KRISTAL MUHICH IS A SURVIVOR.
“I was adopted by my uncle when I was 4,” recalls the owner of Kauai Juice Co. “I really didn’t like school. I couldn’t wait to leave – I graduated from high school early when I was 17 so I could work four different jobs. I was always a workaholic.”
She was born in Texas, but raised in the small town of Mahomet, Illinois. “When I was 18 or 19, I started to read books on health and wellness,” says Muhich, who now lives in Anahola.
“That really inspired me to do my own research, traveling and going to seminars and retreats. One of the retreats was on the Big Island, then I found my way to Kauai in 2005.”
Muhich, 32, says she originally studied winemaking, but turned to kombucha, “which is another fermenting process.”
“I loved kombucha, but didn’t have any money to start my own business, so I started a Kickstarter campaign for the equipment for $7,000 in 2010. Being a first-time business owner, I had no idea what to buy and later found out wasted half my money on things I didn’t need.
“Any money I made, I put it all back into the product. I was literally living out of my car because I couldn’t afford the rent on my apartment. I did this for at least a year.”
In 2010, Muhich quit her full-time job as a waitress and founded Kauai Kombucha in a small kitchen in downtown Kapaa. On her own, she would brew, bottle and wholesale the beverage. “At the beginning, it was pretty bad. I couldn’t afford new bottles – plus I wanted to use the whole recycling idea – so I would go to restaurants and scrub off the wine labels from their old bottles and then reuse them for my kombucha.
“It was a lot of manual labor.”
But the community helped her. “It was a lot of little things that fell into place, just when I needed them. Like when I had to go through my first health inspection, the walk-in fridge broke. I didn’t have any money to fix it and I started crying. The repairmen were so sweet – they went back to their house to get me an old refrigerator they just gave to me for the inspection. If I didn’t have it, I probably would’ve never even been able to start the business.”
Muhich’s kombucha became well-known for its freshness and gradually, through word- of-mouth at health food stores on the island, it took off. By 2012, she was in the black and rebranded the business as Kauai Juice Co.
“I wasn’t able to source locally as much as I originally wanted to for our kombucha due to some of the ingredients not being grown here, but I could do that for our juices.” Muhich manufactures cold-pressed, organic, locally sourced juices, 80 percent of which is made from produce that’s grown in Hawaii. And cold-pressing the fruits or vegetables in large hydraulic presses ensures the juice does not oxidize or decay as rapidly as with other methods, she says.
Kauai Juice became so popular that a second store was opened in 2013 in Kilauea and a third in Poipu in 2016. Muhich added a second manufacturing plant in Kapaa and a third in Lihue to meet demand.
Her staff has grown as well. From working alone, Muhich has gone to having about 30 full-time and 10 part-time employees in the manufacturing plants, the warehouse, doing deliveries and serving customers in the stores.
“I really appreciate that our workers are grateful to be working for a company with environmental values,” Muhich reflects. “It helps us have a strong, positive team.”
Kauai Juice takes back about 1,000 bottles a day for redemption from customers for recycling. “We actually have a whole section of the company just for bottle washing,” Muhich points out. “It costs us twice as much money to buy back the bottles and wash them than if we just threw them away and bought new bottles.
“But it helps us stay true to our core values, which is doing the best we can for the island, and being an environmentally conscious company.”
Muhich married her husband, Dylan Scott, in 2012. Together, they experiment with healthy ingredients for new items. “He creates so many recipes. I stick to the raw food juices and elixirs. He does all of our fermented items: kimchi, sauerkraut, fermented hot sauces.”
Anne Rogers De Anda, 70, is a massage therapist in Kapaa. “I picked up my first juice cleanse in 2014, and have enjoyed juicing with Kauai Juice Co. regularly ever since. I purchase everything to try at least once. Every now and again I just cycle through everything on the menu.
“There is genuine, sincere, passionate love in every sip. I am nurtured and nourished physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually!”
Kauai Juice Kicks
“We have over 40 flavors in rotation, but our most popular are Dragonfruit Pineapple Kombucha and our Turmeric Lemon Ginger Kombucha,” says Muhich. “It’s full of probiotics and tastes like a bubbly, healthy spritzer.”
“They are nut-based. We have about 10 options in rotation, but our most popular are our Sexy Baby Maker, Macadamia Nut and our Best Breakfast. People love them because they are filling and can be used as a meal replacement.”
“My husband, Dylan Scott, does the recipes for the fermented hot sauces. We ferment all our peppers for a minimum of six months. Our two most popular flavors are Mango Garlic Ghost and Kiawe Smoked.”
Kauai Juice Co.
4-1384 Kuhio Highway, Kapaa
4270 Kilauea Road, Kilauea
2360 Kiahuna Plantation Drive, Koloa