GT’s Kombucha: Case Study of Inaction

So, what is kombucha, you may ask? It’s a Chinese tea that contains live microorganisms, essential nutrients, probiotics, amino acids, antioxidants and polyphenols that contribute to overall health and wellness. It’s been used as a healing tonic for centuries across several cultures worldwide.

GT’s Kombucha has become a popular U.S. brand during the last decade. Dave, GT’s founder, created his blend to help his ailing mom battle with breast cancer. She’s still living today.

As we transitioned into summer this year, GT’s Kombucha mysteriously went missing on supermarket shelves. When I asked a grocery store clerk what happened, she said there were labeling issues and she didn’t know when it would be available for purchase again.

The worst part was there was no information made available to the public regarding its disappearance. Consumers found out through the grapevine that the elixir’s alcohol content was mislabeled. During shipment, the product was unrefrigerated, which caused the alcohol content to  rise. This was a clear concern for people who drank it for the health benefits, and especially women that were pregnant.

Thousands of GT’s Kombucha lovers nationwide were all left hanging out to dry, without the quenching, organic, healing elixir to sip during our hot summer days.

What the company should have done in its mini-crisis:

  • Address the problem – online and offline. There was no information available on GT’s website regarding the mysterious disappearance of the drink. Within days of it going missing from grocery shelves, GT’s Kombucha should have written a statement that addressed the issue, clearly posted it on its website and distributed the statement to media.
  • Respond to Facebook fans. This is the one that would make any social media manager cringe. With more than 13,000 fans on Facebook – GT’s most loyal consumers – there were hundreds of posts on GT’s discussion board about the product gone missing from the shelves. There was not a single response from a GT’s Kombucha page admin. It was clear fans were frustrated by no information, or even a response from GT’s regarding its disappearance. The company should have responded in a timely manner, with an open and candid message to its fans.
  • Develop a process to prevent it from happening again. It turns out that the new shipments of kombucha need to stay refrigerated at all times to prevent the alcohol content from rising. This information was once again gleaned from a third party, a grocery store clerk.

In the long run, a reputation management plan should be in place, should something like this occur again.