By Angela Rose | Jul 15, 2018
Industry: Food & Beverage
Products: Ginger beer
When Kure moved from Illinois for an airport operations management internship in Greeley, Colorado, he never imagined he was taking the first step on a journey to becoming a craft beverage manufacturer. However, as often seems to be the case, a subsequent foray into homebrewing sparked an unquenchable passion.
"I decided I wanted to make a switch into the beverage world," he recalls, "so after my internship was complete, I started pursuing different opportunities with breweries." He landed a position in the tasting room at Left Hand Brewing Company in 2012 and worked his way up to lead bartender before switching to sales two years later.
Kure became a ginger beer aficionado as a result of the sales team's drink of choice: whiskey and ginger. "I got sick of how sweet and sugary it always was," he says. "As a homebrewer, I wanted to make everything myself, so I decided to try making ginger beer. I would blend up ginger that I'd get from Whole Foods and the freshly juiced ginger profile was so much more refreshing than the mass-produced ginger beers out there. Not only that, but the sugar content was so much lower, too."
Though he and his father, John F. Kure, had previously toyed with the idea of starting a craft brewery, Kure saw the saturation in the local market and decided that non-alcoholic ginger beer would offer a better niche. Blake Waller, a friend of Kure's from high school and college, joined the team and the three pooled their retirement funds to start Kure's Craft Beverage Co. They made their first sales in October 2017.
Using a 30-barrel agitation brite tank, Kure and the team produce about 100 barrels of ginger beer a month in their 3,000-square foot facility and can it on their own Cask Global Canning Solutions canning line. He says they're on track to hit their goal of 1,000 barrels for their first 12 months of operation.
Cans of Kure's Ginger Beer -- made with a mere four ingredients including high-quality organic ginger grown in Peru -- are available throughout Colorado at about 250 locations, including liquor stores, boutique grocery stores, bars, and restaurants. While they self-distribute to accounts in Northern Colorado, the rest of their Colorado accounts are served by Crooked Stave Artisan Distributing.
Though Kure would love to add some experimental varieties infused with fruit puree to the lineup, recent expansion into the Chicago area, coupled with growing demand here at home, has necessitated a focus on ramping up production of their original all-natural ginger beer first.
Challenges: "As a small, craft-focused company, our competition includes very large, well-established beverage manufacturers," Kure says. "That can be a tough market. We don't really have the same means as far as advertising or discounting that these larger companies have available to them."
Kure adds that finding distribution partners to facilitate expansion into new territories is also likely to be a challenge. Though they don't have a nationwide plan quite yet, "We'd like to look at the Wyoming, New Mexico, and Arizona markets in the next few years and slowly piece together a wider distribution network for our ginger beer," he says.
Opportunities: Kure sees the flavor profile of his product as the source of the company's greatest opportunity. "There's not a whole lot out there made with actual real ginger juice," he says. "And ours is less sweet. I think that's what people want."
He also sees an opportunity to launch seasonal products in 2019. "We'd love to experiment and then turn the one-offs into a three-variety seasonal program for next year."
Needs: Kure would like to add another 30-barrel agitator brite tank this winter. "It would increase our capacity by double and also give us the ability to get those one-offs and seasonal varieties in without having to slow down production on our original ginger beer."