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Ride along in a crate of Coke


Health for everyone is a noble pursuit. But how do you get a medicine to its destination in a country without adequate logistics infrastructure? Distribution costs threaten to rise sky high in these cases. Health2Wealth is the surprising answer to this pressing question.

In the Eighties, Simon Berry was a development aid worker in Zambia. He was amazed by the fact that you could buy Coca-Cola in the most remote villages, while basic medication was unavailable there. This thought went through his head for years, until his wife got the idea in 2008 that the empty space between the bottles in Coke crates could be used to distribute anti-diarrhea kits.

In Africa one in five children still dies of diarrhea, even though this problem can be solved with very simple means: administration of oral rehydration salts, use of soap and zinc tablets. But these remedies do not reach the mothers and children that need them.


With the approval of Coca-Cola, Simon and Jane set up the ColaLife organization. The idea was picked up by a Janssen employee, who sought support within the group. This was the start of the ColaLife-Janssen project Health2Wealth.


ColaLifePI Global, an expert in packaging materials, offered to design the packaging to fit the diarrhea remedies perfectly in between the bottles. Every kit contains a few bags of oral rehydration salt, a box of zinc tablets to prevent the diarrhea from returning and a piece of soap to wash hands before meals. It is not just a container: once opened, the packaging becomes a cup, in which the salt dissolves in the right amount of water and with a top to keep out dirt and flies. It also had to be easy to use for illiterate end users.


The pilot project has been up and running in Zambia since the autumn of 2012. Local agents, trained by ColaLife, have bought kits and distributed them in Coke crates to even the remotest villages. By selling them for just under $1, they can also make a small profit, which will encourage them to go on. Some earn more than $25 with it, which is enough to feed an entire family. Hundreds of thousands of kits have been distributed this way among the people of Zambia. The dream is to be able to use this packaging to fight other diseases, like diabetes and HIV/AIDS.

The ColaLife project was granted the Transformational Business Award in the health category, awarded by the Financial Times and the International Finance Corporation. The innovative use of the Coca-Cola distribution chain saves a lot of lives. According to Janssen, this project is a match for their programs to improve access to medical care and medicines. It also helps the group to come up with alternative distribution models for rural areas. This initiative is a nice example of how collaboration can be translated into new solutions. And it strengthens the aspiration… to be a transformational medical innovator.