Soft drinks company Esprala helps NHS with thirsty work

A SOFT drinks company whose launch was delayed by the coronavirus outbreak has donated 18,000 cans to NHS workers and a chain of foodbanks.

Woking-based Esprala is able to sell its products through Amazon but plans for them to be stocked in shops and cafes have had to be put on hold.

Paramedic Michael Groves with a much-appreciated donation of Esprala

The company is run by brothers Imran and Tahir Hamid, who had a “eureka moment” in 2018 when sharing a soft drink.

“It tasted awful and we said to each other, ‘we should make a drink of our own’,” said Imran.

The created a recipe in Imran’s kitchen in Maybury, using fruit sweetened with zero-calorie sucralose and worked on the details of can design, manufacture and pricing.

Imran Hamid, who devised Esprala with his brother Tahir

Imran gave up his job at Deutsche Bank in London while Tahir used his technology and marketing background on their drinks project.

By late last year, Esprala Apple and Red Plum, produced in mainland Europe, was ready to be marketed and the Hamids set about promoting the drink over the next few months. They gave away cans at Woking railway station in February and had several big outlets lined up when the coronavirus lockdown brought everything to a halt.

“As the virus struck, we soon realised that people were far more important than commercial gain,” Imran said.

“There are people surviving on donations from food banks and our hero NHS workers. We contacted the Trussell Trust, who look after food banks across the UK , and we also contacted NHS hospitals around the South East and London to donate our Esprala fruit drink.

“We donated around 6,000 cans to the Trussell Trust and 15,000 cans to hospitals and the South East Coast Ambulance Service.

NHS worker Paul Darling-Wills with a delivery to Ashford Hospital

“Kelly’s Storage in Guildford, where we keep our stock, transported pallets free of charge to several hospitals, including to Ashford and St Peters, the Royal Surrey, Kings College, Kingston and St Georges.”

A week before the lockdown, the Hamids sent a large number of cans to Amazon, which is selling Esprala for just over £24 for a box of 24.

Hamid said he and Tahir are hoping they can keep going throughout the lockdown and are confident that Esprala will quickly become popular when it is over

They had interest from a major chain of theatres and cinemas and a football club.

“We just don’t know what is going to happen, but the reaction from people trying the drink has been very good. They like that it is low in calories and is suitable for vegans,” Imran said.

“We have come so far that I just don’t want to call it a day. I’m not going back to banking.”

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