The story of Flying Embers started back in 2016 as a team of entrepreneurs who were looking for innovative ways to disrupt the alcohol beverage industry. One year later, a massive wildfire threatened to turn the whole project into smoke and ashes. However, fortune shined upon them and Flying Embers was presented to the market. Today, I have a chance to speak with Bill Moses, Founder & CEO at Flying Embers.
The genesis of the idea came to me while CEO of KeVita where we were continuing to keep the alcohol out of the non-alc kombucha beverage. That’s when I realized that when God gives you lemons make lemonade.
Subsequent to transacting KeVita to PepsiCo and coming out of that business, I immediately went to work on creating an alcohol kombucha that was better for you—a better for you alcohol platform—and that was an 18-month process. During that time, we were doing the R&D in Ojai, California in a 120-year-old wine cellar where my certified organic wine barrels were being stored. In that facility, the innovation team and early partners used the site effectively as an innovation lab and office.
As the fire broke out, we were on all site and there were five of us there when the area was called for mandatory evacuations. We decided to stay and during that day, it was pretty clear that the mountains around us were going up in a blaze and the city of Ojai was being threatened and evacuated. I made a call to friends and others in the community to see if they wanted to come and help us save the property.
And that’s what we did—some friends of mine are firefighters and first responders and suffice to say that during the course of the day we got as fire ready as we could to defend the lab, winery and the home. When the blaze hit the mountains adjacent to the winery, it was burning on the mountains around us.. We all had a quiet moment when we realized this was way bigger than us, and we might have made the mistake of staying.
I had a solemn moment—really circumspect—about being there and not being with my family who had evacuated, and I was thinking about those who had stayed with me and who were not with their families. The dry Santa Ana winds where gusting up to 60MPH, as these winds whipped up tornado like fires picked up the embers and like Van Goghs Stary Night threw the flying embers across the mountain ranges lighting up the terrain. In that moment, I had an epiphany of the power of fire and metaphor of transformation that these embers were flying, catching and altering the landscape, that when the genesis of our name came to me—Flying Embers.
Through the course of the next three days and nights, we stayed vigilant and were putting out hot spots all around the upper foothill area. We also opened up our property for the fire department to meet and plan, and we put up temporary lighting. I remember watching them like soldiers march into the hills putting out the hot spots and addressing every ember after the initial flash of fire went by. Their vigilance, their service, and the lack of sleep they endured was so impressive. Out of reverence for them, the mission and purpose of the company came to me: we’re going to give 1% of our revenue to firefighters and first responders charitable organizations that help support them.
And that was the genesis of the company, the brand name and ultimately what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to be the future of alcohol by changing something that has become by some a low vibrational experience. At a time when cannabis is getting a lot of traction as being better for you, we’re taking a moment and saying there is a future for alcohol, it can be better for you and it can be high vibrational. All of that was coalesced at time when the fire was sweeping around and through the property.
Past midnight the mountains above us had gone up in flames. We had expected the fire to come down the canyon, sweep over us and into the city of Ojai as all of the fire experts had warned. Miraculously, at 3am on the third night the winds in a moment shifted and it didn’t blow down the canyon—all became quite as the fire went up and over the mountain. At that time, we knew were safe. We realized it’s all about the this moment and the celebration of the moment with community and how that threads its way into Flying Embers. It’s what we need to do—be more mindful of the moment because it’s short and fleeting as they say.
We have Ginger & Oak, which is sort of earthy and obviously it has ginger but it’s also brewed with toasted french oak chips, so it has this very crafty, earthy flavor profile to it. The other one we have is called Ancient Berry, and it has berries like elderberry, goji, and raspberry. It’s a combination of functional berries, so not only is the drink better for you because it’s kombucha and it has probiotics, but it also has fruit and herb flavoring that is actually better for you, too. The Ancient Berry is probably my favorite right now. The third brew is called Lemon Orchard, and it is very citrus forward, with lavender and mint and it’s got a little ginger in it as well—it’s very refreshing.
Another thing I want to say about the line is that our fermentation includes traditional kombucha fermentation with ingredients like sugar, bacteria, yeast and black tea, but we also add these different botanical adaptogens to our base ferment. They include astragalas, ashwagandha, ginger and turmeric, and we put a large functional amount of them into the base so they become part of the drink as they ferment.
On one hand, we have the kombucha with the native culture and probiotics; then we have the adaptogen root blend; and then we also have the actual organic plants to bring more flavor. All three act as a trifecta of better-for-you components that make up Flying Embers Hard Kombucha. One other thing is that we also do this with zero grams of sugar because we ferment our product to be completely dry. If you ferment kombucha dry, there’s no residual sugar in the product and therefore it’s sugar free, which we think it’s an important attribute of our product.
We faced numerous difficulties during the 18 months it took us to come up with these flavors. Frankly, getting the right balance of different ingredients was a multi-stage, trial and error process that really required a lot of time and effort.
The motivator to keep going despite the difficulties was a personal motivation. I wanted to enjoy an alcoholic product that I knew I wasn’t compromising my health with—and one that could actually make me feel better. Seeing that there was a void in the marketplace, this personal passion to provide a product that would not only satisfy my own craving and desire to have something better for me but also share that with others is what kept me going.
First and foremost, it’s a psychographic that we’re looking at—consumers who are looking for a healthy alternative to traditional alcohol offerings and that really spans many demographics. That’s the first focus of our marketing effort, but when you get into a particular demographic there’s obviously a higher percentage of millennials that reside in that psychographic market.
We initially want to make sure that we communicate with the right voice to the millennial market. But the psychographic market, the market that’s beyond demographic, it goes much wider than millennials. It’s very broad—it’s anybody that’s looking for a better-for-you-alcohol product such as, those looking to still enjoy an alcohol beverage but don’t want to sacrifice their passion and lifestyle for being healthy, be it those searching for sugar free, gluten free, organic, or ingredients such as ginger, turmeric, or adding probiotics into their daily lives.
I think in the non-alc space, absolutely. In the alcohol space, I think it’s still the wild west. There are brands that are appearing every day, and there really isn’t one brand that has captured the national marketplace.
I think social media creates a community, and I think that’s important with any new brand—whether it’s alc or non-alc. You can have an ongoing conversation with your community, and that ongoing conversation really engenders your core values, your purpose, your mission. That way your brand can develop a halo, so that each of those people that are a part of your community and social media, whether it’s Instagram or Facebook, can be effectively ambassadors for your brand and touch many others. So I think having that ongoing relationship via social media really engenders this community and ultimately gives us the opportunity to share these common values.
I think creating the most delicious and efficacious hard alcohol kombucha in the marketplace is our biggest achievement. In fact, I would even say that I believe our greatest achievement is that we’ve created the best tasting and beneficially functioning kombucha in the non-alc or alc space.
More in the business sense, I think the fact that our hard kombucha is so flavorful, delicious and refreshing has been able to open up and create a national footprint with distributor partners across the country. I think that’s quite a tribute and accomplishment to our product—one of our greatest to date.
We’re currently in California, Washington, Oregon, Arizona, and Texas on the Western U.S., and we’re poised to move into Nevada and Colorado. We just launched in the New England states as well as, New York and New Jersey, and we’ve also just launched in Georgia and Florida. So we’ve pretty much gotten a solid foot on both Western U.S. and the Eastern seaboard, and we’re going to start filling in from there in 2020.
I see Flying Embers as the future of alcohol. I see multiple lines beyond kombucha that are in market, and we already have two additional product lines that we’re really excited about. I see us leading the trends in developing a brand that consumers trust and know its products make them feel good, healthy and enable them to celebrate the moment with a delicious elixir that ultimately satisfies all of their wants and needs.
For more information visit Flying Embers website.