Kombucha continues to experience solid growth, according to Beverage Marketing Corp., and c-stores are feeding on the opportunity. Most Rotten Robbie stores carry three kombucha brands, merchandised in an open-air cooler. “Consumers look at an open-air cooler and expect fresher products,” says Moran. “I’m reluctant to put them in the in-line coolers because they’ll get lost.”

He carries two national brands and a local product, Revive, and tries to have everyday low pricing on all of them. However, in some areas, “customers don’t mind spending a couple of dollars more for something healthy,” he says.

But the alternative-beverage category has bloomed beyond kombucha. Plant waters are coming into their own, including maple, birch and aloe waters.

Up next, forecasts Vierhile of GlobalData: drinking vinegars. A staple in Asia, vinegar waters are riding on the rising wave of fermented beverages, which kombucha helped cement.

Protein-enhanced beverages also continue to be steadily popular. “We have two and a half shelves of protein drinks, which were a little higher priced [and] premium quality, and drew in some good dollars last year,” says Robert Perkins, vice president of marketing for Rutter’s, York, Pa.


“Categories like kombucha, aloe, cold-pressed juices [and] aguas frescas continue to be really exciting.”
—Clint McKinney, group director of category strategy, Coca-Cola Co.