Healthy drink from small firm is a big star in local food awards

A Moy-based health drink company which has just won Northern Ireland’s Best New Product of the Year from a Micro-Business has been certified organic and is investing in further innovation.

FoodNI member Moocha Kombucha, a family-owned and run business of entrepreneur Bronagh Quail, picked up the prestigious recognition at the recent Northern Ireland Food and Drink Awards, an event held to highlight local food every two years. Around 500 people attended the dinner and presentation. The company is a FoodNI member.

Other winners on the night included McColgan’s Quality Foods in Strabane; Wilson’s Country, Portadown, Milgro Crispy Onions, Limavady; Avondale Foods, Lurgan; and Big Pot, Cookstown. Many of the winners were also FoodNI members like Moocha Kombucha.

Moocha gained the important award for its mixed berry health kombucha  rom a panel of local food experts. Kombucha is a fermented, lightly effervescent tea drink. The company was the smallest to be recognised on the night.

This category had the highest number of entries from smaller businesses here. The award was among a number presented at a gala dinner for the food and drink industry here

Founder and managing director Bronagh Quail was justifiably thrilled to have received the award. “It represents a tremendous endorsement of our products and our overall business,” she says. “The award is a marvellous recognition of all our hard work in developing innovative drinks and building our brand in the local marketplace. We’ve invested heavily in the product, its branding and marketing, ploughing profits back into the company.

”Our kombucha, for instance, is now certified as fully organic, a certification that required extensive work over several years. Each can of kombucha is also gluten free, vegan and has fewer than 50 calories, making it ideal for people watching their diet. Each can also includes three billion live cultures.

“This week sees us launching two new flavours to our existing range  – Organic Apple and Blackberry and an Organic Cola, the outcome of extensive investment in new product development and our longstanding dedication to innovation,” adds Bronagh, originally a graphic designer by profession.

Kombucha is said to help digestion, remove potentially harmful toxins from the body, and boost energy. It has also been claimed to enhance the immune system, help lose weight, and ward off conditions such as high blood pressure. The drink, furthermore, is reported to be full of antioxidants and probiotics or live bacteria which contribute to gut health and improve the efficiency of the body.

Bronagh, now married with a young family, discovered the drink while living and working in Sydney, Australia for six years. “I had decided to go there for a few months with a girl friend who had gone to Australia for pilot training. Flying conditions there are much better there than in Northern Ireland. It was all a bit of an adventure for me. I trekked around the country and enjoyed every minute of the trip and especially the sharp focus there on a healthy lifestyle,” she continues.

She subsequently decided to stay for longer than planned, securing a job and somewhere to live in Sydney. “It was a very valuable experience, and where I first tasted kombucha, a very popular drink that’s available virtually everywhere and is regarded as being a healthy beverage. Australians have a sharp focus on healthy eating and drinking,” she adds.

Bronagh began to research healthy food and especially kombucha. ”I enjoyed the drink so much and was keen to find out how it was made. It has been consumed for thousands of years.

“The drink is made by adding specific strains of bacteria, yeast and sugar, known as scoby, to black or green tea, then allowing it to ferment for a week or two. Green tea is also regarded as one of the healthiest beverages. Kombucha is basically a type of cold tea that has been fermented, the outcome of controlled and beneficial microbial growth,” she explains.

Bronagh returned to Tyrone is 2015 with a vague notion about making her own kombucha, then relatively unknown here.  She subsequently decided to “go for it” and turn her love for kombucha into a start-up business. “I found there was a gap in the market here. I decided to see if I could create sufficient interest and awareness to support an artisan enterprise. The kombucha is now available in bottles and cans in delis, farm shops and groceries across the country.

She started up on the family farm and has turned it into a thriving small business acclaimed for its innovation, the quality of its beverages, the expertise of its marketing and branding and customer support.