A healthy soda that’s actually good for me? You must be thinking that we’re out of our minds, but we’ve tracked it down and it happens to be produced in our hometown, Toronto. It’s the first soda to be ever sweetened with nothing else but delicious root veggies, low sugar fruit juices and powerful spices!
For our September Local Feature (and while we still have double digit temps), we’re happy to be featuring Crazy D’s All Natural Soda Labs. Fun, fizzy and with flavours like Cherry Cola, Ginga’ Kick and Thrilla in Vanilla- you will be hooked.
Today, we’re sitting down with the Founder, Darren Portelli to tell us a little bit more about how he came up with this crazy idea and what inspired him to get started.
“Soda without the guilt.”
1) Darren, it was so great to meet you and try your delicious sodas at the Taste of Toronto. Sugar-free, all natural… tha bomb! Could you tell us how and when you got started and where your inspiration came from?
Here’s the short & sweet version. We all know traditional soda and diet sodas aren’t good for us though the reality is, most of us have fun memories of drinking them growing up. Who doesn’t want a soda with popcorn on a Friday night when they’re watching a movie? Sure, the odd person will say they don’t ever drink soda, though the reality is it’s part of our culture.
Somewhere around 4-5 years ago I decided to switch to a Paleo Diet after hitting a rough patch in terms of overall health/mental health. This meant there really wasn’t much I could drink aside from water, so I started getting extremely thirsty! That summer I came to realize there really wasn’t anything wrong with carbonated water. The PROBLEM is what most soda companies are adding to the product to keep it cheap, sweet and have a long shelf life. So I started adding lemons and limes, and then I started craving ginger. It was Friday night (movie time) so I headed to the health food store to purchase a treat for myself and came home with an all-natural Ginger Beer, which only had a bit of organic sugar in it (somewhere around 15-20 grams). I was so excited, but the truth is, I only got halfway through before experiencing the same migraine that I used to get when I was a kid. So it became extremely clear, sugar IS toxic and causes inflammation. In the case of ginger products, I was disturbed that we would add sugar, which causes inflammation and damages our flora to something like ginger, which would help with inflammation/digestion etc.. It really makes no sense. We naturally crave these products and the sugar wipes out all the benefits. Hence, I started trying to make a ginger soda without sugar, artificial ingredients, preservatives, colourings etc.. I searched and searched for a way to sweeten my beverage in a completely natural way that wouldn’t impact our blood sugar levels. Three years later, after doing a bit of research on diabetics, I started sweetening with prebiotic root veggies and FINALLY came up with GINGA’ KICK. Funny enough, my own life started to change (for the better) in a very unexpected way as the impact of these veggies meant my doctor had to start tapering me off of medication – I simply didn’t need it. It’s funny the way life works.
2) At The Naughty Nutritionists, we’re not really about placing restrictions on eating, but instead trying to find healthier substitutions and bringing balance into the way we live our lives. That’s why we’re all about enjoying our food, and occasionally a glass of vino. No guilt, ever! At Crazy D’s Soda Labs, what would you say your motto is?
We’re all about life balance at Crazy D’s. The drink was created for mental health, though our overall aim is to promote a healthy lifestyle, exercise, clean eating, stress reduction, and generally having fun and enjoying life. I feel quite sad for the general public because you need a nutritional degree when you head to the grocery store. Industry tricks people every day, and believe me, a lot of junk food is now disguised as Health Food – the cleaner I eat, the more sensitive to food I have become – so yes, there is a LOT of garbage. Adults can make the choice to feed themselves however they want, though I feel worst for the kids who can’t make these decisions for themselves. They grow up drinking juice boxes and processed/sugar laden treats and exceed their daily limit of sugar every day because we still haven’t been educating people enough about this. Also, since the majority of the population is completely high on sugar, you just can’t feel the harm it’s causing you. You need to COMPLETELY remove it (and added sugars) for an extended period and then
Adults can make the choice to feed themselves however they want, though I feel worst for the kids who can’t make these decisions for themselves. They grow up drinking juice boxes and processed/sugar laden treats and exceed their daily limit of sugar every day because we still haven’t been educating people enough about this. Also, since the majority of the population is completely high on sugar, you just can’t feel the harm it’s causing you. You need to COMPLETELY remove it (and added sugars) for an extended period and then re-introduce it in order to get it. But for education’s sake, children’s daily limit for added sugars is approx. 10 grams per day and most exceed this at breakfast. Adult women 25 grams, the same amount as a bottle of sugar Coke Life, or 5 tablespoons of ketchup. People always think the result is direct, that you’re going to notice the harm that sugar and processed foods cause almost immediately, and then they wonder why their child experiences mental health issues (for example) in later stages of life. We’re at the point where we’re taking so many antidepressants, researchers have discovered our fish in the Great Lakes have very high levels in their brains as well. Yikes!
3) We love supporting ‘true’ natural and organic local products, and that is one thing we were so happy to learn about your sodas. They also contain prebiotic sweeteners- how awesome is that for a soda! Can you tell us how you came up with the idea to add a hint of sweetness to all the sodas using delicious root veggies?
After cleaning up my eating, I came to realize there was a huge correlation between foods impact on the state of our mental health and foods impact on our blood sugar levels. I wanted to sweeten with a vegetable, so I started researching diabetics to figure out what vegetables were sweet that would NOT impact their blood sugar levels. This led me to a family of prebiotic root veggies, some contain inulin, others containing FOS (Fructooligosaccharides), which is sugar in a form the body doesn’t recognize, therefore does not digest. However, what was most appealing was the fact that FOS is PREBIOTIC. To be honest, I never really achieved great results from probiotics, so I wasn’t expecting much of an impact from prebiotics….but when I started ingesting these veggies, my life started to change.
4) Where/how you source your ingredients and where are all the sodas made?
All of our sodas are currently being handcrafted in Toronto though we are very close to starting larger scale production on a bottling line. This took quite a while to figure out because I didn’t want to mess with the nutritional integrity of the product. To be honest, I’m really excited about shifting to mass production because we’re going to shift from juicing our lemons, limes, and ginger to cold-pressing. It will give the product an extra nutritional boost while adding a little zing to the flavour. Re: Sourcing, we source organic ingredients from all over the world….Peru, South Africa etc. I’m currently experimenting to try to grow some of our own produce, but we’re far from producing enough.
5) We can think of some pretty fun summer cocktail recipes using your sodas. We’d love it if you share a recipe with us.
I’m a big fan of the NINJA KICK – which is simply Tequila, Ginga’ Kick and Lime. All this said, I must stress that after 1-2 drinks your flora starts getting damaged, so take ’er easy!
6) What is next for the Crazy D’s Soda Labs? Do you have any new products in the pipeline?
YES! However, the sodas are our main focus so we can’t start with new products until we fully get these off the ground. I love making new products and have plenty of ideas….all secrets until the day finally arrives 🙂
7) Where can our readers find your all-natural sodas?
Here is our list, which is CONSTANTLY being updated: https://www.crazydlabs.com/pages/where-to-find-us