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SoCal Explorer Partner Spotlight: Whalebird Kombucha

Whalebird Kombucha’s mission is to create great tasting kombucha with organic and ethically sourced ingredients, while empowering consumers to make a positive impact toward fighting climate change.  

The company is prioritizing setting a new standard for how emerging companies can focus on global health over profit and was one of the first businesses in San Luis Obispo to be California Green Business certified. 

Metrolink has partnered with Whalebird to offer SoCal Explorer rewards members a discount on kombucha orders by ordering online with a special code for loyalty members. Mike Durighello, CEO / Founder of Whalebird shares his thoughts on the business and its community, below.  

“I first got into drinking kombucha because my friend who I was living with in Santa Cruz was a fan. At first, I was thinking, kombu – what? It was a completely foreign term to me. I tried it and I hated it, at first. But I eventually gave another flavor a try, and I loved it. I hadn’t realized that I had never had a fermented food or beverage before.  

After that, I started drinking it like crazy. This was back in 2006, so it was less available. I’d get multiple bottles whenever I was at the grocery store. When I out moved to San Luis Obispo I started conversations with a friend who wanted to found a business together. He wanted to start a juicing business and I said, ‘well, what about kombucha?’ 

Nobody was making kombucha yet in San Luis Obispo yet, so we watched some YouTube videos about how to make it because at the time back in 2012, there weren’t a lot of resources to teach you how to make it at home.  

We expanded to start selling it at a local vegan restaurant on draft. That has been our whole mission from the beginning is to offer kombucha in a completely reusable container, such as a stainless keg.  

We were one of the first draft kombucha companies in California. Since then, we’ve grown tremendously. We started selling our draft kombucha in San Luis Obispo to local businesses and began to expand up to Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz. In 2016 we started to ship it to Southern California. Then, in 2018 we started distributing in Northern California as well to continue this journey across the entire state. 

Originally we didn’t want to use cans at all, because we only wanted to offer on-draft tap options — but we realized that if we wanted to get into retailers, we needed to be in a ready-to-drink container. We still uphold our mission of sustainability – even though we’re in a ready-to-drink container, we’re in the best possible type of packaging – a can. Cans are infinitely recyclable — and according to our research, consumers are 20% more likely to recycle a can than they are to recycle glass. They’re also significantly lighter to ship.  

It’s a tough time right now because many businesses that are only offered on draft have been more or less discontinued during COVID times, because people want something that’s sealed and sanitized rather than on draft — which can be less clean. Even though we’re still primarily a draft product, all these local businesses that wo were working with like the tech giants’ offices disappeared in a matter of months when working from home began. So, we made a big pivot toward cans.  

But people are still coming to SLO to get our kombucha. Someone told me the other day that her husband visited from San Diego and tried our kombucha and proclaimed that Whalebird is now his favorite brand. We have several people that are a part of our growler club who say that regularly drinking kombucha as transformed their gut, and how they feel. They say it’s improved their digestion, and they’re no longer getting heartburn. People either drink it as an aperitif or as a post meal drink to help with digestion.  

Kombucha is unique because the taste is oftentimes something that people are initially afraid of. It can be sour and strong, but we want people to love our kombucha after their first sip. We want to be approachable and balanced in our flavors. We even create seasonal flavors that we rotate at least quarterly.  

We were also one of the first businesses in SLO to be California green business certified. We’ve made improvements with our warehouse heating and insulation, our water system, and we’re even working on new branding for our cans to empower our consumers with information about how they can fight climate change themselves. We love to engage with our customers on social media and empower them to make an impact on climate change.  

We have some optimism for the coming months, with our upcoming product launches, and figuring out how to spread the word of our product and our story. 

SoCal Explorer rewards members get 20% Off online orders of Whalebird with the promo Code: METROWB20 

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