Kit Yamoyo packaging – looking to the future

The Kit Yamoyo

ColaLife’s Kit Yamoyo has really captured the world’s imagination. Users in poor villages in Zambia, who helped us in the design process, really like it and so do top designers, philanthropists, judges of ethics, public health and international development specialists. In the 12-month trial retailers bought 25,000 of them. Last month the Kit Yamoyo was featured as a ‘Breakthrough Innovation’ in child health at the UN General Assembly and in the last few months, the Kit Yamoyo has picked up a string of very high-profile awards including:

              1. Product Design of the Year 2013
              2. The Ethical Product of the Year 2013
              3. The Diamond Award at the DuPont Packaging Innovation Awards
              4. An Innovation By Design Award (Social Good category)

Now, I’d like to think we’d got these awards because of how the components of the Kit Yamoyo product and the packaging work so well together to meet the real needs of caregivers/mothers and children. The way the packaging is integral with the whole kit design, acting as a measure for the water needed to make up the ORS, the mixing device, the storage device and cup. But deep down I suspect that it’s the fact that it fits into Coca-Cola crates that really gets the international community so excited. We totally understand this, that was our own starting point and that’s what got us really excited too. Initially.

At this point, the natural thing to do would be to relax and bask in the glory of all of this fabulous recognition of our work on something so meek as an anti-diarrhoea kit – we are not designing sexy gadgets or cars after all.

However, ColaLife is not like that. We listen, we learn and we act. What our customers, in poor, remote rural communities are telling us is that many of them cannot afford the subsidised price tag as it is (K 5.00 or USD 0.91, GBP 0.60). In our midline survey (Mar-13), 58% of mothers said the kit was “affordable” or “not expensive”, 30% said it was expensive and 8% said it was “too expensive”. So the pressure is really on to seek every means to reduce costs.

Another thing our midline survey told us is that only 8% of retailers have ever put the kits in Coca-Cola crates to carry them to their shops. This feature wasn’t the key enabler we thought it would be (there is more on this here).

Now, if we remove the constraint of fitting in Coca-Cola crates from the packaging design, then we have a big opportunity to reduce costs. So our packaging partner – PI Global – has been busy looking at other, cheaper options. This is a challenging process given that we do not want to lose any of the other innovative features; the packaging must act as the measuring device for the water; the mixing and storage device and the cup. Could the simple jar be the inspiration for an alternative packaging format?

Simon with Original AidPod Simon with screw-top AidPod
Kit Yamoyo packaging. 2012: the original aidpod (left); 2013: the new screw-top

We will not be dropping the original AidPod packaging format as in some circumstances (eg in other countries, in the urban markets here in Zambia and in humanitarian situations) having a kit that fits in Coca-Cola crates might be a key enabler.

Interestingly, a move in this direction – away from the Coca-Cola crate – may help to make us more interesting to certain parts of the public health world who have seen the current Kit Yamoyo as a niche product that can ONLY be distributed in Coca-Cola crates. This is not the case – the current Kit Yamoyo doesn’t have to go into Coca-Cola crates – but having a product format that does NOT fit into Coca-Cola crates may make the Kit Yamoyo more appealing to many in the public health sector.

So Kit Yamoyo becomes what it truly is; a tightly defined concept that can (and should) be adapted to local circumstances. And this is the concept:

Kit Yamoyo is an anti-diarrhoea kit that contains 4g/200ml sachets of Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS), Zinc, Soap and an instruction leaflet. The Kit Yamoyo packaging acts as the measuring device for the water needed to make up the ORS, a mixing and storage device and a cup. It is currently available in two formats: The Original which can be transported in Coca-Cola crates and The Screw-top which is cheaper and can be manufactured locally.

And this is how it was presented at the UN General Assembly last month (September 2013):

Kit Yamoyo - The Original and The New Screw-top

For our supporters who find this move disappointing, I ask you please to keep focussed on the greater good. Our primary purpose is not to win awards (although we are honoured and very grateful to receive them and this helps raise the profile of our cause enormously). We’re here to save as many children’s lives as possible and this will well help us do that.

Onwards and upwards.


A note on the data in this post
Cited data are interim results from the ColaLife Operational Trial in Zambia (COTZ) and do not reflect the final report which will be published as Ramchandani et al. Final calculations may vary.



  1. So many go in with a preconceived notion and then only attune to information that confirms their bias. Kudos that you learned so much in your trials. I see the 200 ML imprint on the bottle. Are there any other imprints which might make the package something to save and reuse? I know you already think of it as a SODIS bottle. Perhaps a 100 ML as well, though that might confuse. Perhaps letters on its sides so it becomes a literacy “building block”?

    • Thanks Betsy.

      We think that any other imprints might confuse as you say. On the SODIS front we think this would work by standing the screw-top upside down on its lid.

      I think the literacy building block idea is good but we will only have one mould…

  2. Cool. Lots of questions/comments:

    1) What did you do about the regulatory issues re: separating soap from medicine?
    2) How does the jar compare space wise to the original kit? Is there more room in the jar? Would the jar comfortably fit other items such as Chlorin tabs etc.?
    3) What does the jar now do for the bulk packaging that the retailers buy? As of now they have to buy in bags of 10…Do you envision the bulk purchase changing with the reduction of cost? Or the changed shape/size of the kit?
    4) Perhaps the risk of throwing it away – and I really don’t think it will be thrown away, because in rural Zambia even a jar will be retained and recycled for storage (tea, sugar, salt, traditional medicine) – could be mitigated with a sticker or label on the top of the lid?
    5) Have you done a “knock over test” yet? I’m just curious how much more likely the original kit (with the flat lid on) is to leak or spill if it gets tipped over or knocked off a table, versus a jar with a screw top. As a mother myself, I think having a jar might be more practical in the long run, as its more stable when you set it down??
    6) Do you have a local private sector partner who is able to manufacture this yet, i.e. out of PET (is that what its called?)? What would be the costs to a local partner in terms of initial investment etc.? Can you describe how the cost savings are achieved through this particular design?
    7) Have you tested the new branding yet in the field? The old branding was so evident from the top of the original kit. I’m interested in how consumers see the new branding, with the impressions on the plastic itself. Is it as evident? Do people find the name as easily?

    I think the jars are a great thing. One of the main premises that people both FOR and AGAINST the whole “pack it in a coke crate” theory, was this: that coverage of coca cola (i.e. “you can find a coke/fanta/sprite” anywhere in africa”) thus equates to people regularly consuming coca cola. And, in fact, that isn’t – nor has it ever been – the case. Coca cola is, yes, readily available all over remote rural Africa, but its also a luxury good. People don’t drink coca-cola every day, or every week, or even every month. It sits on the shelf of the shop waiting for special occasions when someone in the neighborhood has a guest, or a guy wants to impress his girlfriend, or its Christmas, or something like this. Diarrhoeal disease, by contrast, doesn’t really wait around for a special occasion. So shopkeepers need to restock diarrhoea kits at a far far faster rate than they need to restock Coke.

    In places where cola consumption (as opposed to just cola coverage) is high – urban areas for example – or where shop keepers may transport things differently (by minibus or boda boda for example, as opposed to the back of their bicycles or pick up trucks) – then packing in the crate makes clear sense. But this depends entirely, as you point out, on the context: urban vs. rural, availability and types of transport, the social/cultural meaning of a bottle of cola, cola consumption rates, cola restock rates by shop-keepers…all of which will likewise differ country to country, even region to region (I’m curious as to which, say, itinerant boat traders on the Barotse floodplains or Banguwelu swamps would find more convenient…).

    Yay! I’m excited by the jars….but, then, I’m one of those “public health people” 🙂

    • Great questions Beth. Let me have a go at some answers.

      1) There are two potential issues with the soap. If could taint the medicine and the container which is used as a measure for the water to mix the ORS, the mixing device and the cup. Our packaging partners are confident that this will not be a problem when the soap is ‘flow-wrapped’ (like a Snickers bar) in a readily available polyester-based material. We are currently testing this. We have three types of soap (standard, herbal and medicinal) under test in a oven at 40C. When we have the evidence, we will present this to the Zambian Pharmaceutical Regulatory Authority (PRA) who will have the final say. The PRA have been following our work from the outset and sit on our Steering Committee here in Zambia.

      2) Yes the Screw-top has more usable space inside it and the kits produced using the Screw-top will only carry 4 ORS sachets (more on this in s a future blog post). This means you could potentially include more items. Despite this, the Screw-top tessellates more effectively than the original and we can get 48 in a carton as opposed to 35.

      3) Retailers currently buy in bags of 5 and wholesalers buy boxes of 7 bags (35 kits). We haven’t decided yet how we will proceed with the Screw-top but I guess it will be bags of 5 (like now) but boxes of 10 bags. We’d only have to increase the carton size slightly to enable this.

      4) Our initial conversations with retailers and mothers would indicate that you are right. The Screw-top would be seen as a very useful container and would not be thrown away.

      5) We haven’t done any formal ‘knock over tests’ but the Screw-top is MUCH more stable than the current product.

      6) Yes we do have a local manufacturer – this is the key to bringing the price down. The Screw-top is 40% cheaper than the Original. The Screw-top starts life as a standard ‘pre-form’ used to produce PET (plastic) jars. We will be producing a new mould for this ‘pre-form’ to be blown into. The cost of this is around $3,500 and is a one-off cost. So the manufacturer will put our mould into their existing machines to produce the Screw-top.

      Blow moulding like this offers many more options than the vacuum forming used for the original. With vacuum forming it is difficult to get and significant impressions on the sides – we had to make do with a simple horizonal line as the measure mark on the Original. With the blow moulding the possibilities are endless! The Screw-top has a much clearer measure mark with ‘200ml’ clearly embossed together with the Kit Yamoyo emboss. We thought the latter was important to make the Kit Yamoyo Screw-top distinctive. We don’t want people making up their own kits in jam jars.

      7) We have tried to keep the branding basically the same. The new Screw-top ‘retails better’ which means it sits more stably on the retailers shelf.

      Just to reiterate, we will be continuing for the Original Kit Yamoyo for at least the next 6 months or so while we do the refinements to the Screw-top branding. And after that we may run the two formats in parallel because, as you say, the fact that the Original Kit Yamoyo fits in the Coca-Cola crates my be more of a benefit in some settings.

      In the future the Kit Yamoyo will be available in several formats to meet local conditions but they will all have packaging that acts as a measure, mixer and cup because mothers love these features. It makes it easier for them to mix and use the ORS properly – to do the right thing.

  3. Hi Simon, this looks like a great development and ultimate common sense. The Aidpod has it’s niche but the widescale solution in Zambia seems to demand a more conventional answer. The jars will be more reusable and useful in the long term.
    Just a thought… in the cause of efficiency, Is there any way that the design could be ‘nested’ to allow the units to be compressed during transportation, as I guess most of the contents are effectively ‘fresh air’? Maybe the contents could be kept in separate bags and then kitted up by the retailer at the point of sale (not sure what this would do to the risk of contamination or substation of ORS for other items.

  4. Frances Hillier says

    Hi Simon,

    Does this have to be an either / or solution or do you have enough data to know where the original packaging was an acceptable price and where the new format needs to go for the very poorest people?

    I’ve just come back from 3 weeks in Malawi and was privileged to be shown round and especially their almost completed

    Are there any plans for Kit Yamoyo to be spread into Malawi and especially into Maternity Units and Health clinics?

    There are so many amazing people doing amazing things for the planet’s children – very best wishes for all your future developments.



  5. Hi Simon,

    Congrats on pushing –

    A quick question – with your new design would there be any value in trying to replicate the coke bottle shape in some form or another? Enabling you to up the volume on your Kit Yamoyo container, better optimise your space (pet = cylinder) and hopefully with the increased volume of your Kit Yamoyo – push the price down.

    The other part of the parcel is keeping the brand story intact, and not deviating away from the insight, that captured all the awards – parasitic transfer of medical goods. I guess in the above case, you’d be both the primary and the parasite, but this could be played to your advantage.

    Its a fantastic challenge Simon,

    Kind regards – David