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Pura Soda: refreshing without all the artificial sweeteners

This healthier drink costs no more than 10-15% more than a can of Coke, says founder Greig Jansen.

NOMPU SIZIBA: It’s our SME special feature, and today we speak to a gentleman who’s founded a healthy drinks company. This at a time when people are increasingly becoming more health conscious. His company produces drinks with a fizz, but without the bad stuff that tends to come with fizzy drinks.

Well, to tell us more about his business and the journey, I’m joined on the line by Greig Jansen. He’s the founder of Pura Soda. Thanks very much, Greig, for joining us. As I say, you make carbonated drinks and you say they’re healthy. Tell us about your offering, the ingredients used in them, and so on.

GREIG JANSEN: Brilliant. Thank you very much. Well, first of all, our product is called Pura Soda. In a nutshell, it is a “better for you” offering that’s still tasty, and still refreshing. So, in effect, we’ve got a carbonated soft drink, with very low sugar. We use only pure natural sugar, no artificial sweeteners. We use all-natural flavours and it’s got no colouring. So it’s a very tasty, healthier drink. And the most amazing thing is that it’s sold at everyday price points.

NOMPU SIZIBA: So, with health being the key focus in your product and its marketing, presumably you also use environmentally friendly packaging as well. I mean, there’s no point fussing about your own wellbeing if you don’t care about your environment.

GREIG JANSEN: One hundred percent. Basically all of our packaging is recyclable. And what’s interesting about us is our brand ethos is all around “Live a Little Pura”. Live a Little Pura really displays itself as, If you’re in a position to help, you really should. No grand gestures, just a few small things –  and a whole lot of small things add up to something big. That comes across in everything we do – our packaging, how we interact with people, and in our product. So yes, it’s kind of like encompassing.. It’s Live a little Pura in our product and how we operate as a business. Yeah.

NOMPU SIZIBA: A bit of an obvious question, given what you’ve just said. But what prompted you to start making these drinks, and what was the process from conception to selling to a market?

GREIG JANSEN: Absolutely. Good question. I think there are two sides to this. Obviously there’s “How can you have fun and bring your own ethos into a business or product?” Personally, I believe in living a little purer from a concept of “If you are in a position to give back, I think that you should”. It’s been amazing to build that into our own company.

The second part around that is that this product is based 100% on global insights, consumer and market research. So, if you think of where we are as humans, we all want to be a little bit healthier. We like the natural type of things. But, in being a little healthier, you don’t want to be too healthy, because too healthy is difficult or it’s expensive or it doesn’t taste great. This is a way to think about it – if to be a little healthier, drink a little better in an easier way, wouldn’t you want to take that? And that’s what we offer.

NOMPU SIZIBA: So how long have you been in the game now? Are you just on an online platform, or do you also distribute to certain retail stores?

GREIG JANSEN: We’ve been around in South Africa for three years. Were at all major retailers – Pick n Pay, Checkers, Spar, Dis-Chem, Clicks, and so on, as well as forecourts.

We’re now exporting to 13 countries. We’re probably on about 10 to 15 online platforms. As you know, online has really exploded. And very, very excitingly one of the export markets is in USA for us. So that’s looking very, very interesting. And, with Covid really coming through, everyone is wanting to be a little healthier, work off those kilojoules but, again, in an easier way. So I think that’s what we offer  – better for you, but still tasty and efficient, again in an easy, simple way.

NOMPU SIZIBA: Sounds very good. That links to my next question: What sort of appetite or thirst have you seen for this healthier type of drink? Perhaps you can just give us a sense of perspective about what you looked like, year one, in terms of demand, and where you are now.

GREIG JANSEN: We’ve actually seen 400% growth over the last 18 months – and that’s in our business. This “Better for You” is definitely the fastest-growing [trend] in the world. What’s really helped us is that we were named Product of the Year for 2020 for innovation. We’ve been named Product of the Year for “Best-tasting non-alcoholic beverage”. So we’ve seen consumers really gravitating towards us, and I think we’ve just been in the right place at the right time, where everyone has just got a little bit more health conscious.

In the States this market has grown by 50% from $4 billion to $6 billion last year. So it’s really gone ballistic. I think, like in the case of right place, right time, we took it out through consumer market research, which we really didn’t know much of before we started.

NOMPU SIZIBA: So how have you kept up with that demand in terms of facilities, factories, production, places? Have you managed to keep apace with that, and has access to money been simple for you – or what?

GREIG JANSEN: The start-up journey is an interesting one. Your spirits are up, then they’re down, and then they are up and down. That was just by 10 o’clock this morning. Money is always tight and, as you grow, there’s more and more demand to do more and more. That’s something we’re always conscious of.

We certainly are very, very lucky. We are venture-capital backed. We’ve got some great angel investors that have backed us. It’s very important to keep very, very strong so you keep those investors happy with the growth as you grow. We’re lucky that we’ve been able to do just that.

And in terms of production, we don’t own our own production facilities. We use third-party manufacturing. The reason we do that is because we want to put all our money into sales and marketing, where it really counts. We’re very fortunate, we’ve got phenomenal partners that produce for us. They carry all the certifications, ISO 20 powers and FDA regulations. So yes, we’ve been fortunate.

But to your point on the money thing, you’ve got to watch what you spend, and you must make sure that you keep all the money guys happy with strong growth and great milestones each step along the way.

NOMPU SIZIBA: So, based on what you’ve just told us, how many jobs have you created – direct and indirect?

GREIG JANSEN: Look, we started with one, then we went to two. We’re currently sitting with 25 people in just under two-and a-half years, and by March next year our forecast is to go to 36 people, which for us feels like a million. But we definitely invest ahead of the curve in terms of talent coming in, and we are very proud, in a way, to say that within three years we’ve created 36 jobs, and we’ve got some great people that we brought on board.

NOMPU SIZIBA: Excellent. And then, for those people who are interested in checking out Pura Soda, where can they find you?

GREIG JANSEN: Yeah. From a social media point of view, our tagline is Live a Little Pura. Our website is www.livealittlepura.com. We’re on Instagram. We are on social media. If you want to find our products, go to any retail store and look around, because we’ve got a phenomenal summer campaign coming. You’ll definitely see us popping up left, right and centre.

NOMPU SIZIBA: And lastly, just to echo something you said earlier, you did say you are affordable.

GREIG JANSEN: One hundred percent. We generally call ourselves a premium. So, if you think of Coke, we are no more than kind of 10 to 15% more than a can of Coke – because, again, it’s a healthier option, but you shouldn’t pay a penalty for wanting to be a little healthier. And that, in effect, is one of our key strengths, because it just means that the everyday consumer is prepared to trial us, or it’s not a huge sacrifice to try something a little bit healthier rather than kind of what exists out there at the moment.

NOMPU SIZIBA: That was Greg Jansen, the founder of Pura Soda.

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This Drink taste great with a Whiskey

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