Although Paul Wallace retired from professional rugby twenty years ago, we still see him on TV regularly on Sky Sports or hear him on the radio talking with vast knowledge and passion about the sport that he excelled in during his career, from playing with UCC, Munster, Leinster, Saracens, Ireland, and the British and Irish Lions. Paul started out during the period before professional rugby was even a thing, and talking to him last week after Munster won the URC, you can tell that his enthusiasm for Rugby is equally matched by his enthusiasm for his new venture “Pura”.
Pura, distributed by Natio, has a range of 100% natural ingredient-based canned sodas and infused fruit drinks in cartons aimed at kids, with no colourants or preservatives and low in sugar. I met with Paul recently to taste some of the products and chat to him about how he ended up involved in the drinks industry.
How did you end up in the drinks industry?
I was lucky in my rugby career that I got to travel a lot for games, and while we were on the pitch, even though we were adversaries, I made some lifelong and lasting friendships. It was through my time playing in South Africa that a friend I made there contacted me to see if I would be interested in coming on board with Pura. I studied Business at UCC and have worked in the international commercial property sector since I stopped playing professional rugby.
There are plenty of drinks on the market with zero calories. What makes Pura different or healthier than them?
Pura are a low-calorie drink, not a no-calorie one, and offer a fantastic range of mixers that we would see replacing many of the current favourites, shaking up the traditional mixer market. Our products are made from 100% natural ingredients. We do have a small amount of sugar in our products, but they are natural, and as sugar has been around for a very long time, we know what the pros and cons are. Whereas, with the many zero-calorie products that are available, the only way this can be done is with artificial additives, like aspartame, that we know for a fact is a carcinogen, and as with many other sweeteners, we don’t even know what some of the other long-term effects could be. People look at zero-calorie beverages and think that it must be ok to drink them in high quantities daily, but this is sadly not the case. As a father of two 5-year-olds, I know extremely well how many products out there aimed at kids are full of nasty stuff, and I personally believe there should be a tax on artificial sweeteners and not just on sugar. I think any kind of soda, whether it is aimed at kids or adults, needs to be a special treat that you can have once or twice a week.
As somebody who sells beverages with a healthier natural USP, what is your opinion on alcohol when it comes to the sponsorship of sports?
I think that when it comes to sporting organisations, many of them rely heavily on the sponsorship that they receive and would struggle to continue if this funding was banned altogether, but at the same time, the approach to this needs to be based on common sense. I think the zero-alcohol movement has been a good compromise, as sports and alcohol don’t mix in many ways. I have always been big on fitness, and I think that with the level that many sports are played at now, across many different disciplines, if you want to be at the top of your game, you would be advised to steer clear as much as possible. Don’t get me wrong, I love to go for a few pints of Guinness in Franks of Monkstown or Donny and Nesbitt, and I love the atmosphere that you can find when you go into many of the fantastic pubs we are blessed with in Ireland, so I am not anti-alcohol, but just like sugar, you have to think of it as a treat and drink responsibly.
Check out Pura at www.livealittlepura.com for more information.