Ethical businesses are big news - and we applaud any startup that aims to help the planet whilst doing business. But how do you create a truly ethical brand that supports local communities, adopts sustainable business processes and practices – and also has mass-market appeal? We spoke to Virgin StartUp-supported Bhavi Kanadia, founder of King Coconut brand Jeeva Natural, about how she's doing this.

Bhavi Kanadia, founder of Jeeva Naturals, is an entrepreneur that doesn’t settle for second best. She started with a belief that the coconut products available on the UK market bore little resemblance to the clean tasting, organic coconut water and cold-pressed oils she enjoyed growing up in India. What’s more, she was also surprised to find that even brands that claimed to be ethical and sustainable were using plastic packaging.

“I am a firm believer in the importance of a connection with nature and the positive effect it has on our bodies, and on the rest of the world,” explains Bhavi. “By definition, Jeeva means ‘full of life’ in Hindi and in 2014,I founded Jeeva Natural – a brand that deals exclusively in high-quality, all-natural king coconut oils, waters and bamboo blossom rice. Everything I create is ethically and sustainably sourced and so it’s important to me that this is reflected in everything I do - from charity partnerships, to eco-friendly glass bottles.”

bhavi_with_coconuts.jpg

Getting started

When Bhavi moved to the UK she struggled to find the same quality fresh ingredients that were readily available in her homeland, including some of the natural ingredients she infuses in her popular King Coconut water range. “As a child I would have a daily drink of fresh, organic turmeric root, ginger and honey, but turmeric root was very difficult to get hold of when I first moved England,” she explains. “I developed the idea of infusing it with pure king coconut water to produce a premium drink that combined health with luxury.”

After the birth of her son Enzo in 2009, she became conscious of the sheer amount of non-natural products on the market. Backed by her background in nutrition, and an extensive knowledge of naturopathy and Ayurvedic medicine, Bhavi began to produce organic extra-virgin raw coconut oil, infused king coconut waters, and bamboo blossom rice.

Bringing the Jeeva Natural brand to life

The name Jeeva Natural is more than a logo – it is a brand promise that Bhavi takes very seriously. When customers choose a natural health or food brand it is because they are aware of the brand’s reputation for living up to, or exceeding, expectations. With today’s consumers increasingly wanting full disclosure of their products’ source, being ethical and planet-friendly has never been more important in influencing potential customers’ decisions. But in a market saturated with brands claiming organic and natural status, Bhavi’s challenge was to stand out.

“How would I ensure that Jeeva Natural stood out from the crowd? To me, it comes from the heart,” explains Bhavi. “I have a clear image of what we want Jeeva Natural to portray to the world: that of a trustworthy, ethically-aware brand with a love of all things natural. So we put our ethos at the centre of everything we do, and customers respond to this authenticity.”

Ethical values that start at source

A trip to Sri Lanka was where Bhavi first encountered the king coconut, and realized its potential as a sustainable superfood. “When I first tasted what locals called the ‘golden wonder’ I was amazed – it was absolutely delicious and with a long list of health benefits, including being an excellent rehydrant. How was it possible that I had not tasted it before?” says Bhavi.

Locals enlightened Bhavi to the intrinsic role the fruit played in the islanders’ day-to-day life and its reputation as a refreshing beverage with healing properties – it is considered such a gift from Mother Nature that every family grows a King Coconut tree in their garden.

Whilst sourcing her coconuts, Bhavi spoke to local farmers who showed her the process of harvesting the fruit. Accounting for just 2% of Sri Lanka’s coconut crop, king coconuts are a premium variety, garden grown on the southern coast of Sri Lanka with little or no human intervention, meaning their cultivation does not involve the use of pesticides.

“The farmers’ meticulous care for their harvest combined with the islanders’ almost magical regard for the fruit (and the fact it tasted incredible) meant I needed no more convincing – this was the vital ingredient I needed to make my healthy, natural superfood mix,” explains Bhavi.

The next stage for Bhavi was to find her key supplier. Quality is critical to the Jeeva Natural ethos and Bhavi had previously been unsuccessful with coconut suppliers, so she continued to strive for the best.

“I tracked down a small farm near Columbo in Sri Lanka to be my sole provider of king coconuts,” explains Bhavi. “The farmer agreed to harvest baby king coconuts, when they are at their most tender, solely for their water, and mature king coconuts to produce a rich, high-quality king coconut oil, one of the first of its kind in the UK.”

The Jeeva Natural organic water is bottled in eco-friendly glass the same day the fruit is harvested to retain freshness and lock in nutrients. As a final addition, fresh high-quality natural ingredients such as turmeric root and matcha tea are infused with the water, creating a fresh superfood mixture in a bottle containing no artificial colours, flavourings or preservatives.

Jeeva and Born Free Foundation

During the final days of Bhavi’s trip to Sri Lanka, she visited the Elephant Transit Home and witnessed first-hand the incredible work being done by the Born Free Foundation to safeguard these incredible creatures.

Coco the elephant - Jeeva

Coco the elephant - Jeeva

“The first thing I did upon my return to London was get in touch with The Born Free Foundation and offer my support,” says Bhavi. “Jeeva Natural now donates 2% of profits from the sale of each king coconut water to support vital Asian elephant conservation work in Sri Lanka. And I couldn’t resist adopting an adorable little elephant called Coco!”

From source to sale to charity partners, through careful planning, extensive research and a huge love of elephants, Jeeva Natural successfully stands by the company’s values: 100% natural, sustainable and ethical.

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