Health Ade Kombucha: A Dietitian's Honest Review
Say hello to Health Ade Kombucha. It’s pretty, right? And it kinda looks like it was born for the 'gram'! But does it live up to the expectations of its sexy packaging and trendy tagline “Follow your gut”? Well, in this article we’re going to put Health Ade under the spotlight and see if it really does live up to all the hype. That means we’re going to look at everything from how they bew their kombucha to exactly which probiotic species are in their drinks. And since our research team spent months analyzing the leading kombucha brands for you, we’ll even look at how Health Ade compares to other popular kombuchas. Finally, you’ll be able to work out which is best for you. Let’s go!
Table of Contents
So before we get into it, I just want to say that like all product reviews here at Essential Stacks we receive zero compensation or incentive from the company we are reviewing, which means we are completely unbiased.
And as you’ll see in this review, we don’t hold anything back when analyzing companies in the digestive health space. And that’s because our mission here at Essential Stacks is to help you discover what truly works and what doesn’t for good gut health.
So with that out of the way, let’s get into our findings.
1. Who’s behind Health Ade?
So Health Ade was founded in 2012 by wife and husband team Daina and Justin Trout, alongside their good friend Vanessa Drew. Funny enough, their kombucha brewing journey actually began out of a desire to fix Justin’s thinning hair problem!
Anyways, like with most good startup stories, they started small, brewing kombucha at home and selling at the local farmers market in Brentwood, California. Since then, Health Ade has become a hit with consumers. In fact, they sold more than $200,000,000 of kombucha in the last year - or around 50,000,000 bottles!
That’s a lot of fermented tea!
With this success, you can imagine investors have come flocking. And indeed they have, with Coca Cola one of the key investors in Health Ade. But even more importantly, a private equity firm called First Bev, has recently taken a controlling stake in Health Ade.
So while the founders will remain a part of the company, things are changing fast. And as such, we will be paying extra attention to the quality of Health Ade’s products and formulations in the years to come. Especially since the main owner of Health Ade now, being First Bev, has a track record of “Making over” brands and then selling them to industry giants like Nestle, as they did with Essentia water.
And just before we move onto the next point… Health Ade is NOT the only kombucha company that has welcomed outside money. For example, Kevita’s founders sold the entire company to Pepsi in 2016. But the one hold out of all the major players is of course… GTs Kombucha. Which has as of the date of this article, never taken a single dollar of outside funding, with GT Dave remaining 100% in control of his company.
Bravo Dave for keeping the mission going full steam!
2. What products does Health Ade sell?
Health Ade has expanded its product range over the years and now has several distinct categories. I’ll quickly run through them so they make sense and also show you what we’re focusing on in this article.
- So first up, they have their flagship kombucha line, and of course this is the focus of this article.
- Next up, they have their advanced kombucha range - they call it Health Ade PLUS. And basically this is their normal kombucha, but spruced up with additional functional health ingredients like turmeric, biotin, guarana etc. Each product aims to support a health goal, like Immunity, skin, energy etc.
- Meanwhile, Health Ade has 2 other product lines, which include…
- Kombucha mixers for cocktails like Moscow Mule and Whisky Sour!
- As well as Prebiotic-infused kombuchas, which are an interesting mix of kombucha and prebiotic fiber from corn.
Anyways, enough about these new products. It’s time to focus on Health Ade’s kombucha!
In the rest of this article, I want us to take the gloves off and really shine a spotlight on what's actually inside Health Ade’s kombucha, so we can answer 4 questions…
- How well is it made?
- Does it taste good?
- Is it in fact good for you?
- Is it worth your money?
Of course, to make this analysis even more useful, we’ll also look at how Health Ade compares to other kombucha brands. Naturally, to make this comparison fair, we need to make sure that we’re comparing apples with apples. And after a bit of research we found that ALL major brands have 1 flavor in common with Health Ade's... which is ginger.
So in other words, we’re going to compare ginger with ginger.
In this analysis, when we’re comparing brands on things like flavoring agents used, sugar content etc, we’ll be referencing Health Ade's GINGER-LEMON Kombucha
3. How well is Health Ade kombucha made?
Despite receiving a sizable investment from Coca Cola and now being controlled by private equity, Health Ade retains a largely traditional approach to making kombucha, which is great to see.
For starters, while most of the industry has moved to brewing kombucha in HUGE vats, often around the 50 gallon mark, Health Ade still brews their kombucha in small 2.5 gallon glass vessels. Not only does this prevent plastic or metal leaching into the kombucha, but it is also exactly how Health Ade founders Daina and Justin started brewing their kombucha some 14 years ago!
And it is also similar to the small batch brewing process GTs proudly uses.
Just as interestingly, Health Ade’s kombucha undergoes a suitably long fermentation period, which is important as it gives the SCOBY time to work its magic. On their website they say ”We let it ferment for a few weeks”.
But given how vague that is, we did a bit of investigating and managed to track down an old interview with the founders, where they stated that they ferment their kombucha for 14 to 21 days.
While some of their competitors do a longer brew period, such as GTs and Remedy, which both go for 30 days…others simply do not disclose their fermentation period. Sadly, many even hide behind statements like “Ours is a proprietary kombucha fermentation process”.
Now, when it comes to how Health Ade brews the tea that goes into their kombucha, well they’re doing it fairly similar to everyone else. Which means they’re using a combination of organic black tea and organic green tea.
Now, in terms of how they prepare their tea so it can be fermented, Health Ade is doing it similar to most of their competitors. That means they’re adding simple cane sugar to their tea. And given that the sugar is largely just fuel for the fermentation process and that most of it will be eaten up during fermentation it is a suitable source.
Okay, so the next big thing we want to look at is how Health Ade treats their kombucha after it has been brewed. And from our research we were initially happy to read about how the founders of Health Ade were “kombucha purists” and devoted fans of raw and unpasteurized kombucha.
However in analyzing their website and recent marketing materials, we couldn’t find any mention of the kombucha being raw or unpasteurized.
Of course, we decided to email Health Ade to see what they are actually doing. And the response we got was: “Once our kombucha is fully fermented using our very own diverse cultures, we gently and quickly heat the liquid to prevent the growth of unwanted pathogens and limit the amount of alcohol produced by naturally-occurring yeasts”.
That sounds... a little like pasteurization, doesn’t it?
Of course, without knowing more about this process, such as exact time and temperature, it is hard for us to definitively conclude where it sits on the spectrum in terms of processing.
Needless to say, if we compare it to Health Ade’s competitors, it probably sits somewhere between GTs, who make a fully raw and unpasteurized product, and Kevita’s kombucha, which is definitely pasteurized.
And if you would like to know more about our thoughts on pasteurization and kombucha, check out our article on Kevita.
Finally, let’s look at how Health Ade flavors their kombucha once it has been brewed - focusing specifically on their GINGER-LEMON kombucha.
As you can see, it is simply flavored with cold pressed ginger juice and cold pressed lemon juice. That’s it! This is very similar to GTs food-first approach and as a registered dietitian, I love simple ingredient lists like this. But even moreso, I love when beneficial foods are used as flavorings. And since ginger root has known anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and digestive health benefits, it is great to see it included here.
By contrast, when we analyzed the flavorings used by other companies for their ginger kombuchas, we saw many adding in ingredients like ginger extract and ‘natural flavors’.
4. What does Health Ade taste like?
Okay, so I think it’s time for a quick break. And I bet you’re wondering…tell us what you think of the taste? I hear you! So let’s pour a glass of Health Ade’s Ginger-Lemon Kombucha and give it a try.
So in doing this taste test, the biggest thing I noticed is how this tastes like a GTs-Kevita lovechild!
For starters, it is nice and bubbly like GTs, but not as effervescent as Kevita, which relies on carbonated water. Meanwhile, it tastes sour and tart like a real kombucha should...similar to GTs...but packs a stronger flavor punch, probably due to the addition of lemon juice.
By contrast, Kevita’s Ginger kombucha tastes sweeter and more like a kombucha 'soda'…. which is not surprising given it derives its flavor from extracts, natural flavors and higher amounts of added sugar.
Is Health Ade kombucha good for you?
So we’ve already touched on a few things that relate to the healthiness of Health Ade's kombucha. But now let’s go even deeper to find out whether Health Ade's kombucha is really good for us or not.
I want to cut straight to the chase here, and look at the probiotics inside Health Ade’s Kombucha. After all, these are perhaps the Number 1 reason people are drinking kombucha these days - and definitely the #1 health benefit that Health Ade likes to tout as it drops the hashtag ‘FOLLOW YOUR GUT’ everywhere it can.
So in 1 bottle of Health Ade, you’ll find approximately 1 billion CFUs of probiotics. And given the benchmark for a probiotic effect from the world-leading International Scientific Association for Probiotics & Prebiotics is 1 billion CFUs, Health Ade is basically delivering just enough to qualify.
Type of probiotics
Now in terms of the types of probiotics in Health Ade's kombucha...well as you can see, Health Ade's probiotics come from 1 type of bacteria, being Bacillus Coagulans. The specific type of B Coagulans in Health Ade is listed at MTCC 5856 - which is actually the exact same probiotic you’ll find in Kevita’s Master Brew kombucha.
And the brand name of this is LactoSpore. It is made by a company called Sabinsa and is something you can find in probiotic supplements as well as fortified foods & beverages
In other words, it appears the probiotics stated on Health Ade’s label are added into the kombucha after it has been brewed. Meaning, they are NOT naturally produced by the fermentation process itself. Some people find it surprising that the probiotics proudly marketed with commercial kombuchas don’t actually come from the kombucha itself. And that’s why we spent a lot of time talking about this in our review of the most popular kombucha, GTs.
B Coagulans review
Now, let’s look at how good the B Coagulan’s MTCC 5856 strain is. We covered this in our article on Kevita, but I’ll do a quick summary here for you...
- So for starters, this probiotic strain has been clinically studied to confer benefits on humans when administered in adequate amounts, and thus meet the WHO’s technical definition of a probiotic.
- In terms of acid resistance, it will likely stand up well to the low PH or highly acidic environment of both kombucha and your stomach. Meaning it will likely make its way to your GI tract.
- It should also be easily tolerated by most people.
- And perhaps most interesting, it is extremely stable - retaining almost 100% of its power over 3 months at room temp or 12 months at a refrigerated temp. Meaning that by the time you go to drink it, most of the probiotics should still be alive and kicking. All things considered, Health Ade's kombucha contains a solid probiotic strain.
Comparing Health Ade's probiotics to other brands
Now with that out of the way, let’s see how Health Ade's competitors compare on the probiotic front. And to make this fair, we’ll standardize the serving size to 12oz or 355mils.
So with this standardization, we can see Health Ade offers roughly 0.75 billion CFUs for this amount, and this is…
- Nearly double the amount in Remedy
- But much less than its other major competitors. For example…
- Humm contains 2 times as many probiotics than Health Ade
- Kevita contains around 2.5 times as many probiotics
- And finally, GTs packs their kombucha with about 9 times as many probiotics
In other words, Health Ade delivers a probiotic dose, but nothing close to their major competitors.
Now, with that said, Health Ade does sell a special kombucha in their Health Ade PLUS range, called ‘Belly Reset’. And that comes with a much higher dose of probiotics.
But since it is a one-off product and outside their normal line, we are not bringing it into our comparison.
6. Is Health Ade kombucha bad for you?
Now, let’s look at the darker side of kombucha and analyze the potentially bad stuff you will find in Health Ade's kombucha; being alcohol, caffeine and sugar.
So first up alcohol. Yes, there is some in kombucha, including in Health Ade’s line. But that’s totally understandable given it is a by-product of the natural fermentation process.
Thankfully over the years, Health Ade, along with the other leading brands, have fine-tuned their manufacturing and fulfilment processes, such that this amount is under 0.5% alcohol.
So when it comes to alcohol, as long as you’re fine with trace amounts of alcohol, there’s nothing wrong with Health Ade’s kombucha range.
Now, what about caffeine? After all, we are talking about a tea-based product.
Well, once again, you’re pretty safe here. For example, Health Ade’s range contains just 5 to 15 milligrams of caffeine per 16 fluid oz or 473 mil bottle. Making it a fraction of the caffeine you’d find in an equivalent serving of coffee.
And this is a similar story for most other brands, with the exception of Kevita, which comes in at roughly 70 mg of caffeine per bottle - or said differently, roughly 5 to 8 times more than Health Ade.
Lastly, what about sugar? Well, as we saw earlier, a lot of the sugar added in during the brewing process will get eaten up by the SCOBY. But not necessarily all of it.
So if we look at Health Ade’s Ginger kombucha, we can see 13 grams or just over 3 teaspoons of sugar is expected to remain in 1 bottle of their kombucha when you drink it.
If you standardize the serving size against its competitors, Health Ade is pretty low in sugar. For example, it’s roughly equal to GTs and Humm, and about 30% lower in sugar than Kevita.
7. How expensive is Kevita kombucha?
Finally, let’s look at price...after all, kombucha is one of the priciest drinks you’ll find in the grocery store! So at the time of this article, we found Health Ade’s Ginger-Lemon Kombucha typically retails for $4 per bottle.
Meanwhile, almost ALL of Health Ade's competitors come in slightly cheaper, with some even going as low as $3...hello Kevita!
So what we’re saying here, is that in the kombucha world, Health Ade is one of the most expensive mainstream brands on the market. But given their recent investments from First Bev private equity, we would imagine this price will come down as they continue to scale their manufacturing and distribution.
8. Our verdict on Health Ade
So we’ve been on a bit of a journey. And along the way we’ve seen that Health Ade is a kombucha-obsessed company, and shares a food-first philosophy similar to GTs Kombucha.
And when it comes to their main kombucha line, we saw there are some things we like about it, such as the use of cold pressed juices, and some things we believe could be improved to bring it closer to the standards of industry-leading GTs - namely the probiotic count.
For us here at Essential Stacks, Health Ade is a strong commercial kombucha brand, but not yet at the same level in terms of supporting gut health as some of its competitors (hello GTs!).
An evidence hierarchy is followed to ensure conclusions are formed off of the most up-to-date and well-designed studies available. We aim to reference studies conducted within the past five years when possible.
- Systematic review or meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials
- Randomized controlled trials
- Controlled trials without randomization
- Case-control (retrospective) and cohort (prospective) studies
- A systematic review of descriptive, qualitative, or mixed-method studies
- A single descriptive, qualitative, or mixed-method study
- Studies without controls, case reports, and case series
- Animal research
- In vitro research