JuneShine products launched during the pandemic include 100 calorie and matcha kombuchas.
Last week, following ten months of development, Scripps Ranch hard kombucha maker JuneShine launched a new product line: JuneShine 100. Finishing at 100 calories and one gram of sugar per 12-ounce can, the diet-friendly drink seeks to expand on kombucha’s health-conscious customer base, by appealing to the sort of low-calorie drinkers who’ve made hard seltzer a thing.
Under normal circumstances, the rollout would have coincided with a targeted presence at springtime public gatherings, as has been the brand’s M.O. since debuting two years ago. “We had a huge field marketing program,” notes JuneShine cofounder Forrest Dein, “We’re involved with tons of events: music, action sports, and things like that.”
But in March, California’s shelter in place order changed the game. Events were canceled, and on premise accounts such as bars and clubs, which accounted for a third or more of JuneShine’s revenue, closed. Like every other brewery owner in town, Dein and fellow founder Greg Serrao JuneShine faced potentially debilitating losses, and layoffs.
Instead, two months later, JuneShine is brewing at maximum capacity. Not only hasn’t the company had to let any of its 85 employees go, but JuneShine is hiring, including a couple of brewer positions.
For those seeking a case study in how to stay on track during this pandemic, it’s fair to point out JuneShine has benefitted from being part of a still emerging category. While craft beer companies have now saturated the U.S., hard kombucha still has relatively few brands competing for increasing amounts of shelf space. In this regard, existing plans for JuneShine to establish a presence in Chicago and in grocery stores throughout Texas have pressed forward.
However, these moves do not come close to replacing the loss of on-premise sales. To do that, JuneShine has found a way to grow in place. “The biggest demand increase has been in our home market,” says Dein. They’ve made up the sales by selling direct to consumer in San Diego and Los Angeles.
And for that, JuneShine has relied on its other marketing investment. Along with public event presence, Dein says, “We’ve been investing in our digital brand since the beginning.” JuneShine has built a social media following of 78,000 – more than any three other hard kombucha brands combined.
As home delivery abruptly became a dominant sales channel for alcoholic beverages, the JuneShine team established a speedy turnaround for delivery orders, enlisting order and delivery services such as Shopify, and reassigning its bartenders to packaging and fulfillment. Within fours days, the brand had re-purposed its website and set up the logistics to deliver cans of hard kombucha in San Diego and L.A. Two-hour delivery has launched in San Francisco and Nevada, and will in New York this week.
“Before,” says Dein, “you couldn’t convert Instagram followers to a sale. Now you can swipe up and get JuneShine to your door in under two hours.”
Social media has become the lead venue for the launch of JuneShine 100, prompting the company to produce its first video ad. Also launched during the shutdown has been a collaboration with canned matcha tea brand, Matchabar Hustle, to release the first matcha hard kombucha, brewed with coconut and ginger.
While JuneShine has been able to adapt to pandemic conditions, its leadership remains aware that things can change again moving forward. “We don’t want to sound like this is great for our business, because it’s not,” Dien says, “Every day, every decision is vital to our company success.”
He adds that JuneShine still longs for the return of its on-premise partners, and until they return, the kombucha maker donates a dollar from every online sale to support the U.S. Bartender’s Guild’s emergency assistance program.