Sept. 6, 2013
Kimberly Rivers, OVN correspondent
What company with Ojai roots was listed in “The 25 Most Innovative Consumer and Retail Brands,” put out by Forbes.com in July?
According to Forbes writer Ryan Caldbeck, the objective of the list was to “honor 25 companies that are starting to change the way we live our lives.” The article said, “At the end of 2012, KeVita was on track to grow its revenue 100 percent on a year over year basis.”
“It is like drinking a flower,” says Chakra Earthsong Levy, formulator, co-founder and creative director of KeVita. Levy worked for decades as a holistic consultant, working with raw and vegan food and with fermenting. “We use the fermentation process to grow our own proprietary culture, which is the heart of KeVita. That culture is in all our flavors. It is a unique probiotic.” Levy points out that KeVita is not a kombucha beverage, however. “KeVita is naturally higher in probiotics than kombucha and KeVita is milder in flavor and easier to drink.”
KeVita, which means “to life,” was birthed out of the connection of Levy and Bill Moses, the owner and operator of Casa Barranca Winery and Retreat Center in Ojai.
“I am the KeVita queen, the mother of this drink,” says Levy. “And Bill is the king of the business.” The pair met through Eliza, Bill’s wife, and it was synergy from the start. The first business offices were on Bryant Circle, and as they quickly grew, they needed to move the headquarters to Ventura.
“KeVita really sprouted from the Ojai Valley. The seed was in Chakra’s kitchen, with the original formula, paired with my experience with (commercial) fermentation from the winery,” says Moses. “And with Jeff Pfeifer, (whose knowledge) was really steeped in the probiotic science. We are able to take the product from kitchen to commercially viable.” Pfeiffer is a naturopath who hails from — you guessed it, Ojai.
And KeVita business is conducted in the true style of Ojai.
“One of our favorite places to hold business meetings is on the upper portion of the Pratt Trail,” says Levy. “There are so many dimensions to creating and growing this business. I’ll wander over to Bill’s house, and we’ll walk up to the trail. I talk to other people who run businesses and they wish they could have their business meetings up on the hills around Ojai.”
Levy also mentions that the company is mindful of reducing its footprint. “The beverage business involves a lot of glass, and transportation. We are always looking to lessen our footprint. Our products are made in Ventura and about three-quarters of all of our ingredients come from vendors within driving distance of where we make KeVita.”
“My test kitchen is in Ojai, and the first prototypes were made from Meyer Lemons grown in Ojai,” explains Levy. “We can’t reproduce our products with the same ingredients as our prototypes, though. I mean, we can’t get enough certified organic apricots, and cost is always an issue too, but it is those Ojai-grown ingredients that go into the prototypes that inspire the products.”
She tells how it was strawberries from the Ojai Certified Farmers’ Market, pomegranates from Ojai farmers and other local produce that continue to inform her formulations. “I can’t tell you what I’m working on now. But what the local farmers are growing inspires me.”
“The new daily cleanse KeVita, flavored with lemon and cayenne, was created again with Meyer Lemons from Ojai, and cayenne from The Farmer and The Cook, where they grow the pepper and make their own cayenne pepper,” says Levy. “Ojai is the garden of Eden. There is so much abundance. Fruit is literally dripping off the trees. Figs are dripping now. Persimmons are coming next.”
KeVita appears to have hit the mark for healthy, tasty and unique. And it makes sense that Ojai is the birthplace of a beverage that is “organic, non-dairy, non-GMO, gluten free and vegan” — which KeVita drinks are.
“Few people have close friends as a business partner and get to bring a product like this to market,” says Levy.