Coca-Cola seems to get everywhere in developing countries, yet essential medicines don’t. Why?

ColaLife uses the same principles and networks that Coca-Cola and other commodity producers use, to open up private sector supply chains for ‘social products’ such as oral rehydration salts and zinc supplements. We began with the concept of using space in Coca-Cola crates – but have extended into a range of innovations, some based on Coca-Cola’s expertise and networks – but many based on questioning the status quo.

You can buy a Coca-Cola virtually anywhere in developing countries but in these same places, 1 in 9 children die before their 5th birthday from simple preventable causes like dehydration from diarrhoea. That’s more than 16 times the average for developed regions (1 in 152).

ColaLife started as an online ‘movement’ in April 2008, and became an independent UK charity in 2011. We have more than 10,000 online supporters and these have given us the power to engage Coca-Cola, UNICEF and other key stakeholders. We are now running a locally-determined adaptation of the ColaLife concept, as our first trial, in Zambia – The ColaLife Operational Trial Zambia (COTZ). >> Become a supporter

COTZ FundersAs we moved from a cool campaign to getting something happening on the ground we needed serious support from big organisations. The first organisation to unconditionally support the ColaLife Operational Trial in Zambia (COTZ) was The Johnson & Johnson Corporate Citizenship Trust (J&JCCT) and Janssen EMEA. Next to come on board, and our majority funder for the trial in Zambia, was the UK’s Department for International Development (DfID).

Other funders of the Zambia trial are COMESA/TMSA, Honda and Grand Challenges Canada. As with all our funders, the funding is important but the encouragement and the kudos we get from association with them is very valuable too.

ColaLife – the organisation – is an independent non-profit organisation run and staffed by volunteers. Whilst ColaLife seeks to work with corporates to bring about social change we are not affiliated to any other organisation and our work with others does not imply an endorsement of any product or brand. We became a registered charity on 21 June 2011. Our charity number is 1142516. Our Memorandum is here (PDF 586 KB).

>>Meet the ColaLife Team

>>Our Virtual Advisory Board

Our supporters
ColaLife has thousand of supporters across the world and without them we would not have got the attention from the multi-national organisations (for profit and not for profit) that we needed to get going and keep going. You can engage with ColaLife online in the following ways:

  1. Subscribe to this website and get blog posts by email
  2. Join us on Facebook
  3. Follow us on Twitter and include the word “colalife” in your tweets
  4. Subscribe to the ColaLife YouTube Channel
  5. Join us on Flickr
  6. Subscribe to our SoundCloud Channel (audio resources)

Key Milestones: 1985 to Dec-13

View on Slideshare

The ColaLife movement is based on three observations:

  1. You can buy a Coca-Cola almost anywhere you go in the world, even in the most remote parts of developing countries
  2. In these same places 1 in 9 children die before their fifth birthday from preventable causes. Most die from dehydration from diarrhoea.
  3. The child mortality figures have not changed significantly for at least 3 decades which would indicate that current initiatives are not working


ColaLife in 100 words
You can buy a Coca-Cola virtually anywhere in developing countries but in these same places 1 in 9 children die before their 5th birthday from simple, preventable causes like dehydration from diarrhoea.

ColaLife, an independent non-profit, is working with Coca-Cola to open their distribution channels in developing countries to carry ‘social products’ – oral rehydration salts and Zinc supplements – to save children’s lives.

A short history of ColaLife
ColaLife is working with Coca-Cola to understand and open up the distribution channels it relies on, in developing countries to save lives, especially children’s lives, by carrying much needed ‘social products’ such as oral rehydration salts and Zinc.

Spot the Kit Yamoyo
Empty shelves at Tiriri health centre in Katine, Uganda | A fully stocked retail outlet
Photo credits: Guardian/Martin Godwin | Simon Berry/ColaLife

ColaLife was launched by Simon Berry, who had the idea while working on the British Aid programme in 1988, and his wife Jane. However, no real progress was made until Simon floated the idea on FaceBook in May 2008.

The Aidpod concept
Since May 2008 the original idea has been developed further, from the package: the ‘aidpod’ concept – a wedge-shaped pod that fits in the unused space between the necks of the bottles in a Coca-Cola crate – to understanding how and why Coca-Cola and similar products reach as far as they do, in remote markets. Here is a video describing the features of the AidPod. See also: The low-down on AidPods.


At the heart of ColaLife is the principle of local determination. ColaLife must be implemented in a way which empowers and strengthens the local public health and private sector infrastructure.
ColaLife and local determination
This is explained in more detail here. Our key principles are here.


Simon Berry on the BBC’s iPM Programme
On 25/4/08 Coca-Cola committed to ‘trial the ideas behind Colalife’ on the BBC’s iPM Programme. To hear the essential commitment made in the interview click on the play button below:

Coca-Cola’s commitment to ColaLife | 25 04 2009 | EXTRACT by colalife

This is the full 25/4/09 interview:

Coca-Cola’s commitment to ColaLife | 25 04 2009 | FULL INTERVIEW by colalife

Subsequent to this interview, Coca-Cola began work with the Government of Tanzania training those involved in the distribution of drugs and so it was suggested that we look elsewhere to undertake the ColaLife pilot. In the summer of 2010 we researched a range of countries for the pilot and chose Zambia. We are currently working with local partners, including the bottler of Coca-Cola in Zambia, SABMiller, on the first trial: COTZ.


If you would like to help ColaLife please do get involved.

>> Our vision and mission


Last amended: 1/1/14


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