Turning a passion for plants into a creative drinks business
We met up with the guys at Humble Warrior - an inspirational plant-based company who make drinks that go really well with our functional spirits. They are all about bringing powerful plants out of the shadows and into the mainstream and have recently developed a Plant Almanac, so we established early on we had a lot in common! Including a mutual love of Tulsi, also known as Holy Basil...
Tell us more about Humble Warrior.
We craft drinks with extraordinary plants from around the world. We use proper amounts of plants like tulsi, turmeric and reishi mushroom, which give our drinkers punchy flavours with real benefits. We’re about bringing the rare, the exotic and the extraordinary to the mainstream.
Plants have been used for generations in other places, so what we’re doing is not new – it’s just about making them a bit more fun, hopefully, a bit cooler and ultimately more accessible.
How did you guys get started in the plant-based drinks space? What did you do before?
Humble Warrior was started by me and my other half, Andy. We’re from Melbourne but we used to travel to Sri Lanka a lot, which is where my family is from. We’d enjoyed all these awesome roots, barks, spices and leaves in drinks there and realised that in the UK so many of them were relegated to tablets, tinctures and powders. We knew something had to be done about that. You could say, the plants found us!
There’s an amazing thrill in creating something from scratch, but it is gruelling. You have to spend the time getting to know your drinkers to understand their pain points. It’s all about product, market and fit. When things get tough we revert to our code: stay bold, be conscious and stay connected - it gets us out there fighting the good fight!
Prior to starting Humble Warrior, I was working in the city in financial PR and advising a lot of food and drinks companies. Neither of us are from the drinks world which means we are not anchored to any 'right' way of doing things. Which explains a few things, haha. It’s been a steep learning curve for sure.
How has it gone so far? Who’s drinking this stuff?
We’ve had an awesome response to this range. We launched them in July 2019, and were immediately stocked by Planet Organic, Selfridges, Daylesford and other premium retailers. The on-trade then followed with hotels like the ACE Hotel and Citizen M hotels. It was a stellar start to 2020.
Lockdown pushed us to challenge the model more and take stock of what really matters to our drinkers. Online has seen a big uplift and we’ve used the time to set things up nicely there.
Can you tell us about some functional plants you use in your daily life? Do you have any tips or rituals to stay happy and healthy?
Growing up, I was introduced to lots of different herbs and spices. My dad would bring random, exotic ones home all the time. Gotu Kola in our Reishi & Pineapple was a favourite. We used to micro-dose on the stuff before exams! Great for concentration and memory.
Today, we use fresh Gotu Kola in our morning tea. I also use moringa powder with meals as it’s a great source of iron. Grown tinctures and Glow Bar adaptogenic powders are also firm favourites. We have always used herbs, and get a lot of our stuff from Sri Lanka - my aunties are constantly sending us stuff!
My weekday routine usually sees me up at 5.45 am with the birds, 15 mins of yoga and 15 mins of meditation. Bit of air boxing and whoosh…I am ready for another day of Zooms from the home office!
I’m a big fan of Tony Robbins and also love the Vevolution podcasts with Damien and Judy. Anyone up for a good book that puts life into perspective…try A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara. Am reading it now and it goes deeeeeep.
Tulsi features in both of our drinks. Can you tell us more about this plant?
Tulsi was one that I discovered later in life. It’s a powerful adaptogenic herb - also known as Holy Basil - and has been used for thousands of years in Ayurveda, often before meditation.
It's cultivated for its essential oil, which is used therapeutically and medicinally. It’s believed to be great to help digestion, and also lift up people’s spirits.
It is very sacred in parts of India and in Vaishnava Hindu culture, tulsi is considered to be the holiest of all plants. Traditionally, it is planted outside of houses for prosperity, protection and because it repels mosquitos.
There are also thousands of Tulsi growing around the Taj Mahal – they were planted there however many hundreds of years ago to cleanse the air and protect the marble. Looking at the Taj – it looks like it’s done the job!
Can you explain how you source your ingredients and operate your company in a sustainable way?
Sourcing our ingredients from ethical growers is core for us. We source from growers in the East and know our growers personally. We bottle in glass and donate 2% of every bottle sold to SOS Children’s Villages charity. They support children orphaned by war and natural disasters. We’re hugely proud of that partnership.
How have global events impacted your business and audience?
The movement around BLM and the global pandemic has been a real inflection point for people. The pandemic has put personal wellbeing into the spotlight, and BLM has challenged the rhetoric of companies around the world. I think ultimately both global events translate into more pressure on brands to be more transparent, sustainable and ultimately authentic. In the words of the suffragettes - deeds not words.
What’s your favourite Three Spirit drink and why?
Got to be the Three Spirit Social Elixir - made with tulsi and lion’s mane mushroom. It goes beautifully with Humble Warrior Reishi & Pineapple.
What’s next for Humble Warrior?
Plants are at the intersection of the two fastest-growing categories in drinks - health and non-alc. We’re excited to be part of that and there’s so much more we have planned with even more plants. We’ve been experimenting a lot during this period, so we don’t want to spoil the surprise!
We’re excited to see what you guys come up with next, keep us in the loop and we’ll have a drink when it's safe. Good luck in your experimentation!