Daily Organics Kombucha is sold as a non-alcoholic drink in supermarkets across Aotearoa but testing shows one of its products is the same strength as some beers. 

Re: News had three varieties of Daily Organics Kombucha tested by internationally accredited Hill Laboratories, which found one of those drinks was nearly three times over the legal limit for non-alcoholic beverages.

Daily Organics Kombucha is sold as a non-alcoholic beverage, which legally means they must have less than 1.15% alcohol.

Using an Anton Paar Alcolyser and confirmed by a highly accurate testing method called gas chromatography, Hill Labs found the alcohol contents were:

Original: 2.8%

Lemon and Ginger: 3.0%

Chai Spices and Ginger: 3.2%

The kombuchas in question. Results from our testing showed Daily Organics' Chai Spice and Ginger flavour had an alcohol content of 3.2% (Photo: Baz Macdonald)

This is not the first time the problem has been raised with Daily Organics Kombucha

In 2019 Consumer New Zealand had five non-alcoholic Kombucha brands tested for their alcohol content by an accredited lab.

Their tests also found Daily Organics’ samples to be around 3% alcohol. However Daily Organics challenged the results saying their own testing of the samples recorded at 0.9% alcohol. 

At the time, Consumer New Zealand wrote “[Daily Organics] relied on unaccredited analyses, [but] criticised the method used by our independent and accredited lab”.

Concerns around Daily Organics’ alcohol content were brought to Re: News by a worker within the brewing industry who asked to remain anonymous to protect their job.

The worker said they tested the alcohol volume of their products and others in the market once a month, and that Daily Organics had consistently returned an alcohol content of around 3% for the past 18 months.

Here’s what Daily Organics had to say about these test results

Daily Organics co-director Bradley Gwynne said he was sceptical of the results because the issue was raised with Re: News by a competitor within the industry.

While we were first informed of these results by someone in the industry, we have had the drinks independently tested by an internationally accredited laboratory.

In response to the testing results he said “that’s your opinion”.

He declined to respond to any other questions and said Daily Organics would not be providing a response.

The nutrition information on the back of the Chai Spice and Ginger bottle. (Photo: Baz Macdonald)

The risks

Director of Alcohol Healthwatch New Zealand Dr Nicki Jackson said she is “extremely concerned” there are products being sold as non-alcoholic in Aotearoa with these levels of alcohol.

Based on the test results we’ve obtained, a 1L bottle of Daily Organics Chai Spices and Ginger Kombucha could be around 2.5 standard drinks

While this isn’t the strongest drink, Jackson said it poses risks to vulnerable groups who don’t know they are drinking alcohol such as pregnant people, children and people with alcohol use disorders.

Parents may be inadvertently introducing their children to alcohol through these products, Jackson said, and young people may be illegally driving after drinking it - as the alcohol limit for drivers under 20 is zero.

However, Jackson said there is driving impairment at even low levels of alcohol and because people drinking this kombucha don’t know it’s alcoholic they won’t factor that into their decision on whether or not to drive.

Jackson said she was also worried some people may actually be replacing alcohol with this kombucha during pregnancy. 

“Kombucha is growing in popularity. There will be large numbers of New Zealanders drinking this product not knowing [they are drinking alcohol].These products are marketed as healthy non-alcoholic drinks, which [in this instance] isn't the case.”

“[Kombucha is] marketed as an alternative to alcohol - for someone who wants to have an alcohol free day or cut down their use. [Daily Organic’s] product is not going to help them in that regard,” Jackson said

Whose responsibility is this?

The alcohol limits and labelling requirements are set by Food Standards Australia New Zealand and enforced by MPI.

MPI’s New Zealand Food Safety deputy director-general Vincent Arbuckle said “the presence of alcohol in a food product that is labelled non-alcoholic is of concern”.

MPI reviewed test reports supplied to them by Daily Organics over the past six years, and a verification conducted by their organisation last year, and said its investigations have found “nothing to support the allegations of elevated alcohol levels in Daily Organics kombucha”. 

MPI declined to provide these reports, or any details about who conducted these tests, the kinds of testing, or when in the production process they were performed. 

Arbuckle said “any information we request from companies as part of our investigations is only used for that purpose and we are unable to share this with third parties”. 

Why are our tests showing such boozy kombucha?

Brewers Association of New Zealand director Dylan Firth wondered if the high alcohol levels we have found were a result of a process called secondary fermentation - where fermentation can continue after a beverage has been bottled.

If this Kombucha was tested before bottling, this could explain why Daily Organics and MPI tests showed lower alcohol levels and our tests showed high levels of alcohol on the supermarket shelves.

Firth said ultimately the responsibility to ensure the alcohol level in the bottle matches the label is on the producer.

Firth said the Daily Organics alcohol levels we’ve obtained are unacceptable, especially because they had this issue raised in the past and have clearly not addressed it.

“There are reasons we have these rules, because [alcohol] can be harmful. We expect businesses to meet the standards that are set out. Everyone works hard to meet them.”

Several other sources in the brewing industry raised further concerns about the taxes associated with Daily Organics Kombucha.

In Aotearoa, companies have to pay an additional tax on products with more than 1.15% alcohol - this is the duty you don’t have to pay when coming through international airports.

At 3.2% alcohol volume from the results we’ve obtained, Daily Organics would need to pay $1.06 in additional taxes on every bottle of Chai Spices and Ginger sold.

A tax they are not currently paying selling their products labelled as below 1.15% alcohol.

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