Made in Vancouver is a collaboration between Vancity and Daily Hive. Together, we’re turning the spotlight onto local businesses, organizations, and individuals who are helping to create a healthy local economy.
It definitely seemed like it was only a matter of time before someone capitalized on both the healthy alcoholic drink option and our love of kombucha.
Kombucha tastes amazing, makes you feel good, and is a healthy substitute to most drinks. Making an alcoholic combination is now here, and it’s amazing to hear it is a female-founded and ran business.
Founded by Valli Manickam, and COO, Jamie Kirwin, Plenty Hard Kombucha is their guilt-free vision to bring a delicious and organic better-for-you alcohol beverage to the masses.
Vancity has been supporting people in our communities since 1946, like local entrepreneurs. As part of our Made in Vancouver series spotlighting local businesses, we talked to Jamie Kirwin about making an alcoholic kombucha beverage.
“The name Plenty came from our desire to create a refreshing better-for-you beverage — low calorie, low sugar, low carb, gluten-free — but not compromising on flavour or quality of ingredients,” Kirwin told Daily Hive.
“In a market where refreshment beverages are either too sweet or too stripped away of flavour, we wanted to communicate that we created a health-conscious drink with plenty of added benefits (anti-oxidants) and plenty of flavour,” she added.
Plenty truly is a local company and budding success story. Plenty is indeed fully inspired by Vancouver — its natural beauty, and its health, wellness, and outdoor focused residents. it’s brewed right here in Vancouver, at Dogwood Brewery, one of Vancouver’s certified organic manufacturing facilities.
“Born from a love of hand-crafting kombucha in her Kitsilano kitchen, Valli began experimenting with her home brewed kombucha in 2019 by adding an extra fermentation to give it more of a kick,” Kirwin told us, speaking about the inspiration during the early days of Plenty.
“Being a health-conscious Vancouverite, she saw an opportunity to bring to market a new era of all natural and preservative-free alcohol beverages, containing premium, organic ingredients with a taste that’s refreshing, flavourful and fun,” she added.
During those days of tweaking and perfecting the recipe is when these entrepreneurs did some basic product research. Knowing the competition is just as important as knowing what your own product is going to be. That’s how you will know the best way to market it. They found there wasn’t too much competition anyways.
“Once Valli realized how great hard Kombucha was, she was shocked to find out no one was producing this delicious beverage in Canada yet,” said Kirwin. “She looked to our US neighbours and saw that the hard kombucha business was emerging, and flourishing in health-conscious states like California, Oregon and Colorado,” she added.
Seeing this huge gap in the Canadian market, she knew that timing was everything. She would have to act fast to get there first, but having a delicious product with a solid roll out was just as important.
“She went on a road trip to learn from the best – she wanted to bring this new era of beverages to Canada,” said Kirwin. “She took inspiration from these early adopters and carried out her own scientific experiments to add her own twist to hard kombucha. She created the perfect drink that she was searching for. Low-calorie, low-sugar, low-carb, organic ingredients and preservative free,” she added.
Deciding to start a company, and knowing how to test the product, to conducting market research, to travelling the continent, to actually committing to take this huge step might seem to difficult for many. To an entrepreneur, this is what is often needed, and for any aspiring people with an idea, hopefully this can serve as inspiring proof that it can work.
“It took a lot of courage for Jamie and Valli to both leave their well-paying salaries and security of employment to take a change on themselves to try their hand at entrepreneurship,” said Kirwin.
“However, once we made the leap, it was immediately satisfying and we both agree it was one of the best decisions we have ever made. If you believe in yourself, you should give yourself a chance to surprise yourself with what you can accomplish,” she added.
With new flavours always in the works, and ways to add wellness focused benefits, right there are already so many delicious flavours to choose from.
“Plenty’s feature hard kombucha flavours — Grapefruit + Hibiscus and Mango + Pineapple + Coconut — are made with Valli’s winning formula of bringing together premium organic certified ingredients in an artisanal brewing process that naturally ferments the alcohol content to 5% ABV. Standing by its promise to be a better-for-you brew, Plenty is low in sugar, carbs, and calories without compromising on quality nor taste,” said Kirwin.
The ultimate goal for the team at Plenty is to be available in every single liquor store in BC, and then expand across Canada. Lucky for us in Vancouver, it’s easy to find right now.
Officially launched in April, Plenty Hard Kombucha is available in most liquor stores in the Lower Mainland, next to where you’d find ciders and ready-to-drink coolers.
Despite the challenges of COVID, launching a new business, and the slow pace of a supply chain product, the Plenty Hard Kombucha team feels inspired, hopeful, and thank you.
“We have a wonderfully talented team and helpful, thoughtful and supportive investors,” said Kirwin. “We couldn’t have built this company without them. Valli and Jamie have the same drive and perseverance to stay positive and keep charging forward when things get challenging and the pandemic continues to throw new obstacles at us.”
Even with new challenges, a great product well managed is bound to find success. It’s a winning formula, and their loyal customers and the word of mouth is incredibly valuable.
“The beverage formulation is so new, unique and delicious, our customers are absolutely loving it and we have appreciated the organic word of mouth growth stemming from our first customers sharing their delight,” said Kirwin.