Tackling Australia’s sugar consumption one icy pole at a time
Naked Life CEO and founder David Andrew is a man on a mission – A mission to remove 500 tonnes of sugar from Australian diets each year. Andrew’s passion for health led him towards the sugar-free movement and set him on a path to create a guilt-free soft drink range naked from sugar and artificial sweeteners.
In September 2018, the brand celebrated its largest month in sales yet, and is set for success this summer with the launch of Australia’s first sugar-free, all-natural tonic water and a new icy poles range for kids.
“We’re expecting to reach sales beyond $2.5 million this 2018-19 financial year. The support for our small but mighty brand is what keeps us fighting to create healthy alternatives,” Andrew told Inside FMCG.
Naked Life Sparkling was born in 2016, when Andrew realised there was a gap in the market for a healthy alternative to fizzy drinks.
Andrew had been running his own consultancy business and with many different projects on the go, the whole thing became quite stressful.
“I knew something wasn’t right with my diet but I wasn’t sure what. I was working too much, traveling too much, not sleeping enough and really wanted to try and make a change to feel a little bit better,” Andrew said.
A self-confessed geek, he started reading up on diet and nutrition and began cutting out refined carbs, sugar and processed foods to see what would happen.
“I just noticed everything changed, my energy levels… everything.”
Andrew’s interest was piqued. When an opportunity came up to work with sugar replacement start-up Natvia, he realised this was a space that he really wanted to explore further.
He discovered that Australians were consuming more sugar through beverages than any other food category. His partner was also suffering from fructose intolerance, so she couldn’t drink anything sugary. He felt that the signs were there that something needed to be done.
“It was coming from all sides. I thought there’s definitely a gap here.”
So how do you go about emulating the fizz and the taste of a soft drink without any sugar or artificial sweeteners?
“It turns out that’s a lot harder than I thought! The naivety of that ‘I can do it’ attitude was really the thing that made it OK.”
“I’ve always been a bit of a mad scientist with flavours. I love cooking, I love putting things together, I’ve always enjoyed that. But there really was a lot of trial and error.”
“It was a really fun learning process. I just started playing around with natural sweeteners and lemon juice, basic stuff, and realised you can get really close. Then it was about how to balance that bitterness and sweetness to land on something that was balanced and still tasted good.”
“That was the hardest part of the whole thing because you get one chance to convert a sugar drinker to a non-sugar drinker and if you lose them in that first taste then you’ve basically lost them forever. So it was critical to not launch until we got that right.”
Naked Life needed to have a distinct yet familiar taste to convert sugar lovers. Andrew said something switches in the brain when a familiar taste hits the tastebuds.
“They stop looking for something to be wrong and start looking for what’s right. Once people have tried it their first reaction is oh that doesn’t taste bad at all. ”
Naked Life recently launched a sugar-free natural tonic water which Andrew said was even harder to create than a soft drink. “It’s taken two years to get a flavour that I’m comfortable with taking to market.”
He believes there’s a large contingent of people that don’t understand how much sugar standard tonic water contains. “It’s quite a polarized market, people that know are just really upset that there’s nothing healthier that tastes good in the market and ultimately they end up having gin and soda and sort of cry on the inside because they’re really wanting a gin and tonic!” But Andrew believes you shouldn’t have to compromise on taste.
“We’ve had some really good responses on our taste because our whole point is to hero the gin, not the sugar. The standard tonic hits you hard with sugar and doesn’t give your palate a chance to taste the subtly of the gin.”
Andrew now has set his sights on removing sugar from Australian children’s diets, expanding his no nasties philosophy to icy poles, following demand from Aussie mums for a healthier alternative to the standard sugar sticks. After two years in the lab perfecting the flavour, ‘Sugar Free-zies’- all natural, sugar-free icy poles launched recently, just in time for summer. The product was quickly backed by Woolworths, generating over $200,000 in sales in the first month.
Committed to the cause, The No Nasties Icicle Project has pledged to donate $100 for every one-ton of sugar removed from the category through sales of their Sugar Free-zies to a selection of not-for-profits driving awareness around better food choices in Australia.
Andrew said the whole process of making a kids’ product was “so much fun”. “You have to change your mindset to that of a little kid”.
“It’s marketed more towards mums, but kids are the ultimate consumer and also the ultimate judge. If kids don’t enjoy it, that’s the end.”
Looking to the future, Andrew has plenty more plans to expand his sugar-free range and even hinted at a potential sugar-free iced tea.
“There’s a lot that can be changed. We’ve a whole new range coming out next summer which we’re working on in the moment. We’re looking to expand on what we’ve got: more flavours and more variants are in the pipeline.”