Soul Fixx Elixir’s prides itself on its “chef-inspired” flavors

Since the end of 2018, Soul Fixx Elixirs has called Healdsburg home. The kombucha company moved into the former Sonoma Cider distilling facility on Mill Street and has since been inching its way into the heavily-populated kombucha market.

“We knew it was one of the fastest growing categories for the beverage market and we had a really great strategy for breaking into the market, because it was saturated,” said CEO Erik Fritz.

That strategy included setting itself apart by manufacturing kombucha in cans rather than in glass bottles, and developing flavor profiles that are “chef-inspired” and unlike many of the ones that are already on the shelves.

“We like to say we’re not the ‘lemon-ginger kombucha company,’ because the explosion of kombucha was similar to the craft beer industry where everyone’s copying flavors and branding. We had a different approach,” Fritz said.

Fritz and Ruben Moreno, chief creative officer for Soul Fixx Elixirs, both attended the Culinary Institute of America and met while working at The French Laundry in Yountville.

“We’ve seen a lot of combinations of flavors and things that aren’t so typical, but really work well together,” Fritz said, discussing how their backgrounds influence the drinks. “That’s where we base a lot of our flavors — just working in kitchens, in a three-star Michelin restaurant and combining cultures.”

Such combinations are evident when looking at Soul Fixx’s products — their current five-drink lineup includes flavors that may be considered atypical, like guava cardamom and pineapple tepache.

Fritz said that Soul Fixx is focused on making drinks that may be less vinegar-forward than ones produced by other kombucha manufacturers. He said they use a kind of SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) that doesn’t allow the alcohol fermentation process to continue while brewing the kombucha.

“Having a different culture in there creates a different flavor profile for us, so it doesn’t have that sour vinegar flavor,” he said.

Like a sourdough starter to sourdough bread, a SCOBY is the living form of bacteria and yeast that’s added to ingredients (in the case of kombucha, tea and sugar) and is used to brew, ferment and ultimately create kombucha.

Growing pains

The decision to open up shop in Healdsburg was one that was made in part because that’s what was practical — the new business needed an affordable warehouse to brew in that it could grow into. They wanted to be close to San Francisco, and other cities that they looked at were less welcoming.

Fritz said that Healdsburg is more welcoming to start-ups and new people coming in.

The pandemic has made it difficult for Soul Fixx to continue to grow — they had had the manufacturing facility for a little over a year when COVID-19 hit.

“When COVID was starting, we lost a lot of contact with beverage buyers and people were just buying toilet paper and flour and paper towels. If you weren’t already on the shelves, it was a hard category to break into,” Fritz said.

The company went into “survive and thrive” mode, Fritz said, with him spending hours on the phone every day trying to get Soul Fixx in stores.

“I was on the phone 24/7 bugging people to get us in the door. We got into Raleys. Odwalla went out of business during the pandemic, so that opened up some shelf space. I think establishing relationships was key to us pushing forward,” he said.

Eventually, Soul Fixx was able to land bigger accounts with the Sacramento and San Francisco airports, he said, and most recently got on the shelves at Oliver’s Markets.

“We want to stay true to how kombucha is produced,” Fritz said, elaborating on the company’s goals. “We want people to have the functionality of the probiotic and the flavor. It’s easy to drink, still has a nice level of acidity, but we pride ourselves on flavor, for sure.”

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