San Diego’s JuneShine pulls in $24M to drive hard kombucha better-for-you alcoholic beverages
The company is working with comedian Whitney Cummings on a new product to increase awareness of low-calorie, low-sugar alcoholic beverages.
With all the startup investment flowing into the San Diego this year, even the region’s craft beverage industry is getting into the game.
JuneShine, a leader in the better-for-you hard kombucha craft beverage category, said Monday that it has raised $24 million in a second round of funding led by Amberstone Ventures and Litani Ventures — the principals behind RXBAR.
Founded in 2018 by Greg Serrao and Forrest Dein — who met at the University of San Diego — JuneShine will use the money to increase production at its 30,000-square-foot Scripps Ranch brewing operation. It purchased the former Ballast Point facility roughly two years ago.
The company also plans to bring on additional personnel and increase its marketing to drive the emerging hard kombucha category, which sprung up over the past few years along with seltzers and low- or no-alcohol craft beers.
“We have been really aggressive about building an organization that is bigger than our business and then growing into that business,” said Serrao. “We afford that by raising capital.”
Hard kombucha is a carbonated, fermented drink known for its tangy flavor. It tends to have lower calories and less sugar than similar beverages, and even probiotics in some cases. It is touted as a better-for-you alcoholic brew.
San Diego is home to several kombucha breweries. “It is important to know that there were companies that came before us, and really the first company to gain traction with it was Boochcraft down in Chula Vista,” said Serrao. “We wouldn’t be where we are without them. It takes a few players to build a new category.”
The hard kombucha market is relatively small for the beverage business, but it’s growing more than 50 percent year over year. Meanwhile, beer, cider and seltzer categories are experiencing low single-digit percentage growth, according to JuneShine.
The company claims it is the top hard kombucha brand in the U.S. with more than 10 million cans sold. It has about 40 percent market share, said Serrao.
On the marketing front, one of JuneShine’s projects is Prickly Pear Margarita, a beverage developed with comedian and actress Whitney Cummings. It’s brewed with organic prickly pear, tangerine and lime, and is spiced up with ancho chilies and sea salt.
“We have been fortunate to have a lot of really cool people invest in the company and promote the brand in a really authentic way,” said Serrao. “She believes in our mission. She is an owner in the company and now has been promoting the product.”
JuneShine expects to further expand into new beverages beyond hard kombucha next year, as well as open tasting rooms outside of California.
“JuneShine is one of those category-defining brands that doesn’t come around very often,” said Nick Mindel, a partner at Amberstone. “The brand is driven by a team that has brought transparency and better-for-you options into the alcohol segment, and they are just scratching the surface on what they can accomplish.”
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