An Algarve-based company called Grand Carob has developed a new “100% natural, vegan, gluten and lactose-free” drink that uses regionally-grown carobs as its main ingredient.
It is described as a drink for those who “appreciate nutritional value” and do not mind paying a bit more to enjoy a quality product.
“This is almost the ‘Porsche’ of vegetable-based drinks. It is 100% natural and has a much higher concentration of ingredients than any other,” Grand Carob founder Nuno Alves told Lusa news agency.
The company is based at the University of the Algarve’s business incubator and can produce around 5,000 bottles per day, with each 200ml bottle being sold for €1.39.
The idea came to him in 2017 while having a drink with friends at a pub in England, where he used to live before deciding to move back to the Algarve to develop the project.
His plan was to create an “urban brand with rural roots” which made the most out of carobs, an ingredient found all over the Algarve and used in many traditional recipes.
The drink also contains Algarvean fleur du sel, although the almonds used are not Algarve grown as “there wasn’t the guarantee that some of them wouldn’t be bitter, which “could compromise the whole production”.
With a degree in management and postgraduate degree in accounting and no background in nutrition, Alves had to do some research to turn his idea into a solid plan.
However, he was “delighted” when his research led him to discover carob’s “many benefits”.
“It is nutritionally rich and naturally sweet and filled with antioxidants. It is a super food and can be used to create innovative products,” he said.
But the process of making the drink taste good was not easy, Alves admitted.
“All it takes is a small variation for the flavour to be completely changed,” he explained, adding that the carobs’ ripening process, the way they are cut or even stored can “completely change the flavour of the final product”.
While the Grand Carob drink is the company’s focus for now, Alves said that it will continue to look into new products that use carob as a main ingredient.
However, it’s still early days, and for now its sights are set on promoting the drink throughout the country.
It can still only be found at a select number of cafés in the Algarve, a gourmet supermarket chain, and coffee stores in Lisbon and Porto. Soon it is due to start being sold at two national supermarket chains, he added.
More information at https://grandcarob.com