This Company Puts Tepache, Mexico’s 3,000-Year-Old Fermented Pineapple Beverage in Easy Reach of U.S. Consumers

Photo:Greg Dupree / Food Styling by Ali Ramee / Prop Styling by Christina Daley
By:Lucy Simon

Two beverage industry pros are bringing Mexico’s oldest drink to the U.S. market for the first time, with astonishing success.
While many of us were tending to sourdough starters in March 2020, Rafael Martin del Campo was tinkering with tepache. The sweet and sour fermented pineapple beverage, often sold in baggies from street stalls, is one of Mexico’s oldest drinks. (It has a 3,000-year history of being made in the region.) In the spring of 2020, del Campo, who has a background in beverage development in the kombucha space, joined Alex Matthews, a marketing veteran, and founded De La Calle, the first brand to bring tepache into the U.S. market—and into a new era. Del Campo led De La Calle’s research and development, while Matthews took on all things branding.

Over the next nine months, del Campo tested his family recipe, playing with spices and sugars to create a flavor profile that would be enticing to the U.S. palate, while also reflecting the characteristics of the tepache he grew up making on his kitchen counter at home in Mexico, as well as the refreshing street-side drink that Matthews fell in love with during his frequent travels throughout the country. While many new brands go through multiple rounds of funding before launching, De La Calle had investment interest from the get-go from Allan Karp, a tepache true believer, who, with his private equity firm KarpReilly, helped fund and assemble a production team.

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To make tepache, De La Calle ferments fresh pineapple with sugar and spices before adding a bit of carbonation, which results in a fizzy, slightly sweet beverage that has trace amounts of alcohol, similar to kombucha. (De La Calle sits on the shelf next to kombucha at over 5,000 retail locations.) The brand’s traditional tepache is flavored simply with pineapple, cinnamon, and black pepper, but they also carry eight other flavors, which reflect Mexico’s rich regional diversity. “Tepache is all about Mexican flavors,” says del Campo. “For example, the Tamarind Citrus is inspired by my travels to the beach, where tamarind is popular, in Acapulco in the south of Mexico.”

In just three years, De La Calle has secured nationwide distribution in Target, Kroger, and Whole Foods, among other retailers. The brand saw 100% growth in 2022, and there are new brand extensions in development. It’s clear they are succeeding in their mission to capture the history, spirit, and taste of tepache—and taking the 3,000-year-old beverage to new heights.