in vitro and in vivo studies, particularly with animals, and recently, with humans, have projected certain benefits of kombucha. (Source – Kombucha: Perceptions and Future Prospects)

These include:

    • Enhancing liver metabolism, gastrointestinal functions, and the immune system
    • Anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic, anti-diabetic, anti-bacterial, and antioxidant activities
    • Reducing cholesterol concentration

Similarly, consuming foods with health claims as a preventive measure against prevalent diet-related chronic diseases is rising. Fermented foods and beverages often meet these standards. Kombucha, a fermented tea consumed globally for its combination of phytochemicals, microbes, and metabolites, has thus gained a ‘healthy’ perspective in the global market. However, kombucha has had its share of negative light, with homebrewers facing adverse health reactions due to unregulated bacteria growth.

Our analysis of the global kombucha market by product type includes flavored and original/regular. As per our evaluation, flavored kombucha is set to garner $12104.75 million by 2032.

Global Kombucha Market: Future Prospects

With rising health threats, consumers increasingly turn to health-enhancing foods and beverages that improve immunity and prevent diseases. Besides, healthy aging and enhanced health are sustainable development goals. These factors have increased the research on functional foods containing biologically active components. For instance, as per the Web of Science database, the number of research publications focused on kombucha increased from 32 to 199 per year during 2017-2021

Furthermore, the addition of alcohol-enhanced kombuchas has expanded the beverage’s reach, attracting a new category of drinkers. ‘Hard kombucha’ is now emerging as a robust beverage subcategory. 

Says Margaret Link, marketing director at Boochcraft, “The hard kombucha segment is in its infancy from a volume perspective, but we’re outpacing the craft beer category based on retail dollars generated.

The brand was the first hard kombucha in the United States, with its launch in 2016. Currently, it is available in eight states. Similarly, Stephen Finn, vice president of strategy and communication for Wild Tonic, forecasts major growth opportunities for its hard and alcohol-free kombucha but expects more sales for labels with alcohol. Such developments contribute to the global kombucha market’s fizzing growth opportunities.

By Akhil Nair


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