One of the things that is most important to us, is to support local miners and make sure, that they receive as good working conditions as we do and get the respect for their work that they own. This is what makes Vieri so special to us and what we see as our big mission. A young lady that follows the same vision and supports local farmers in Panama with her self-created drink SeloSoda is Laura Zumbaum. Say Hi.
You just launched your own drink “ SeloSoda”, but tell us first a little about you.
Luckily I got to grow up in Barcelona and I studied economics between Brighton and Bonn. In Columbia I got to witness the first blossoming of a coffee cherry while working for a NGO and during a six month stay in Rome I drank so much coffee like never before – all while slowly realizing what sustainable quality in regards to food and the whole value chain truly means.
The topics of food, sustainability and innovation never left my mind. After I finished my studies I worked for Coffee Circle and after a few months I went on to work for mymuesli and was in charge of the subsidiaries Green Cup Coffe, Tree of Tea and Oh!Saft.
How did you come up with the idea for SeloSoda and what is it all about?
The collaboration with the coffee farmers made clear that the coffee cherry, which is the fruit consisting of two coffee beans as its center and also being a substantial part of the harvest, is currently not exported and therefore not monetized. Even though it contains so many precious things like caffeine, aroma even vitamins.
The goal became clear very quickly: increase the economical and ecological use of the coffee plant while developing an innovative soft drink without added sugar, artificial caffeine, aroma and colorings. Our ingredients fit in one line and we don´t add anything to achieve the caffeine level, selosoda is a 100& natural stimulant with 10 times less sugar than cola and substantially more caffeine.
With your project you are supporting local small scale farmers. How exactly does the collaboration work and how did you find the farmers?
With selosoda we are aiming to make use of the million-dollar market that is the coffee bean and we want to use the whole plant all while raising the income of the farmers by 50%. Which is why we receive our coffee cherries directly from the best fincas, without any middlemen and happily pay the high price for the base of our products. Our trade model is not a welfare project; we are absolutely convinced that high quality should be remunerated accordingly and that neither the consumer nor the manufacturer should be paying the expensive intermediary trade or a specific seal.
Panama is only the beginning, the goal is to collaborate worldwide with producers – we want to create a diverse assortment of produce for the consumers with clear functional, healthy and tasteful values.
What was the biggest challenge that you had to face?
One of the biggest challenges and absolute priority was the creation of the team. After I faced some problems to find the right partners for the project at the beginning, a core team is finally coming together which will allow us to successfully place selosoda. I can´t wait! For me the biggest challenge is the biggest chance at the same time.
Your passion for coffee made you quit your job and selosoda already available in a lot of renowned restaurants and bars and you were featured in countless magazines. How did you achieve so much in such short time?
Products that are both honest and innovative and most importantly are sensorial interesting are received well by the gastro scene. Luckily we go hand in hand which motivates the introduction of a new drink very much :) But what I also have to say: soft drinks have to be known widely by a broad audience and they have to be available, and we only stand at the beginning with that.
The positive response (just like this interview) is just awesome. And luckily gives us the feedback that we are on the right path with our idea. An unbelievable support are the many wonderful editors and also the team at muxmäuschenwild, a young Berlin based PR agency with a lot of heart and drive.
What advice would you give someone with a rather unconventional dream to make it a reality?
Especially the first year after founding a lot of intensive, operative work needs to be done literally everywhere - that’s the point where you should never loose sight of the big goal. The basic why is a trigger for equally motivation and resilience. I also believe its important to put your own dreams in relation – the world is a crazy place and at every corner magical and cruel things are happing. Everything is possible.
What are your goals for 2016?
One of my personal goals is to learn as much as I can, not only through my own experiences but especially through a very competent environment. It is truly remarkable how much knowledge one is surrounded by and how hard it is to find the time to sit down and to actively learn them, to work on ones own competence. That hopefully builds the base to be able to work with other manufacturers and fincas, to buy coffee cherries in the highest qualities for a fair price and to offer consumers an honest product, that both tastes good and is good.
And how do you relax?
With a fantastic cup of coffee, the newest ZEIT on the table, good music and ideally a gallery visit afterwards. And all of that is happening in Copenhagen! Something that one does way to rarely, but is very soul soothing – even the daydream of it.
Which sustainable brands do you admire or support?
Patagonia is a wonderful case in regards to textile. As well as Blake Mycoskie, the founder of TOMS shoes who influenced manufactures and consumers equally with his One for One business model and if I would be able to get him at my kitchen table for dinner, that would be fantastic. Here in Berlin Lisa Jaspers, the founder of Folkdays really makes a statement and I find her work remarkable. At the store consumers and manufacturers come full circle.
How do you see the future for sustainable products?
A sustainable consumerism of our resources is essential, and the eruption of niche products is of great importance. Only with achieving the “mainstream” we can actually change something in closed sectors like the coffee industry, break through consumer behavior, create more value in the originate countries etc. The given examples would already change that.
Are you paying attention to other areas of your consumerism and brands, for example clothing?
The more you are involved as a producer, the more you naturally start to question as a consumer. Or maybe I started to question everything as a consumer and as a result became a manufacturer. In regards to foods I am very strict and enjoy very actively – good produce not only taste better, the make you feel better. With clothing I tried to reduce buying new things drastically in the last years, I get dizzy when I think about the pace of the big textile companies and the overconsumption.
But I am not perfect in any means – at the train station I grab the chocolate bar, which is produced by Nestlé, or I am persuaded by the perfect running shoes from Adidas.