27 May, 2016

Drinks that do good

by Fraser Johnston, Business Development Manager at Natural Beverage Co.

2016 is a big year for brands looking to tap into the growing health conscious audience. And the soft drinks market is ripe and for the picking. As the pioneer in fairly traded soft drinks, Natural Beverages Co., celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, Fraser Johnston explains how the company combines innovation with their Fairtrade values.


We didn’t start off life as a Fairtrade company. We became one ten years ago this year and it’s been a real adventure.

Natural Beverages Co. entered the Fairtrade world in 2006 with the UK’s first Fairtrade smoothie. Prior to that, we were producing smoothies under the name of Tiger Bay Beverages, but decided to go Fairtrade, as it was an excellent way of ensuring that we kept our supply chains as ethical as possible.

Ten years on, we’re still the only company in the UK making Fairtrade smoothies. Our portfolio also includes Fairtrade juices and new school compliant juice cartons so children can learn about ethical supply chains, too. After years of being responsible for the distribution, we are also very proud to have become the custodians of Ubuntu, the UK’s first Fairtrade Cola. 


Being the UK’s biggest seller of Fairtrade soft drinks means there is a lot to think about, as we source many Fairtrade ingredients from all over the world. We now buy 1.5 million litres of orange juice a year via our suppliers from Brazil and 50 tonnes of sugar from the Kasinthula Cane Growers’ Association (KCG) cooperative in Malawi. We also source apple, mango, passion fruit and pineapple juices, and many more – all Fairtrade.

Force for good  

When looking after such a big range of products with many suppliers and exporting to over seven countries across Europe, you can become so engrossed on your day to day job of producing and selling that you may feel distant from the producer.

That’s why Fairtrade is so good. Through buying Fairtrade we know our suppliers are not only being paid a fair price and the Fairtrade Premium but are also working in healthy and safe conditions. With that piece of mind, we can concentrate on doing our job of making sure there is a market for their produce.

The better we do our job, creating great products for the consumer, the more this benefits the Fairtrade growers and suppliers. It’s important our products are not only good on their own merits but are also price competitive, making sure buying Fairtrade is not only a great thing for the growers but is a no brainer for the consumer. This has become more important in recent years during the recession when consumers have become more and more price sensitive, as highlighted by the rise of discounters, though some now also stock fairly traded products.

Innovate to grow

In difficult consumer times, staying competitive also means constantly staying ahead of new trends, something we really enjoy doing. In fact, on top of bringing out our Fairtrade school compliant juice cartons last year, in response to the new school legislation on sugary drinks, we currently have two brand new products in development, to address the wider consumer concerns around the high sugar content of juices and smoothies. Our products can do this whilst remaining all fairly traded, in line with our ethos, and offering at least one of your five a day.

It’s important that Fairtrade keeps moving forward and grows to offer more options – for everyone across the value chain. Something that is really encouraging is that we’re working with our suppliers and farmers to create new Fairtrade supply chains and that will mean new exciting products.  One of such developments is for the Ubuntu cola, which will result in a Fairtrade supply option of an ingredient, which currently doesn’t have one. This will allow us to keep up with wider beverage trends, whilst ensuring that we stay true to our Fairtrade ethos and further supporting farming communities.  

I feel that as a Fairtrade company, it’s our responsibility to be as competitive against more conventional products as we can be. By creating a great accessibly priced product, and in staying on top of trends, we can offer the consumer no reason not to choose Fairtrade. By doing this, we can help grow the movement for ourselves and, most importantly, the people at its heart – the growers.  


Every year, Natural Beverage Co. helps raise money for a new well in a different village near the KCG cooperative, in Malawi. 

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