**** In March 2018, Carme and Christoph stopped the production of PepLemon “to rethink production and marketing in order to be able to keep being who we are”. Let’s hope Pep will be back soon!****
Carme Verdaguer and Christoph Hafner from PepLemon about dreams and why it’s worth fighting.
When Carme and Christoph founded their own company about two years ago they had dreamt about a life under lemon trees on a beautiful Mediterranean island. Their idea was simple: There is an abundance of unused lemons and oranges on Mallorca, let’s turn them into a tasty lemonade. They designed a collaborative production process with partners from the island – sustainable, zero km, with social commitment. And PepLemon was born, a popular drink with a popular local nickname. It was only when they introduced PepCola, that a multinational showed up and asked them to change the name of their product. Because Pep (Catalan for Joseph) were too close to the name of their own brown drink.
1. Hola Carme, hola Christoph, que tal? – Although there are numerous soft drinks, PepLemon became very popular in no time. What makes it so special?
Christoph: There are several good reasons. In the first place, it’s the quality and the taste of PepLemon. Our lemonade is made on Mallorca with lemons from Mallorca. It consists of nothing but fruit, water and sugar. The lemons and oranges we use could not be sold on the market just because they don’t look good, they would be thrown away. So there’s a true value chain – virtually, we convert waste into an attractive product. It sounds romantic, but our product really makes a difference. And the people here love that.
2. You studied art and design and made films before you started PepLemon. How and where did you find expertise and support for your project?
Carme: We have been looking for partners on the island who share our ideals and wanted to participate. And we found them: The citrus fruits come from the cooperative agroilla, most of them is rejected, plus a smaller portion collected from abandoned farms. Then it is processed by 20 young people from Amadip Esment (a Mallorcan foundation for mentally handicapped and their families) – they are really proud of doing a good and useful job. The bottling takes place in Petra at one of the last glass bottlers on the island and we even found a company with the logistical capacity to work with returnable bottles.
3. So PepLemon is a genuine local product, it is wholly produced and exclusively distributed on Mallorca. What is Pepsi afraid of?
Christoph: Ah, they are not afraid of us. For a multinational it’s business as usual, a battle against everbody. They have to protect their brand image. And distribution is also a war. Their legal point is that our product is too similar to theirs, but that’s absurd.
Our vision is to export the model not the bottles. We want to implement the PepLemon strategy in other mediterranean regions, bring partners together and use the respective local resources. From an environmental point of view it doesn’t make sense to ship the bottled product all over the world. No, the future is local.
4. Yet, Pepsi appealed to the Spanish patent office, asked you to change your brand name and threatened to sue you.
Carme: For a long time, we have tried to compromise with Pepsi: to make Pep more distinguishable, we registered Pep’s face along with the name; we even tried to make him intersexual, but they didn’t like Pepa either. We presented several studies which proved that we are no competitor for them.
Christoph: And even the Abogado de Estado admitted that there is a certain difference, however not sufficient. But then the court said, there is no difference at all. That makes no sense, really. But it shows that they hardly made an effort. It was a very fast trial. But we will not give up.
5. Good luck! If you forget about the current struggle for a moment: What’s your favourite place on the island?
Christoph: I am where I want to be. My favourite place is right here, in this unique stretch of workspaces, garages and backyard, just around the corner of noble Carrer Sant Feliu. We have great neighbours, and it’s a very creative and inspiring atmosphere.