07.12.21 | 3 Min.
Komeo GmbH – Three innovators from Lucerne build up beverage business
What happens when a molecular biologist, a restaurateur and an engineer join forces to start their own business? Komeo – the first kombucha suitable for mass consumption in this country. We caught up with self-proclaimed founder-in-training Glen Lecardonnel to learn how to build your own beverage business from the ground up.
«It all started with my teammate Matthias’ trip to California in 2016. There’s a real Kombucha hype over there in the States, which he promptly caught on to. Back home, he had the idea to produce Kombucha himself together with his brother Fabian and to sell it in my future restaurant. You read correctly: At that time, it was actually still my plan to open my own restaurant. As a trained chef, that was the obvious thing to do. It turned out differently than planned. Although the first sip of her home-brewed kombucha didn’t taste good to me at all – or maybe exactly because of that – it was suddenly a burning issue to me. I wanted to learn the art of brewing kombucha. And do it right. So I convinced them to make larger quantities. My vision was to make kombucha suitable for the masses. After all, it was originally a niche drink that appealed primarily to an alternative target audience. Without further ado, we set up a ‘laboratory’ in the city of Lucerne and tinkered away. There are no official recipes. With Matthias, who works as a Medical Advisor PhD at MSD Merck Sharp & Dohme AG, we fortunately have a man on board who knows a lot about molecular biology and meticulously documented everything during the development process.
The premises for production were also quickly found: Friends of ours had to relocate their sawmill. Without further ado, we got down to work and converted the former workshop into a kombucha brewery under our own steam. Fabian, the engineer among us, even constructed the fully automated equipment and the barrels himself. The perfect infrastructure for our first kombucha was in place. Kombucha, by the way, is its own category of beverage. The base consists of various teas and herbs. From this, a simple iced tea is created at the beginning. To this we add a special bacterial yeast culture that converts the whole thing into acid. Voilà: The typical kombucha taste is created.
Using the energy cleverlyWe don’t have any problems. But every week a new challenge. Of course, it is not only fun, but also a biting through. Two and a half years and thousands of hours of work are already behind us. So far, we have paid ourselves nothing. There were bad days when the hoses burst and we asked ourselves why we were actually doing the whole thing. That’s why I think it’s important to focus on where things are going well. Fortunately, cooperation with various partners has been easy from the very beginning. We had an excellent experience with the Building Authority of Malters, with the food inspection department and also with Lucerne Business, which helped us out with a microcredit.
Trial run in the Neustadt of Lucerne
On the side, I work at Filou & Bengel, a bar in the Neustadt of Lucerne. As soon as our first bottle-ready kombucha was available, I served it to our regular customers. Based on their feedback, we continued to tinker and later gave them the revised version to taste. In this way, we gradually refined the recipe. Fortunately, people have been enthusiastic so far. We hope that interest will not die down after this initial hype. Soon we will start supplying eight pubs in the Neustadt of Lucerne. A recent official trial run at Filou & Bengel has already worked pleasingly: In one weekend, we brought 200 bottles over the counter. At the moment we produce 9000 bottles a month, but our infrastructure has capacity for double that. When we reach these 18 000 bottles, our production will be profitable. In this case, however, we would also have to look for a new production building. But everything in its own time.»