“It’s a lot of work. I think a lot of things come into play like testing your product. People think they have a great idea and everyone’s going to love that idea but it’s not always the case. And it’s really easy to test. With everything online it’s not hard to test a product before you try every flavor. That’s why there's a new flavor every week - put it out there and see what people like. I’m probably not going to throw a product out to the world and hope it sells. There’s always that R&D process that’s super crucial.”
– Rochelle Minagawa of Motherlove Kombucha
Rochelle Minagawa is the owner and operator who turned a love for the scoby into a well-established home-grown, Canadian beverage brand known as Motherlove Kombucha. Rochelle is an avid fermenter whose passion for “the transformation of organisms” rolled organically into a business. Her goal is to continue building out the craft category of kombucha and water kefir beverages that are healthy, easy and enjoyable to drink.
In this episode of The Extraction Insiders, Jason, Joel, and Rochelle test some tasty ferments and marvel at the power of nature while discussing the science of fermentation, entrepreneurial tips and tricks, and yet another thrilling application of extraction in the blossoming industry of Food & Beverage.
[0:00] TEASER: How is this podcast like a tradeshow after party, without the tradeshow? Because the conversation is going straight to the good stuff! Such as, why Winnipeg is the greatest city on Earth (the answer might be pick-a-pop).
[2:26] Joel and Jason welcome Rochelle Minagawa of Motherlove Kombucha (and her trunkful of kombucha!). Rochelle shares “the story of Motherlove” – how being an avid home fermenter led her to selling SCOBYs, then the kombucha itself, and other fermented products like water kefir (kombucha’s fizzy cousin). All small batch, all organic, all naturally carbonated!
[4:43] The sampling starts right away (hibiscus, mojito, and more!) as Rochelle talks about how she got into fermenting as a hobby. What’s the difference between canning and fermentation? And how does a fermented product contain “more goodness” than the original?
[7:30] “Before we get into the good stuff…what did you do wrong?” Having evolved fermentation from a hobby into a business, Rochelle learned that growing something organically can be beautiful, but can teach some lessons by default.
[9:10] “Oh that’s good!” Jason has his first-ever water kefir experience. For a non-consumer, what should someone look out for and expect as they try a fermented product for the first time? The products themselves have been around for thousands of years, but are now having a “mainstream moment,” which comes with a massive range of styles and options.
[11:04] Rochelle talks about ingredients, recipes, and how she chooses to brew. Kombucha provides a healthy, low-sugar alternative to pops and other drinks. But if fermented too long or not transported properly, the residual sugar can present a challenge (“oops, it’s booze now!”) Motherlove performs alcohol and pH tests to make sure they’re producing the best product possible.
[14:20] Vitalis equipment has been used to extract all kinds of flavour and aroma compounds. What Rochelle is putting into her products is the kind of thing coming out of Joel and Jason’s product. Rochelle discusses how she uses raw botanicals and extracts, and not only for flavour – “nature has some really cool colours!”
[16:10] Rochelle predicts how the kombucha product category will evolve, break out, and differentiate…perhaps with greater evolution in the Canadian CBD beverage space, too.
[18:09] Kombucha has a six-month shelf life, but is heavy, and often bottled in glass. This has presented shipping challenges for Rochelle. Despite this, Motherlove is available throughout BC, AB, and (this just in!) Winnipeg. Will the future see tankers of kombucha rolling down the highway? Rochelle talks about how her business might fine tune as she scales.
[22:00] Pineapple ginger - will it blend (with gin?) Yes! Rochelle talks about her flavour lineup and her favourite thing – flavour and content creation Wednesdays. Customers can purchase a new flavour every week. Rochelle talks about her biggest flavour surprises – both good (spirulina) and not-so-good (beet).
[24:24] Product development: Motherlove works as locally as possible, aiming for the best quality, organic, fair trade ingredients. To enhance the customer experience, Rochelle “geeks out” about her ingredients, and does her research. Not all algae are created equal!
[26:53] “What really excites you about this right now?” Kombucha is having a moment. Despite being an ancient art, brewing is always evolving. The trio discuss varied attitudes towards collaboration in niche markets. Has Rochelle found the kombucha community culture akin to the “mushroom mafia?”
[28:50] How do you kick in the door and make sales? Rochelle’s biggest problem is making enough product to meet demand. If you build it, they will come. Plus, ecommerce offers more direct-to-consumer possibilities.
[32:40] “I guess we’ve got to do this thing online!” Rochelle talks about how COVID necessitated a quick adaptation to electronic retail. Listeners take note: you can get Motherlove Kombucha shipped anywhere in Canada.
[33:24] What are Rochelle’s future plans? Fermented green coffee? A line of jun kombucha? Engaging bees for a fee? Plus more sampling of current delicious flavours…
[36:08] Rochelle talks about the Born to Shake kombucha cocktail collaboration, borne of COVID home-drinking demand. Recipes available on Instagram (@motherlovekombucha)
[37:51] The trio sips some Holy Hibiscus (hibiscus, rose, vanilla, and tulsi) while Jason sings the praises of tradeshows. Will they still have a future after the big switch to online retail?
[40:53] Process talk. From the before – how Rochelle arrives at a beverage from “a big bag of roses” – to after – how does one compost a SCOBY? Rochelle also talks about how she’s worked to keep her process and packaging low waste.
[43:26] Look out! Aside from COVID, what does Rochelle have to watch for that would threaten her business? The trio discuss the pros and cons of regulations, big market players, trend hoppers, and more.
[46:02] Has Rochelle thought of doing anything with hemp or cannabis? Totally, and there are several ways to do it! People are putting CBD in everything right now. But should they?
[48:45] This week’s buzzword: ashwagandha. Rochelle highlights a trend she’s noticed towards beverages with adaptogens. “Herbs are cool!”
[49:40] Jason, Joel, and Rochelle have a marketing ninja in common. They discuss the joys of seeing your company swag out in the wild.
[51:05] What keeps Rochelle busy when she’s not building brands? Ayurveda, track coaching, parenting, Lego building, hiking with dogs, and much, much more.
[52:33] Starting a business: “it’s a lot of work!” Product testing is a super crucial part of the startup journey, as is adaptability, and having a thick skin. Rochelle talks about the Motherlove path (a snowballing loop-de-loop, not a straight line!) and their fantastic customer community.
[58:25] Is there a craft kombucha tasting room in the works? Maybe! “The nice thing about Motherlove is there’s always going to be something new.”
[58:54] The power of delegation. Rochelle advises entrepreneurs to “stay in your strength.” When your business is your baby, it’s hard to hand off pieces of your role – but the right people are out there. With some delegation, is master optimizer Tim Ferriss’ four hour workweek truly possible?
[61:15] Script-flipping time as Rochelle asks the questions. What’s going on in Vitalis’ food lab? What are the biggest opportunities for the company right now? Are there different qualities of extraction, and what’s superior? How do CO2 and ethanol extraction differ?
[66:40] Joel and Jason are passionate about cleaning up the supply chain. Rochelle agrees. “We’re a world that loves convenience, but usually convenient products are trash for the world.” Startups can change the world by providing economical, zero waste solutions – and consumers can change the world by voting with their dollars.
[68:40] Information overload can give consumers a deer in the headlights feeling, especially with social media: “the algorithm feeds us what we think.” Rochelle talks about how she combats black and white thinking, and how consumers don’t buy what you’re doing, so much as how you’re doing it.
[71:29] Find Motherlove online at motherloveferments.com or on Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest @motherlovekombucha.
Or, reach out to the friendly team at Vitalis through VitalisET.com or through Instagram @vitalisextractiontech. Plus, watch more Extraction Insiders episodes on the Vitalis Extraction Technology YouTube channel.
Connect with Rochelle:
Selected Links on Topics Mentioned in this Episode:
Sandor Katz – on the fermentation phenomenon and “the transformation of organisms”
The CrAsian Food Truck – collaborators with Motherlove on the Pineapple Ginger flavour
Empress Gin – an example of butterfly pea flower in action
DWiiNK – Mike Tyson’s CBD beverage
GoodFood – meal kit delivery in Canada
Planet Bee – catch the buzz!
Born to Shake – raising the bar on cocktails
Haskap Farms – where Motherlove’s compost gets a second life
Tim Ferriss – and the four-hour workweek
Hosted by Joel Sherlock & Jason Laronde, Vitalis brings you wise, humorous and sometimes shocking conversations with entrepreneurs and extraction industry innovators on 'The Extraction Insiders'.