February 23, 2024
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Flying Embers pours a $20M funding round


Cans of hard seltzer from Ventura-based Flying Embers. (courtesy photo)

Many alcoholic beverage brands have made their names through beer, wine and spirits, but Flying Embers has capitalized on the two trendiest items in the industry the last few years: hard kombucha and hard seltzer.

Flying Embers, founded in Ojai and now based in Ventura, has grown a lot since it started in 2017 in the wake of the Thomas Fire, and on Jan. 19 it closed a $20 million funding round that will allow it to grow even more.

The Series C round was led by Beam Suntory, the owner of Jim Beam and other brands and one of the biggest alcoholic beverage companies in the world. It also includes follow-on investments from Power Plant Ventures, Quadrant Capital, Monogram Cap, and Beechwood Capital.

Flying Embers said the money will be used to expand marketing efforts its thriving hard kombucha category and further bolster the company’s sales infrastructure.

“We are starting the year with strong momentum behind our platform of breakthrough premium brands,” Flying Embers founder and CEO Bill Moses said in a news release. “With this latest round of funding, Flying Embers is well positioned to further disrupt beyond-beer categories and scale the business nationally in 2022 and beyond.”

Flying Embers has made its mark on both the hard kombucha and hard seltzer markets. The company started with kombucha, a fermented beverage made from tea, and has added hard seltzer. Both products are seeing demand grow fast as consumers look for gluten-free, lower-calorie alternatives to beer.

Sales of the company’s organic hard seltzers have grown by more than 284%, Moses said, and it’s overall business has grown by 93% year-over-year.

The hard seltzer market is expected to grow at a compound annual rate of 31% between 2022 and 2028, to reach revenue of nearly $50 billion, according to Grand View Research, a market research company.

Hard seltzers generated over $4.1 billion in revenue in 2020, with more and more companies, including beer brands such as Bud Light and others, launching their own variations.

The hard kombucha market is also expected to continue growing. According to an analysis conducted by MarketWatch, a market data company, the global hard kombucha market is expected to grow at a compound annual rate of 42% between 2022 and 2027.

From 2017 to 2019, sales of hard kombucha went from $1.7 million to more than $12 million, according to Kombucha Brewers International.

Flying Embers offers seven different flavored hard kombuchas and four hard seltzers. The company’s footprint includes 42 of the 50 U.S. states and Canada, with taprooms in Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and Boston.

“Despite what seems to be a category shakeout, consumers continue to seek out sophisticated flavor combinations and quality plant-based ingredients,” Moses said in the news release. “We are poised to expand our existing Kombucha and differentiated seltzer brands through our robust national distributor network, while continuing to test innovations in 2022.”

Flying Embers was founded in Ojai in 2017 after the Thomas Fire threatened to burn down Moses’ home. As a result, the company donates 1% of all sales to firefighters, first responders, and the communities that they serve through its nonprofit organization, the Embers Foundation.