You can’t open a newspaper or magazine these days without coming across a story about the evils of sugar – particularly here in the UK, where a sugar tax has been recently introduced in an attempt to discourage our consumption of the addictive stuff. (The Brits sure love their sugary treats – and they aren’t ashamed to admit it!)
Without a sweet tooth, I find sugar fairly easy to avoid. However, as I make efforts to cut back my alcohol intake, I am looking for a ‘treat’ replacement or at least something more interesting than fizzy water. In my quest to find the best non-alcoholic beverages, I came across Karma Cola and its range of organic Fairtrade drinks.
It Started at a Beach
I recently met one of Karma Cola’s founders, Simon Coley, and discovered we have something in common: a love of a chilled-out New Zealand West coast beach called Piha. In the true Kiwi fashion of dreaming up ideas while relaxing with friends at the beach, Simon and his two business partners came up with their company: All Good. (Good for the land, good for the growers, good for you… all good!)
They started by tackling some of the world’s biggest food giants in an industry notorious for its not-so-good business practice: bananas. Until they came along, bananas sold in New Zealand came from the other side of the world. All Good figured that buying bananas from their Pacific neighbours made a lot more sense, not only because of their proximity but also as a way to commercially support island communities. After a lot of rotten bananas, they worked out how to get a Fairtrade product into New Zealander’s homes.
1.9 billion cola drinks are consumed worldwide every day
Hooked into the business of doing good, while researching their next big idea they stumbled across a mind-blowing statistic: approximately 1.9 billion cola drinks are consumed worldwide every day! Can we just stop and reflect on that? Close to two billion cola drinks. A day. That’s approximately one million a minute! Those numbers are truly unfathomable. Needless to say, Karma Cola saw this as a challenge and decided to go after the industry’s big players.
What’s in a Name?
We all know the saying: what goes around comes around. Personally, I believe that’s how the world operates (although, I’m still waiting for a couple to come full circle)! This is the basis for Karma Cola’s name. The guys at Karma wanted to, ‘create something that would connect buyers with farmers in a way that respected everyone and everything involved – what goes around comes around.’ Pretty cool, huh?
What is Cola?
It’s said that big cola who-shall-not-be-named don’t use real cola in their recipe and instead they rely upon artificial ingredients to mimic the flavour. Given that close to 2 billion cola drinks are consumed EACH day (yes! I’m still reeling from that stat!), this makes sense. But really, who wants to consume something fake and full of manmade substances when you can enjoy the real thing, made with ingredients that could be in your own cupboard?
Cola comes from West Africa, and Karma Cola’s source is from a small village in Sierra Leone. It’s the nut that is harvested, and these grow on trees. I’ve tasted the raw material – and let me tell you, it’s nothing like what you’d expect from a cola drink. It’s seriously bitter and astringent, with a bit of a weird texture. And of course, it’s high in caffeine (note to self: don’t nibble on cola in the evening. I did and was awake half the night, so I’ll vouch for its caffeine qualities). This is the stuff that turns water into liquid gold.
As well as real cola, Karma Cola’s drinks are full of actual, identifiable ingredients rather than reading like a list of code. There are no ‘E’ numbers, natural flavourings (which aren’t natural by the way) or other such nasties. In fact, in their cola you’ll find ingredients like lemon, vanilla, nutmeg, lime, orange. Seriously, I had no idea that a can of cola was so complex in its make-up.
As for the sugar content, they have recently launched a sugar-free version made with plant-based sweetener, stevia. However, as Simon says, their range of beverages are meant to be a treat rather than a day-to-day staple. The size of the cans reflects this – a dinky 250ml. And we all know that the secret behind a good diet is a balanced diet – a little something of everything!
Benefitting the Communities
From the outset, the Karma team’s quest was to produce fairly-traded, organic drinks that are “good for the land, good for the people who grow them and good for the people who drink them”. In addition to meeting Simon, I was fortunate to also meet Albert Tucker, a leading figure in the Fairtrade movement and Chairman of the Karma Cola Foundation. Originally from Sierra Leone, it was interesting to hear him speak about Karma’s philosophy and the effect of the Foundation on the communities they work with. So far, the Foundation has helped to build a bridge; provided educational bursaries for 75 girls; paid 5 teachers to educate another 265 children each year; and invested in 18 local entrepreneurial businesses. That’s a whole lot of good coming out of soft drinks!
At a Glance
- Our verdict: Karma Cola are responsible for bringing are responsible for bringing us some of the best tasting, organic soft drinks available on the market right now. Not only do they taste great, but they are good on many levels: good for the land, good for the growers and good for you! Watch out for our upcoming reviews.
- Drink range: in addition to Karma Cola, you can try Gingerella Ginger Ale (check out social media for their limited edition of Gingerfella – released for Harry and Meghan’s wedding), Lemony Lemonade, and their newest flavour, Summery Orangeade.
- Where can I get my Karmic fix: available in 24 countries including UK, Iceland, Norway, Sweden (apparently a Swede fell in love with Karma Cola while visiting London, so much so that he tracked them down and insisted on bringing it to Sweden!), Denmark, The Netherlands, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Malta, Spain, France, Ireland, Czech Republic, Belgium, Macau, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand; plus in a selection of high-end restaurants in Germany, Italy and USA.