Coca-Cola say ‘Yes’ (probably) to trials this year

ColaLife AidPod in Zambia 3
Image credit: Alison Pearson. Thanks to the children of the N’gombe Compound in Lusaka, Zambia.

A handful of ColaLife supporters attended the public  Business Fights Poverty event at the Commonwealth Club last night to hear Euan Wilmshurst, Stakeholder Engagement Manager, The Coca-Cola Company, give a qualified YES to trials of the ColaLife idea before the end of the year in Tanzania. Euan did give himself a fair bit of ‘wriggle room’ but this is highly significant development for our camapign. This is the first time Coca-Cola have mentioned ColaLife in public. 350 people registered for the event and most of them came. The auditorium was completely full and 70 people watched the event live over the internet.

Coca-Cola’s response to the Business Call To Action has always been tighly focussed on growing Coca-Cola’s core business in Africa but doing this is a way that maximises impact in terms of the alleviation of poverty (see a fuller explanation here). However, last night, Euan made a specific reference to ColaLife and stated that they wanted to go beyond their original intention and look at the opportunities for social marketing and the distribution of  ‘social products’. This is a big step for Coca-Cola and the campaign and in the right direction.

Delegates were invited to ask questions and my question went something like this:

My name is Simon Berry and in my spare time I run the ColaLife Campaign which Euan generously referred to in his presentation.

ColaLife wants Coca-Cola to open up its distribution system to take social products like Oral Rehydration Salts, Mosquito Nets, Vitamin A Tablets and so on. We have suggested that they do this using pods like this [waves aidpod in the air for people to see] that fit between the necks of Coca-Cola bottles in the crates.

There are more than 8,500 people around the world on a Facebook Group who want to see this happen. They range from logistics professionals to people working on the frontline in public health projects in developing countries.

Usually, the word ‘campaign’ is followed by the word ‘AGAINST’. But the ColaLife campaign is not AGAINST Coca-Cola. We want to make it easier for Coca-Cola to step a little outside their comfort zone and do something innovatory, something extraordinary, to help save lives, particularly children’s lives, in low income countries.

My question to Euan is: Will we see trials of the ColaLife idea in Tanzania before the end of the year? [laughs from the delegates!]

Euan’s response went something like this (hopefully you will be able to see precisely want he said when the video of the event is available).

The response to Simon’s question is easy. Yes, we are planning to run trails of the ColaLife idea before the end of the year. I think I have allowed myself enough wriggle room there. [he then went on the expand on the ‘social’ elements of the planned trials but re-stated that it was crucial that this element did not undermine the success of the core business – something that we would agree with]

This is an amazing achievement for us and a big step forward for the campaign. But we can’t just sit still and wait. If trials are going to happen before the end of the year, there is work to be done right now. We are going to need thousands of aidpods that have been prototyped and produced by then. So that’s our next task – to ensure that when Coca-Cola are ready to start the trial, there are thousands of Aidpods avaiable in Tanzania for our idea to be trialled properly. Google! Where are you?

Onwards and upwards!


Since this post, Coca-Cola have re-affirmed their commitment in a Radio 4 interview. You can listen again here.


  1. This is such great news. Everyone has worked really hard to make this happen from your original idea simon, you’ve achieved something here. And as you say, onwards and upwards!

  2. Absolutely wonderful! You may remember me, the artist that you were chatting to in the Gerard Bar about this. Well done!!!

  3. This is great news!
    The least we can all do now is to make a couple of pods each to support the campaign in a really practical way.

  4. Greg Slay says

    Well done Simon for persevering with this. Your article in RSA Journal was a really good example of Fellows in action and in thinking up creative and innovative solutions that have a practical and cost effective application.

    TWo questions to consider. Will you be having a conversation with Pepsico as well or are Coca Cola going to operate a monopoly distribution? And how do you envisage individual Fellows or networks of Fellows helping?

  5. That is such an achievement! Well done!

  6. Wonderful news Simon! Without your drive this would never have got so far! Onwards and upwards!

  7. Fantastic news!

  8. Simon, you’ve worked a little miracle here: not only the agreement in principle and by name, but in public and now reported! Smashing.

  9. Fantastic! Crossing fingers, you are reaching a great result. Go ahead, in Italy we all support your effort! Tell us if we can do something for the next task.

  10. This really is fantastic news Simon – I’ve shared with the team here. Your determination and hard work have really paid off… Very inspiring and exciting to see what can be achieved. There’s real momentum now which will be rocket fuel for driving this forward. Well done!

  11. Simon,

    What a wonderful, original, simple and easy to implement concept. Please feel free to use the VCH site to promote this:
    Please join and start a group, I’m sure it will cause much interest and support. I’ll also promote ColaLife at our next Encounter meeting in June and open up a discussion on it.

  12. Simon – this is great news. Helped I think by a very well articulated question to Euan, which put the key concepts across very succinctly and clearly illustrating that there is minimal (if any) risk to Coca Cola’s brand or reputation in supporting the campaign.

    Well done!

  13. Luke Berry says

    Well done! Strength to strength. If there’s anything I can help with just let me know!

  14. Gilbert arap Bor says

    Simon, congratulations on making this fantastic breakthrough! We look forward to the trials in Tanzania and hope it will cross the borders to cover the entire East Africa and the Great Lakes Region. Any word from the Coca-Cola folks in the Region Offices in Nairobi?

  15. Emma Berry says

    It was great to witness this! A firm step forward from CocaCola. A lot of great things were talked about at the event but this move to action spoke louder than words.

  16. Alison Pearson says

    Very well done Simon. It is a hopeful sign that things may well take off in the near future. Most of us have no idea what it is like to be truly poor, especially with all the social and financial safety nets in the West. To not have any cash at all to buy even the simplest of medicines which would save your child’s life is frustrating and degrading and also totally unnecessary in this day and age. People often think that because third worlders face death day and daily, they have become used to it and therefore feel little or nothing at the death of yet another child -but this is totally untrue and the pain is as sharp and unremitting as if its the first. Add to this the fear of future loss and the hopelessness of being unable to change the situation and you may begin to understand what millons of parents suffer worldwide. Lets hope this simple but effective idea sweeps across Africa.


  1. C_E says:

    RT @51m0n BREAKTHROUGH! Coca-Cola say ‘Yes’ to ColaLife trials this year. w00t and yay!

  2. Jess says:

    RT @51m0n BREAKTHROUGH! Coca-Cola say ‘Yes’ to ColaLife trials this year. w00t and yay!

  3. Coca-Cola say ‘Yes’ (probably) to trials this year : ColaLife (retweeted 35x )

  4. Coca-Cola says ‘yes’ to trials for distributing children’s medicine in Afirca this year : ColaLife

  5. Coca-Cola say ‘Yes’ (probably) to trials this year

  6. Jiayuan Li says:

    How can U not like it in Mandarin – Coca (Delicious) Cola (Happy) RT @AaronMartirano Coca-Cola say ‘Yes’ to trials

  7. Simon Berry says:

    Thks for all the re-tweets on the Colalife ‘Coca-Cola say yes’ story – – the BBC noticed and did interview 🙂

  8. RT @51m0n: BREAKTHROUGH! Coca-Cola say ‘Yes’ to ColaLife trials this year. Comments? woo hooo FANTASTIC NEWS

  9. Mike Reed says:

    Coca-Cola have said a (qualified) Yes to a trial of ColaLife – brilliant news. ( Nice one, @51m0n