Shop goes sour on sugary Coca-Cola

Childhood obesity is a massive problem in Rotorua (Reuters)
Childhood obesity is a massive problem in Rotorua (Reuters)

A shop in a small tourist town north of Rotorua is doing its bit to keep the area clean and visitors healthy by giving up Coca-Cola.

Okere Falls Store owner Sarah Uhl says it was a "no-brainer" to stop selling the sugary treat, and any other beverage that comes in a plastic bottle.

"We've been on a bit of a mission to try and reduce our impact on the environment in lots of different ways," she told Newshub.

Ms Uhl got the idea to ditch plastic bottles after a trip to Indonesia, where the beaches were covered in litter that had washed up from the ocean.

"People were walking around the streets through plastic rubbish," she says. "We went to the beach and it was the same, the ocean was the same."

After finding out most plastic bottles don't get recycled, she spoke to her staff who backed the move to ditch Coke and plastic.

"We can't say 'I can't afford it' or 'it's too expensive to fix the problem', because the problem is very, very real," she says.

"To say it's too expensive to recycle, that's just ridiculous - there's a cost there, and if we're not paying that cost, we're not actually paying the true price of that product."

It's not just the environment she wants to help. Childhood obesity is a massive problem in Rotorua - more than a quarter of kids in the town are overweight or obese.

If you still want that cola kick, Okere Falls Store is now offering locally made Karma Cola.

"Their cola products have half the amount of sugar that Coca-Cola does. They come in glass bottles," she says.

"There are lots of really amazing New Zealand companies out there, small businesses, who are doing a wicked job making drinks that are healthier, and also in glass bottles. Glass bottles are a lot easier to recycle and they don't end up floating in the ocean."

The store still stocks fruit juices too - the Phoenix range. Ms Uhl admits some fruit drinks have just as much sugar as Coke, but at least they come in glass bottles.

"We're not saying we're perfect - we're just doing what we can do to help our environment and our community."

They ditched plastic bags last year, and if they can afford to, hope to go solar-powered in time.

"Everyone's got their own opinion, and I'm fine about that - have your own opinion, but this is what we're doing, and we think we can help make a difference."

Ms Uhl's not afraid of losing sales, saying they kicked cigarettes just fine, so will survive this too.

The Coca-Cola ban kicks in mid-October.