Why Karma Cola founder is renewing focus on fair trade banana business All Good

The founder of global drinks company Karma Cola is expecting his fair trade banana business to do better than ever following initial disruption from the coronavirus pandemic.

Simon Coley, who co-founded the quirky soft drinks company which exports to 25 markets, says sustainability and conscious consumption is now at the forefront of consumers’ minds and resulting in big sales of products that are better for consumption and the environment.

His import banana business All Good launched in February 2011, it began when founders Matt Morrison, Simon Coley and Chris Morrison – the same people behind Karma Cola – started importing the fruit from Samoa.

About two years later it partnered with a group of banana farmers operating as a fair trade co-operative in Ecuador, buying their bananas and marketing them under the All Good label sold in supermarkets and greengrocers locally.

Karma Cola was an offshoot of All Good, launching a year later with its fair trade fizzy cola.

Coley, who moved back to New Zealand from England in August, said business for All Good had been good over the past year, albeit not without its challenges as the organisation faced supply issues as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak.

“International shipping has really been affected by Covid, we’ve been on tenterhooks worried that we wouldn’t get supply, but it has been pretty good and because supermarkets are still open and bananas are such a favourite fruit we’ve seen steady growth,” Coley told the Herald.

All Good sells four containers of bananas each week across the country, in value that’s equivalent to approximately a seven per cent share of the local market in New Zealand.

It has an annual turnover of more than $10 million compared to Karma Cola’s annual turnover of approximately $12m.

New Zealand is a bigger consumer of bananas, with each Kiwi consuming on average 18kg of bananas each — or 86 million bananas — annually.

It’s a big area of opportunity, converting Kiwis to the fair trade alternative, said Coley.

The firm is now focused on reducing its carbon footprint and ultimately taking carbon out of its supply chain.

From late January, All Good bananas will be carbon neutral certified by EKOS and offset in a permanent forest protection project in the Peruvian Andes, close to the farms in El Guabo, Ecuador where its bananas are grown.

“We’ve always been concerned about the resources that go into the supply chain we are responsible for and what comes out of it. Our mission is to be as sustainable as we possibly can – the things we can’t fix we can offset, and what we’ve been doing over the past few months is figuring out exactly what they look like so we can make sure that any banana that is purchased has a neutral impact on the climate,” said Coley.

The long-term plan was to mediate carbon emissions through better use of agriculture, he said, adding that he thought it was disappointing that there so few products in the supermarkets today that were “pro-neutralising the impacts of climate change”.

Coley would like to see legislation introduced in New Zealand to force FMCG companies to disclose carbon quota impact on packaging of products, similarly to how ingredients and nutritional information is disclosed to help consumers make informed decisions.

“Everyone has a right to know what they put into their bodies and I think similarly we all have the right to know the impact of our actions as consumers,” he said.

“There’s no reason why everything in the supermarket can’t have its environmental impact understood and consumers have that choice.”

All Good, which employs nine staff, also creates oat milk, with the same ambition to ensure that every product sold is carbon-neutral and not responsible in part for global warming.

It is gearing up to expand its production capability of its oat milk this year and longer term begin exporting its products offshore.

Coley said the pandemic had made consumers rethink their consumption and purchasing habits and now mindful of the impact these have on the planet.

“I think we’re [now] a lot more conscious of the impact we have as consumers, not just on our own health but on the planet.”

All Goods plans to make its carbon reduction learnings with Ekos open source so other companies can use it as a resource for change.

“The pause that Covid has caused has given us room to think about how we might do this better.”

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