Unpeeled starts with a kombucha base, to which Johnson adds his own blend of four different probiotics. The bacteria and yeast naturally form a cellulose matrix, or a balanced growth configuration, which allows the organisms to inhabit the same medium without killing each other off.
The probiotics remain live and active to the time the consumer opens a bottle. Once consumed, the drink’s bacteria propagate in the gastro-intestinal (GI) tract, aiding in digestion and reducing inflammation that causes muscle and joint pain. Unpeeled also helps balance the body’s pH levels by alkalizing them. (The human body has a tendency to become overacidic under the influence of the typical modern diet.)
Johnson stresses that it is the quality of bacteria, not the quantity, that matters. Once the GI tract is seeded with good bacteria, they multiply on their own and crowd out pathogens. Each bottle of Unpeeled thus contains three servings’ worth of probiotics, which he recommends be consumed throughout the day.
From Unpeeled’s earliest batches, customers have responded favorably to its health benefits. “This beverage is saving my life,” one customer says. “It makes swelling go down [and] promotes good digestion. I don’t know how I could do without it.” Another of Johnson’s customers—and longtime patient—has been faithfully drinking Unpeeled since before it had a name, and says the tea helps her manage her painful joints.
Unpeeled currently comes in six flavors, which begin with the same green tea kombucha and are differentiated using natural flavorings such as raw ginger, cranberry, mango, sea salt, and juices from various organic fruits. In addition to enhancing flavor, these natural ingredients impart enzymes that bolster the drink’s health benefits further. Johnson will soon release a second probiotic beverage line made from a coconut-water base, also to be available in a variety of flavors.
Business has been booming for Unpeeled. What began as a back-of-the-office beer-bottle operation now takes up a 10,000 square-foot warehouse. In it are four of Johnson’s custom built bioreactors bubbling away with the next batch. Johnson has hired 12 employees to meet production demands and plans on hiring more help soon. After selling 500,000 units in 2010 and over 1 million in 2011, he is on pace to sell more than 5 million bottles of his NASA-inspired drink in 2012.