Love it! Phoenix Organics and their ‘Think before you drink, aspartame’ campaign
December 31, 2007
Ok, I’m seriously excited about the mission and integrity of a big company. I was doing research on aspartame (bottom line, the stuff is REALLY bad for you) and I came across info on Phoenix Organics, Australasia’s largest organic juice maker. Phoenix launched a campaign urging people to find out more about aspartame. Aspartame is the widely used, controversial artificial sweetener in many ‘diet’ drinks and foods and beverages marketed as containing zero calories.
The company turned 20,000 bottles of Phoenix Organic Cola into mini-billboards carrying its ‘Think Before You Drink’ message, and highlighting the concerns that have been raised about aspartame.
Company Directors Stefan Lepionka and Marc Ellis said that the Phoenix team had become aware of the controversy that has swirled around aspartame since it was approved for use in beverages in 1983, when they started doing research for a Phoenix Organics brand campaign.
“Having read the Bressler Report of the FDA and other reports on the effects of aspartame, we had the living daylights scared out of all of us,” said the Directors.
“Internationally the evidence is overwhelming; There are thousands of people who claim that aspartame made them sick.
Our company has created a new section on it’s website containing links to New Zealand and overseas websites with information on aspartame and the 92 different symptoms noted in over 10,000 complaints received by the US Food & Drug Administration.”
Phoenix Organics has contacted a number of groups that have been fighting to raise awareness of the health concerns surrounding aspartame and said the company will do whatever it can to support the overall aim to have the Government restrict and ban aspartame.
“I applaud the efforts of the people who have battled indifference and hostility to have their concerns heard,” said Stefan Lepionka.
“People like Abby Cormack, who suffered for years before removing aspartame from her diet and completely recovering are banging their heads against official indifference and the power of the advertising dollar.
The Safe Food Campaign and The Soil & Health Association and others have been fighting for years to get action on this issue.”
“We are determined to lend our weight to this fight.”
Both Stefan and Marc agreed “there would inevitably be accusations leveled that the company was leaping on to the issue of aspartame solely out of commercial interest.
“If anyone takes time to read any of the very credible studies and research that cast doubt on the safety of aspartame, and is then happy to continue drinking and eating products that contain it, then that’s an informed choice. We may think they’re fools, but that’s their right.
Coca Cola has responded to media attention on aspartame by launching a website http://www.gettherealfacts.co.nz that reflects the official line on this highly controversial artificial sweetener.
“Its interesting that you don’t see anything about Coke’s multimillion dollar investment in a natural, non-caloric sweetener, called stevia. Coke uses stevia as a sweetener in its diet drinks in Japan and is trying to get approval to use it in the US and elsewhere.
Phoenix Organics is a brand that has always been about using natural ingredients and leaving science in the lab, not bottling it.
“We are committed to ensuring that the public is in an informed position from which to make their own decisions.”
This is not simply a marketing effort to get a little attention. Phoenix is the real deal day in and day out. They have a true passion for organics and a company-wide commitment to eco principles.
Phoenix produces 12 million bottles of drink a year – all in recyclable glass – from a purpose- built manufacturing facility. Its premium beverages are sold in 90 per cent of New Zealand’s cafes, as well as service stations and supermarkets throughout the country.
The company’s most important export market is Australia but its beverages are also found in 10 other international markets including Dubai, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Fiji, Rarotonga, Singapore and South Korea.
Phoenix was founded 21 years ago by husband and wife Chris Morrison and Deborah Cairns, together with Roger Harris, with a vision to create beverages that would be good for the planet and good for the health of its people. Their first commercial product was a naturally fermented ginger beer, made with fresh ginger, lemon juice and yeast, which is still one of the company’s most popular products.
Twenty years later, Phoenix is a multi million dollar business with six product ranges. CEO Stefan Lepionka says a key to Phoenix’s success has been its commitment to sustainability, which runs through every facet of the business. The company is outspoken in its opposition to genetic engineering and encourages its consumers to buy and behave ethically.
Paper, plastic and glass are recycled at the company’s premises, food materials are composted and rainwater is reused for cleaning and garden watering. The Phoenix factory is surrounded by native trees planted to offset carbon-dioxide emissions from the company’s vehicles.
“We are also constantly looking for ways to be more sustainable in our business activities. For example, we recently traded in our vehicle fleet to replace it with a more fuel-efficient one.”
Another recent initiative has seen the company switch to labeling made from renewable wood pulp, which is certified to international composting standards.
In 2007, Phoenix bought a bottling plant in Australia, significantly reducing the weight of both its freight across the Tasman (the juice is shipped in large drums) and, at the same time, its global footprint, says Mr. Lepionka. In other international markets, Phoenix works with established distributors to sell its products.
Phoenix buys much of its organic fruit from New Zealand growers with the balance – fruits that don’t grow in New Zealand such as mangoes, passion fruit and guavas – from other markets. The company has developed innovative cold storage systems to keep the fruit fresh for ongoing processing through the season.
Lepionka says the company buys as much of the organic apples and feijoas available in New Zealand as it can, ensuring commitment from its suppliers by offering premium prices and certainty of purchase.
“Our beverages are not the cheapest – reflecting the fact that we pay our growers at least a 40 or 50 percent price premium over conventional fruit. However, they are the most sustainable on the market and our consumers know that what they are drinking is pure, safe and made according to environmentally friendly and organic principles. That has bought us significant brand loyalty.”
In 2005, Phoenix merged with another premium beverage company, Charlie’s. Together, Charlies and Phoenix are growing rapidly with sales increasing more than 50 percent in the year to June 2006. Lepionka says the merger has bought benefits for both companies. “There is a similar culture in both Charlies and Phoenix – we are young, dynamic and don’t have a corporate culture. The sustainability values in Phoenix are being transferred to Charlies and both companies have increased their reach by joining distribution systems.”
Hopefully that distribution will bring them to the U.S. soon! In the meantime, check them out at their too cool website at www.phoenixorganics.co.nz/
Good article on aspartame entitled ‘Sweet Lies’
The Bressler Report can be read here: www.dorway.com/bressler.txt