Bridget Connelly was looking for her purpose in life.
The Chicago native turned San Diegan wanted to find something to offer the world that combined her passions: building a brand, a health-conscious lifestyle, nature and helping people let loose and have fun after a long day. Not to mention, she wanted to offer the world something that celebrated her hometown (the city of Chicago) and her new home, San Diego.
“I feel like my purpose is to bring people together. I’m an intrinsically joyful spirit and I want to bring people together and celebrate life and find more joy.”
It was with these goals in mind that Luna Bay Booch was born. Connelly and her business partner Claire Ridge launched the female-owned company in 2019 and now they’re looking to break into San Diego’s nearly-saturated hard kombucha market.
Connelly first arrived in San Diego in 2010, at the start of the craft beer craze.
“Growing up in the Midwest, it was all Coors Light and Bud Light,” she says. “There wasn’t really anything like [craft beer]. And I was like, ‘This is so unique, I’ve never seen something like this.”
A few years later, in 2016, Connelly found herself back in her hometown. “I saw beers like Lagunitas and all these beers popping up [in Chicago].”
The idea that craft beers had finally made their way to Chicago planted a seed in Connelly’s mind. And after a few more years, including a year abroad in Australia, where kombucha is sipped regularly, she decided to try her hand at launching her own product: a line of hard kombuchas that provide health-conscious drinkers with a fizzy buzz.
She wasn’t without opposition, however.
“It’s pretty interesting being a female in the alcohol industry. It’s definitely come with some challenges. But I have three brothers and my dad … I come from a lot of strong men who made me feel very strong and empowered as well. I don’t back down easily and I have a lot of resilience and grit, so I just kept pushing forward in this space. Everyone told me, ‘You’re never going to be able to start a hard kombucha company in Chicago. We’re five years away from that.’ So, one, proved them wrong. We literally made a category in Chicago and it’s a huge-selling category now. And the second thing is, people said I’d never be able to take this back to San Diego. It’s already competitive, there’s so many brands out there. Why is Luna Bay going to do well? It’s not going to work. So last year, every month, I was on a plane back to Chicago to do this and my dream has been, like, I’m not leaving San Diego. This is my home. I don’t care if I have to fly every couple of weeks. I’m staying here.”
Connelly, 33, serves as co-founder and CEO. She didn’t intend to launch Luna Bay into the San Diego market during a pandemic, but that’s just what happened. “We launched in San Diego in March, the day the shelter-in-place happened. Now I feel like I can do anything. If we can launch a hard kombucha company in the most competitive space, in the middle of a pandemic and shelter-in-place, we can do it.”
Sales of alcohol and kombucha have spiked during quarantine. According to Connelly, the reasons are clear. “It could be a multitude of things, but I do think the probiotic aspect of kombucha is something definitely people are gravitating towards. Your gut health is so connected to your mental health and how your digestion is doing and that’s something we really pride ourselves on, too.”
The five-person, all-female Luna Bay team keep things real around the office, something Connelly believes is felt in their product.
“I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to feel empowered to be vulnerable to be like, ‘Today, I’m not having a good day. I need to meditate. I need to go to therapy. And I need to not work.’ We’re very open and honest with each other, and hold each other accountable, and I think that also translates into our product. It’s something that’s brewed with so much passion. There’s just a lot of love behind it and lot of honesty and vulnerability, both in who we are, what our product is and what we put into Luna Bay. And I think there’s that mental health component. It’s like, we want to have fun, we want to loosen up at the end of the day. Alcohol sales are going up. Probiotic beverages are going up. But I think people are also trying to take care of their mental health while they’re at home, whatever that looks like.”
Luna Bay comes in three core flavors: Palo Santo Blueberry, a unique blend of berries soaked in Palo Santo sticks, giving it a natural, woodsy flavor; Ginger Lemon, a staple flavor that Connelly feels “appeals to anyone”; and Hibiscus Lavender, a light floral-y blend that isn’t too sweet. Luna Bay brews all of their blends with yerba mate tea, an uncommon ingredient not found in other hard kombuchas.
“We use yerba mate, which I think takes a little longer to ferment, so people don’t typically gravitate towards it. It’s easier to use black tea or green tea and honey. But we just loved the flavor notes that we were getting from it,” Connelly explains.
The Luna Bay cans were also designed with the history and message of the brand in mind. “This is something that I believe in. The moon is luna, feminine energy. The bay is the wave on the bottom of the can and then the four stars are from the Chicago flag,” Connelly says.
“To me, [Luna Bay] is like a day well lived: you’re out hiking, you’re surfing, you’re out for a run, you have a full day. Being in nature is very healing for mind, body and soul. And then it’s like, celebrate after with your people, have a probiotic boozy booch with some yerba mate tea and non-GMO ingredients. It’s made with a lot of love and thoughtfulness.”
Currently, Luna Bay Booch can be found in stores like Whole Foods, Lazy Acres and BevMo! For a complete of where to buy, visit lunabaybooch.com.