Organic drinks company Karma Cola has signed a distribution deal and created a soft drink for popular UK restaurant chain Wagamama.

This means the Auckland-founded business will have its drink stocked in six flagship Wagamama branches throughout Britain later this month with the intention of it being rolled out to all 120 restaurants if it hits sales targets.

Karma Cola began working on its lemongrass ginger ale 'Lemongrass Gingerella' around six months ago, a flavour it developed to compliment Wagamama's Asian-fusion cuisine.

The company had a meeting with Wagamama executive chef Steven Mangleshot which is how the collaboration came about. Karma Cola tried lychee and pineapple and played around with other flavours before settling on lemongrass as the main flavour.


The drink will be on trial until July and "all going well" will be permanently stocked in all Wagamama restaurants.

"Part of the benefit of building a relationship with an outlet like this is that we can do something that is unique to them, get it on their menu and it gets us known," Simon Coley, co-founder and director of Karma Cola, said.

"It's an opportunity for us to be a lot more relevant.

"We have to prove we can deliver on it - I'm excited, always a little intrepid because with these things you can't totally predict the future but I'm confident we can replicate what we've seen in the past."

Karma Cola is no stranger to collaborating with other brands.

Its first foray into this territory was with Auckland Mexican food truck brand The Lucky Taco where it created a chilli-infused cola drink. It then created a similar product for UK Mexican restaurant chain Wahaca.

The Wagamama deal is 10 times bigger in value and scale than the Wahaca partnership, Coley said.

Wagamama was excited by the partnership with Karma Cola, Mangleshot said.


"I'm a fan of what Karma Cola is doing both ethically and with well-sourced, flavourful ingredients," he said. "We're really excited about [the product] and proud that, like all their drinks, money from every bottle sold of Lemongrass Gingerella will go back to the Karma Cola Foundation to help with grassroots community activist programmes, something we feel passionate about."

Karma Cola has also created a 'white beer' with London brewery Beavertown, founded by Logan Plant, the son of Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant.

Collaborations aside, the bulk of the company's revenue still comes from the sale of its three core drinks - the original Karma Cola, No Sugar Karma Cola and its Lemmy Lemonade.

Total revenue last year was just over $12 million and it achieved 50 per cent sales growth in sales in both New Zealand and UK last year. It expects to double its revenue every two years over the next four years.

Sales and growth in Britain has now outstripped the New Zealand market where it is more-widely distributed.

Simon Coley in Sierra Leone, where Karma Cola sources its kola nuts. Photo / Supplied
Simon Coley in Sierra Leone, where Karma Cola sources its kola nuts. Photo / Supplied

Karma Cola was founded in 2012 by Coley and Chris and Matt Morrison on the idea of a making a connection between producers and consumers, and prides itself on being fair trade. Until now it has sold around 15 million bottles of product.

A portion of sales from each drink it sells goes to the Karma Cola Foundation.

"Our whole journey has been about balancing our ethical interest and the need to be profitable."

Karma Cola is sold in 20 markets and this year focused on the UK and European markets. It is currently undergoing a private capital raise through investment marketplace Snowball Effect to accelerate its growth in international markets. It is seeking to raise $4 million, and so far over $2m has been invested.

The company recently signed on to have its range of drinks stocked and trialled in supermarket Sainsbury's in the next two weeks, the first time it will be stocked in a major supermarket in the UK.

"It's a big deal for us," Coley said. "It's a big milestone for us to be recognised and ranged by a supermarket like that who have a quarter of the business in the country."

Interestingly, uncertainty around Brexit has been beneficial for Karma Cola, Coley said the business has noticed an increased demand from Europe.

"We've had a lot of demand from Europe which we haven't looked for," he said.

"We're in a dozen European countries because... people have discovered us, approached us and asked if they can represent us."