Interview with Dalston’s Cola

We recently spoke to Duncan O’Brien, Founder of Dalston’s Cola about their success in canning their craft soda. Here’s what he had to say:

Tell us about Dalston’s, yourselves and your ethos?

We think it’s the perfect time to offer craft soda in cans.  Our range of premium canned soft drinks are made from carefully sourced ingredients – blended with the adult palate in mind – using fruit and spring water, as well as ingredients such as Sicilian lemons and oranges, cola nuts and a blend of spices.

First and foremost, our drinks are honestly made.  By sourcing excellent, high quality ingredients, less sugar is needed.  There’s a great deal of public consciousness and confusion around sugar right now, so this is an ideal time to offer premium soft drinks that contain less sugar.  We’re proud to be the first of a new generation of ‘craft soda’ producers.

It’s all about ensuring that our ingredients are carefully sourced.  We have good relationships with our suppliers and have kept a tight control of the supply chain – which is particularly important as the supply chain for soda can be complicated – sourcing ingredients from various parts of the world.

Why, when and how did you get into making soda?

The idea for Dalston’s was hatched in an East London club five years ago.  I was working as a chef and in food sustainability and met another chef who had this idea of making craft cola.  So, we teamed up to make craft cola into a business, and things grew from there.  Our range of premium drinks in cans now features orangeade, lemonade and cola.

We’d seen what was happening across the new wave of premium foods and drinks and felt soda was rather neglected.  We wanted to bring about a revolution in taste and quality, so we got busy and built a company from the ground up – working with growers & suppliers to source excellent quality, honest ingredients that transform the taste of soda drinks.

Who buys your canned soda? Where do you sell it?

Adults buy our canned drinks in cafes, bars and restaurants – mainly in London but this is starting to spread out to other towns now.  Ocado will be selling our sodas very soon and Waitrose is stocking them from late June.

How did you first get into canning and how are you currently canning your soda?

The big push to put our soda in cans came from our Managing Director, Dan Broughton, who was inspired by the success of craft beer in cans, so knew there was a fantastic opportunity.  Also, our premises were originally next to Beavertown Brewery so we witnessed first-hand what this craft brewery was doing with cans.

There are such fantastic design options available for can labels now, and we particularly like the matt finish.  Designers can have plenty of fun with the can’s branding and packaging, which is great news for our soda range.  We work closely with the canner Cott Beverages.

What are the biggest benefits of canning your soda?

There are so many benefits when canning.  They chill down quicker and cans are more compact, plus they don’t break.  Distribution is easier too, and cans are easier for people to carry around with them.  Then there’s the sustainable quality of cans as they are completely recyclable – taking less energy than glass to be recycled.

Any advice for other soda/soft drink makers wanting to get into canning?

It’s important to allow plenty of lead time if you’re planning to work with any of the larger canners, as there’s a great deal of preparation and paperwork involved, especially during the set-up period.  We managed to do this in just three months from initial meeting to first production run, and were very lucky that Cott Beverages could work with us in such a short timeframe.

What’s next for Dalston’s?

Well, we have plenty of new drinks to develop, and are busy visiting new fruit farms to look-into the possibility of sourcing some more soft fruits.  We want to focus on growing in the UK, and are already exporting to Benelux, so who knows where we might go from here…

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