Anna Devathasan and Jenny Suo: The Ribena girls

By Catherine Masters

You'll remember them as the Ribena girls, two budding young scientists from Pakuranga College who brought a global food and pharmaceutical company to its knees with embarrassment.

Except the girls weren't really interested in being scientists and for quite a while thought they must have cocked up the simple test they undertook in Year 10 as 14-year-olds to find out how much Vitamin C the sweet blackcurrant drink contained.

They found the drink, promoted as having a high Vitamin C content, contained hardly any. Stunned by the result they performed the test over and over, checking with teachers to make sure they were doing it correctly.

As it sank in they had been right first time, they got to work exposing the company.

First they contacted GlaxoSmithKline only to be given the brush-off. Undeterred, they went to the television show Fair Go and the case was eventually taken up by the Commerce Commission.

Anna Devathasan and Jenny Suo were catapulted to celebrity-dom, yet are down to earth about the scientific discovery which culminated in court this year when the company admitted 15 breaches of the Fair Trading Act.

The schoolgirls are young women now and have just finished their last year of school. They both have big plans but neither is pursuing science.

Devathasan, 18, wants to be a lawyer, and eventually a judge, and will study law and politics at Auckland University.

And for Suo, 17, rather than being put off by the media which descended from around the world, she wants to be a part of it. She's off to broadcast school in Christchurch to study journalism.

She says the case changed the direction of her life and she thinks made her a bit more worldly.

"You kind of learn that you can't really trust everything and yeah, we've probably learned a lot of worldly knowledge and become wiser about companies - and also about the media and how insane they can be."

The girls fielded calls all hours of the day and night from international television companies and newspapers fascinated at how a couple of Kiwi schoolgirls cracked such a big case.

Devathasan still thinks the corporate giant received a lighter punishment than it deserved but looks back on the girls' time as "five-minute" celebrities as nuts.

"It was quite funny. Our first media scrum was just insane. We were everywhere and it was scary, it was crazy and hectic but I mean it's died down pretty well."

These days she thinks about the discovery as "something weird that happened. "It doesn't even feel like it did because it was so surreal. The whole thing was one kind of ride and then we got off."

Pakuranga College principal Heather McRae is chuffed with the girls' nomination and says they are both fantastic young women.

Devathasan showed great leadership as dux and head girl this year, and Suo will go far, she says.

"Both of them have that motivation, that internal kind of intrinsic thing that helps them achieve highly."

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