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WilmingtonBiz Magazine

Bubbling Up: A Q&A With FedUp Foods' CEO

By Vicky Janowski, posted Jun 20, 2024
David Gray, FedUp Foods CEO
In May, one of the largest private fermented beverage manufacturers in North America, FedUp Foods, announced it was expanding into Wilmington.

Sarah Mullins and Jeannine Buscher founded FedUp Foods in Asheville after making kombucha together for their children. Now, FedUp Foods manufactures kombucha, pre- and probiotic sodas, Tepache and functional cold brew coffee.

Company officials did not say whether they purchased the building at 715 Greenfield St., formerly occupied by Tru Colors Brewing. They said they are now actively recruiting, hiring and training a local team and look to begin producing by this fall.

The company’s Wilmington facility is expected to produce more than 100,000 barrels of product a year.

Below is a recent Q&A with FedUp Foods' CEO David Gray.
  

What made FedUp Foods choose Wilmington to expand in?

“Over 15 years ago, we planted roots in Marshall, North Carolina, a small town nestled in the Blue Ridge mountains right outside of Asheville, North Carolina. Three years ago, we opened our second facility in Erwin, Tennessee, and now Wilmington makes our third location on the East Coast.

Choosing Wilmington was a carefully considered decision driven by its strategic location, which offers access to sea and rail, along with a vibrant community and a strong appetite for growth. The existing building layout, location and infrastructure, including cold and dry storage, fermenting tanks and equipment, provided an excellent foundation for our expansion.

Not to mention, the investment in the city’s infrastructure and the enthusiastic support we received from civic leaders, including (Wilmington) Chamber of Commerce and Wilmington Business Development, was further evidence that Wilmington was the right next step for us.”
  

What products will the Castle Street facility produce?

“We are focused on making the best quality, functional, good-for-you beverages accessible to all. This means sourcing with intention, using organic ingredients, and prioritizing fair trade-certified and regenerative growers, all while maintaining the highest safety and quality standards.

Wilmington is an ideal location for us to launch our cold brew coffee program and expand the capacity for our growing range of functional fermented beverages, such as kombucha and pre- and probiotic sodas.”
  

As a private label manufacturer, you make the beverages for a variety of brand names. How has the company grown its roster of clients in recent years?

“From the beginning, we have approached business differently, guided by our mission and high environmental and social impact standards that prioritize people, planet and prosperity. This philosophy shapes our decisions, from investing in our team to adopting sustainable manufacturing practices and partnering with ethical and regenerative growers. Our people-first, values-driven approach has led to long-term, meaningful partnerships, which have been key to growing our client roster and sustaining our momentum.

When you do private label right, it is an opportunity to offer really high-quality items at the most affordable and accessible price point – while lifting up and supporting growers and suppliers who are not only sustainable but also regenerating the environment for future generations. This is what makes us not just incrementally different, but fundamentally different.”
 

FedUp describes itself as North America’s largest private-label manufacturer focused on fermented functional beverages. What drinks fall under that category and what’s the consumer demand outlook for them?

“Fermented functional beverages are drinks that have undergone the traditional and natural method of fermentation, offering benefits beyond refreshment. We produce a variety of beverages like:

Kombucha: A fermented tea known for its beneficial bacteria, including probiotics, and potential digestive health benefits.

Prebiotic Soda: A better-for-you-soda that is low in sugar and features plant-based fiber and fermented tibicos cultures from the Opuntia cactus plant.

Tepache: A fermented pineapple beverage whose origins can be traced back to the indigenous peoples of Mesoamerica.

The world of beverages and consumer preferences are ever evolving, but what we do know is that people are seeking more than just hydration. They want beverages that provide holistic, multi-functional benefits for both the mind and body while also being good for the planet and their wallet. We’re seeing this not only in the beverage category but across all categories of food and beverage.”
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