Dalston’s Soda Co: ‘Joyful cans of pop’ with a refreshing take on taste, health and social responsibility
PUBLISHED: 11:20 26 June 2019 | UPDATED: 11:20 26 June 2019
‘Nostalgia and a desire to create a more health-friendly beverage’ inspired duo Dan and Duncan to create the East London-based drinks company Dalston’s
The creators of these joyful cans of pop are Dan and Duncan. Since launching in 2012 their East London-based drinks company has hogged prime fridge positions around E1 and beyond - and with good reason.
"We all remember being kids and going mad over a soft drink," says Dan, "but because they were pumped full of sugar and chemicals - and with many of us now being more health conscious - the trend has turned more towards smoothies and juices. It's this sense of nostalgia, mixed with a desire to create a more health-friendly beverage, that inspired Dalston's."
The company, Duncan says, started small. He set out to create a natural cola which could be sold as a mixer at Passing Clouds - the beloved Dalston nightclub which many credit with being the making of the area. And so, from Ridley Road Market, Duncan's pokey East London flat and a brief for 'natural cola' made from kola nuts, turned out to be the key ingredients needed to mark the dawn of Dalston's.
Dalston's unique selling point remains, to this day, taking natural flavours and placing them at the heart of the recipe. "We wanted to go back to basics," says Dan. "You can find cherryade across a number of shops but the problem is in its synthetic taste; we source naturally sweet and sour cherries and combine them to make our 'Cherryade' one of our best-selling soft drinks." More than just a focus on the ingredients though, is a focus on their provenance, with each drink boasting its own unique farm-to-can story. "We go through a long research process to find the best suppliers from around the world for each flavour; our blackcurrants are grown and pressed at Pixley Berries Farm in Herefordshire and our apple juice is from Nightingale Farm in Kent. For our lemons we go a little further afield to a fourth-generation business in Sicily."
With Dalston's 'Cola', 'Cherryade', 'Orangeade', 'Elderflower' and 'Lemonade' firm members of the family so far, Dan and Duncan have just launched their new additions: 'Fizzy Blackcurrant' and 'Fizzy Rhubarb'. Although their original soda range holds one third less sugar than mainstream brands, they have also now brought out a 'Soda Lights' range featuring 'Real Squeezed Elderflower' and 'Real Squeezed Rhubarb'. At only 20 calories per can, the lighter range is crafted using real fruit and distilled botanicals. "There's a lot of hyperbole around sugar, which isn't actually the problem, it's the overconsumption of sugar. Dalston's allows people to be healthy but we're not about extremes if you want a zero-calories drink, there's always water!
With their wellbeing and taste credentials firmly established, the conversation moves on to Dalston's eco-policy - particularly in an industry which is so packaging and plastic orientated. "We've been using recyclable cardboard packaging for ten years - before it was cool! And we're forever evolving our sustainability practices". The next big step for Dalston's, Duncan goes on to say, is to properly calculate the business's carbon footprint, with an aim to be carbon neutral over the next five years or so. With the dawn of reusable coffee cups, paper straws and refill supermarkets, particularly within East London, Dan and Duncan are delighted to be part of it all. "There's been such a broad movement within the drinks industry to cut down plastic and there was unprecedented action across many businesses, governments and consumers to reduce waste in the last year. We work with 'A Plastic Planet', which is a fantastic campaign trying to promote plastic-free aisles in supermarkets as a way of reducing the amount of packaging waste."
Despite huge success, the duo remain humble. For Duncan, his proudest professional achievement doesn't involve landing deals with some of the UK's largest retailers or getting to travel the world for work: "I have never been more chuffed than when I went into Jaguar Shoes pub in Dalston and found Dalston's stocked behind the bar! It's an institution and one which I have spent a LOT of time in over the last 15 years, so it was the most surreal and special moment when I saw our cans there." East London really is ingrained in the DNA of the business, and both men are keen to carry on increasing their presence in the area. "I'd love Dalston's to be in Oval Space, Cambridge Heath - it's probably got the best night out in East London," says Duncan.
"We'd also like to get more involved with mixology. It would be really cool to work with the East London Liquor Company or the mixologists of Satan's Whiskers in Cambridge Heath."
But more than producing delicious drinks in a sustainable fashion for East London and beyond, Duncan and Dan also want to make a difference within the community they know and love so well. "We have worked very closely with Hackney Council on a project called 'Hackney 100', which aims to get young people into paid work placements in order to bring about confidence and communication skills. It's a fantastic project and we'd really encourage other business operators to get involved with it." Indeed, it seems Dalston's is offering a refreshing take on taste, health and social responsibility with every can.
To find out more about Dalston's range of soft drinks, visit dalstons.com.