A look back at our soft launch in 2021.
The end of the year is an amazing time to sit down, celebrate the wins, reflect on the opportunities for next year and regroup for the coming 12 months. So for ūmmi, it’s a unique moment to explore our journey. A year ago, we had a plan with great intentions and the promise of a product. We had some samples that we believed would be a great market fit and confidence in our plan. A year ago, we had a hypothesis around a market fit and the retail partners we believed we could work with. A year ago, we had a vision for who the consumer of our product would be. We also had the intent to soft-launch our brand and bring to life the team backing the project. However, all of these were just that, plans.
Fast forward one year later, numerous brewery visits, tasting samples, we have a solid product that tastes amazing! Getting a stable hard kombucha is way more of a process than any of us ever imagined. Fermenting anything has so many variables, but creating an alcoholic version adds another layer. To make it taste great without compromises, such as adding more sugar, requires even more work. We probably went through 8 batches before we found the stability required, which is a testament to the quality of our brewery, which has been an amazing partner. When imagining owning an alcohol company, most people think of how fun the tasting side must be. It can be nerve-racking, fulfilling, eye-opening, and yes, fun. Our November new flavour exploration trip proved that with our head brewer. Trying new versions of our beloved ūmmi is an amazing experience where you feel familiar but get that new excitement you’d get meeting a new boy or girlfriend. We can’t wait to share them with you.
We also found that we were nearly right in terms of our market fit and distribution. We believed that we could position the brand as we wanted by working with premium bars and retail locations, which worked quite well. Bars and restaurants like Java, Da Noi, SAL, or Quinta da Comporta ensured the right eyes on the brand. This, combined with the setting of Le Coleur Locale, Wasted Talent in France, and Mercearia da Mila, proved to be amplifiers to that strategy in terms of sales. However, the area that really surprised us was the organic supermarkets in Portugal, which have become great partners with a loyal following. Stores like Miosotis proved to be a wildly successful door, and keeping stock in there became one of the primary challenges. One of the most rewarding business areas has been the sell-in. None of us are salespeople from the beverage industry, but since we’re aiming for quality first instead of scale, we have the wonderful ability to walk into the doors we’d like, have a conversation, understand their clientele’s needs, share a drink and see how ūmmi can fit into their portfolio. It meant many deliveries in our own cars weighed down with ūmmi, including a couple of trips over the border to France on 24-hour missions to replenish sold-out accounts (we see you Waxxed and Wasted Talent).
Mia Rose enjoying the Būzz
We’ve seen great adoption from the people we believed we were doing this work for from the outset when it comes to our consumers. People much like us who love going outside into nature, working out, running, and enjoying themselves; but also enjoy the buzz of a couple of drinks and don’t want to be slowed down. We’ve had many nights, including one particularly memorable night with Chris on his return to Portugal (thanks to travel restrictions, we hadn’t seen him in 18 months). We went to watch a band at Boardriders in September so he could see one of our most popular locations in action. “We’ll just go for one” turned into bumping into a few of our biggest brand advocates who grabbed a couple more, and before you know it, we were closing the show down as the lights came on 4 ūmmis later. Remember, these are half-litre bottles, so we were definitely feeling the būzz by now. With the promise of offshore wind and shoulder-high waves at 6am, the next morning, we set off for a mission up north to Santa Cruz for an epic morning on the beach. That’s honestly one of the biggest benefits of ūmmi; the ability to not be slowed down the next day. Is there a limit? Probably. Have we found it yet? The current record is 6 in a night, but if anyone wants to beat that, we’ll happily send you a box to try out, along with a disposable camera to capture the evening. Another event was the tasting session in Lisbon, where we invited close friends of the brand, which will 100% become a new experience as we launch around Europe. Hosted, curated with crafted drinks for you to try. Such a fun way to get to know the brand.
So has this year been all success? Well, it’s been forward momentum, to say the least. We’re making progress while enjoying the process and having fun, which is what matters. There have been a lot of bumps in the road, but like anything, if it was easy, everyone would be doing it. Launching Europes first hard kombucha was always going to be a challenge. A new product in new channels to new consumers pretty much goes against what conventional wisdom teaches, but being able to serve people with a healthier alcohol option has been worth it.
So I hear you ask…. Where are we headed?
We’ll be focused on growing with our retail partners by doing more events in our backyard of Portugal while also expanding and sharing hard kombucha with new ones across Europe. We’re just settling on some back-end setups, but we’re prepping to bring ūmmi into at least 4 new cities in Summer 2022. Sign up below to stay up to date on where and when.
Thanks for an amazing year!
Enjoy the buzz
Team ūmmi shortly before Chris joined the party back from the US. This was also just before we all wouldn’t have worked for photos anymore.