As a whole I feel that KeVita does have some valuable health benefits, but not as much as I initially thought. I feel as though the lack of transparency is frustrating. How the product is made and how the workers are treated is important to me as a consumer and not having those answers is concerning. I also wish the acquisition of KeVita by PepsiCo was stated on both the kombucha bottle and KeVita’s website. I personally love kombucha for its taste and low calorie content but I’m not convinced the product is sufficiently sustainable. I will be looking into different brands and I recommend to the consumer that they do this as well and consider making their own. I recommend that the company consider how much information they’re truly giving their consumers because I think its lacking. I appreciate the awareness and recognition that sustainability is important but as for more because of the size of the company and therefore their impact.
The raspberry lemon kombucha by KeVita contains sparkling water, kombucha culture (filtered water, black tea, green tea, natural flavor), filtered water, cane sugar, raspberry juice concentrate, bacillus coagulans mttc 5856, lemon extract, ginger extract, black tea, black tea essence, caffeine (green coffee bean extract), green tea, and purified stevia leaf extract. It is certified organic by Organic Certifiers Inc. I was very intrigued by the “bacillus coagulans mttc 5856” ingredient and found that a double blind study determined it “could be a potential agent in the management of diarrhea predominant IBS patients.” All kombucha types contain gluconic acid, acetic acid and fructose, but the different acids and esters depend on the different SCOBY used - or the Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast. Research suggests that “having a healthy balance of gut bacteria can promote immune health.”
Additionally, cane sugar isn’t great for health but “organic cane sugar is unrefined sugar minus the cancer-causing and environmentally damaging pesticides present in conventionally-grown sugarcane.” Because this product is certified organic, I believe that the cane sugar that is included is organic. However I do not feel like I can be completely certain with this assumption because apparently “Organic” doesn’t mean the product is 100% organic. If the label says 100% that’s one thing, but if it doesn’t, organic only requires 95% and “made with organic” only needs to contain 70%.
Green tea and black tea are also great for health. Green tea contains a relatively low amount of caffeine compared to a cup of coffee and can help improve brain function (better moods and focus). And both green and black tea have been shown through research to help “reduce the risks of getting a cardio disease, cancer, and strokes, prevent diabetes, improve your metabolism and immune system.” This tea aspect poses questions for sustainability though. In the past, most tea workers earn low wages and work in poor conditions. “Excess water use, poor soil conditions and destructive pest management are major environmental issues in the industry.” However, the tea industry is becoming greener due to sustainability demands. But without clear origins and transparency from KeVita, I’m not sure where they stand.
KeVita says on their website that their drinks are “fermented and bottled in Ventura Country, California” and the actual bottle says it’s distributed by KeVita Inc. in Oxnard, CA 93030. I wish the website made notice of when updates were written because this statement could be 12 years old as the company was founded in 2009. I think the consumer would benefit from a restatement of this information or an update if anything has changed.
Furthermore, the process of fermenting the kombucha at this larger scale is again, not transparent. In researching this process I found that the company was additionally acquired by PepsiCo in 2016 and was genuinely shocked. Why was this not made clear on KeVita’s website? Furthermore, how has this changed the process of how the product is made? There’s no transparency anywhere and I’m concerned that being acquired by a larger company has only decreased the intent behind health and sustainability. Also, what does “naturally flavored with other natural flavors” even mean? Why would it be worded like this if it’s truly just natural?
As previously mentioned, KeVita was acquired by PepsiCo in 2016. PepsiCo is enormous with more than $67 billion in net revenue in 2019. As a food/beverage leader, they have addressed sustainability. I was overwhelmed with the amount of information on their website. I will say that some of it seems very positive, however, major pieces are missing and goals are very general with no clear descriptions as to how they plan to accomplish said goals. Many of the statements felt empty and pointless, for example they mention how they have 100,000 jobs through their agricultural supply chain but don’t state their wages or treatment. That trend is somewhat consistent throughout. They have many pledges and seem to be making progress regarding water conservation and minimizing plastic in their packaging. But as large as this company is, we really need more transparency with their exact efforts as well as larger efforts overall. They surely have the financial ability to take a fuller sustainability leap. I will add that while it might be performative, they have contributed significantly and “they've pledged $400 million to a set of initiatives over five years to "lift up Black communities and increase Black representation at PepsiCo." Their LinkedIn also mentions that in 2020 they pledged $845 million to address due of inequality and create opportunity so I feel as though their environmental justice side is moving forward.
The cost of this product is around $2.68. This is significantly higher than a soda, but the price works because of the organic/healthy aspect. However this poses potential issues to health exclusion (assuming the product still has some health benefits that haven’t been corrupted by the acquisition). Because the kombucha is commercially made, there are inherent differences compared to homemade. Not a surprising find, but homemade proves superior if you have the time. It’s not too difficult to make and you have the ability to control the ingredients and amount of sugar. Essentially, the benefit is that you have control of the process so its completely transparent. If KeVita could do the same... this might be a different story.