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Startup REAL Kombucha: Non-alcoholic Drinks and Corona innovation

A growing number of people are cutting out drinking alcohol. Some of them choose to stay sober for a while, for others, it is a lifestyle change that could last longer. Adrian Hodgson's startup is brewing kombucha for some of the best restaurants and bars in the UK as a delicious and healthy non-alcoholic alternative for those choosing not to partake. Adrian is a nutrition scientist, holds a PhD in Metabolism and Nutrition and has been working for a number of startups before he started his own.

Adrian and Simone who met before corona changed our lives.
Adrian and Simone who met before corona changed our lives.

Adrian, you are Co-founder at REAL Kombucha - what does your startup do?

REAL Kombucha is a startup drinks business based in the UK. Our focus is simple and powerful: To change the way people drink. We produce a range of sparkling fermented tea drinks that are served as a non-alcoholic alternative to sparkling wines or champagnes. Due to the natural fermentation process (using techniques from sparkling winemakers), we produce drinks that are natural, low in sugar, and calories while also reducing the consumption of alcohol. We serve our drinks in over 50 Michelin Star restaurants to pair well with food, as well as many of the UK’s bars, pubs, event spaces as well as online. 

Drinking less alcohol has become part of a healthy lifestyle of many millennials. What do you observe in this space and which products do millennials prefer?

Over the past 20 years, there has been a deep change in our attitudes to alcohol consumption. Whereas in the early 90s alcohol was regularly consumed at lunchtime in London, it’s rare to see someone drinking at lunch these days unless they are lucky enough not to have to return to work in the afternoon. Whether that’s through pressure to perform, the gig economy, or simply the desire to remain fresh, alert and active throughout the day, far fewer people will now partake before the evening. It was thought that this only applied to young Millenials (16-30 y olds). But drinking no or less alcohol is now the new norm. People across a wide age range are now significantly reducing their alcohol consumption.

Data from the Office of National Statistics suggest that 30% of people aged 16-24 are now teetotal - a figure rising all the time - and those between 25 and 34 are not far behind. More recent data from UK.GOV actually shows that these non-drinking rates are similar across older age ranges. This signifies a generational sea change, and clearly one worth paying attention to in the world of food and beverages. This is where REAL comes in. The challenge of not drinking is the lack of available options. People are just wanting a sweet, sugary soft drink for those occasions that they are not drinking. Health choices are more important than ever. In my opinion, it is unacceptable to see drinks (and foods) that have high sugar, calories or additional unnatural ingredients in them. People today need natural and clean choices. 

Corona affects almost every restaurant - can you describe the situation of the hospitality sector in the UK?

It is a very tough time for people who are in the hospitality industry. We have many close friends and colleagues who are suffering during this time. It also impacts the suppliers to the trade. A lot of people have spent years building their businesses for them to be closed down. The hardest thing as a business owner is the lack of control at this time. Most variables in business (whether it is the market, branding, etc) can be controlled. The current crisis is out of anyone's control. The one thing people can do, and have been doing, is uniting and using the community as support. The industry is lucky to have financial interventions from the UK government to help. We are seeing groups and charities like Hospitality Action that are there to help those vulnerable individuals in the hospitality industry. We at REAL are supporting where we can with the launch of REAL Chefs, a campaign to inspire people to cook at home from videos from the Best UK chefs. Donations are then given to the chefs directly or to Hospitality Action.

What can we as consumers do?

The best thing we can all do right now (in my honest opinion) is to stay at home. We need to help protect others from the virus and the impact on health care systems. The second thing we can be doing is looking after ourselves to ensure we are all able to bounce back from this time in isolation. This means eating well, doing daily movement and entertaining our brains on more than just our work. The final thing is to support the charities, groups and young businesses where you can to keep the economy and services running.

Your have a PhD in Metabolism and Nutrition and you are passionate about functional food in nutrition. Why is this important for our future?

My background in nutrition has stemmed from my PhD at the University of Birmingham. My passion has always been to bring nutrition science to life and translate it to help people make better food and drink choices more often. This is not just for the worried well, but for high-risk groups who are not eating and drinking to help the bodies work. As you can see right now, our bodies are under attack and the food we eat nourishes our bodies to protect, grow and adapt. This means nutrition today, and in the future is more important than ever to ensure we have a healthy population following the fall out from the pandemic.

What is nutrition?

Nutrition is the provision of food and drinks to nourish the body and mind to protect, grow, function, and adapt.

Do you have a role model and how does this role model inspire you?

The role models for me are people who have brought a change in nutrition. Professors like, Asker Jeukendrup and Arne Strup have applied nutrition science insight into policies for nutrition guidelines. But I would also say that people like Joe Wicks (not a nutrition scientist) have inspired people to change the way they eat and move more. This is inspiring! The art is in the translation and application of knowledge and all of these role models have done it in different ways, but have done it with success. They are also individuals who have devoted large chunks of their life to bring about change. That really inspires me to work hard to bring about change myself! 

Get to know more about Adrians work on LinkedIn and check out REAL Kombucha on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.


This interview was carried out by Simone K. Frey.


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