Koia is a rarity of a company with vegan products while lacking any sort of sustainable branding whatsoever. I rate their vanilla bean protein shake a .75, as its ingredients are its one saving grace.
All of Koia’s products are vegan, which is what drew my interest to the company. The vanilla bean protein shake is made up of notably simple ingredients such as almond milk and a protein blend made from brown rice, peas, and chickpeas. US produced almond milk often uses almonds that have been treated by an array of pesticides, five of which are harmful to honey bee populations. Koia doesn’t specify where they source any of their ingredients from, but as their products are not labeled organic, it’s probable that their almonds and almond milk contribute to these practices. However, the meat and dairy industries are significantly more harmful in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, and inefficient land use. Almond milk might not be a perfect dairy substitute, but it is still better than dairy itself. Their protein mix is also completely plant-based, which bypasses animal products used in competing products.
Their packaging is made of plastic, and there is no indication that any of it is recycled. While still disappointing, this isn’t particularly surprising compared to its competitors.
Overall, I rate this section a 1. I’m excited to see a fully vegan protein drink in a market that is dominated by animal products. That being said, I would like to see sustainably sourced ingredients and an effort to make their packaging more environmentally friendly.
Oftentimes when a company sells exclusively vegan products, they want to emphasize their sustainability impacts in any way possible, so much so that there’s usually an issue of saying too much with little evidence to back their claims. Koia has the opposite problem. Besides selling a vegan product, Koia does not seem to have any interest in maintaining a sustainable image. Nowhere on their website do they provide any background on where their ingredients are sourced, the materials in their packaging or its production sites, or any other information outside their ingredients list itself. I rate this section a 0, simply because I have no information to go off of, and therefore nothing noteworthy whatsoever.
Like in the last category, Koia is incredibly vague when it comes to who is involved in their company. From employees to suppliers, there is no information about who makes their products and the conditions surrounding them. Koia is a privately owned company and is not owned by a massive corporation, and one of their two co-founders—Maya French—is a black woman. I’m glad to see diversity in their management!
I’ve discussed a good amount how Koia has little to no sustainability messaging, and while I cannot consider them a sustainable company, I do have to acknowledge that their product is exactly what it is marketed as: a healthy, vegan protein shake. There’s no greenwashing happening here. That it’s not marketed as particularly environmental might make it more approachable to consumers who are skeptical of vegan and sustainable food products. If consumers opt for a plant-based drink compared to a milk alternative, then Koia is making a positive impact by diverting sales from the dairy industry.
I rate this section a .25. Koia’s branding only really has the potential to create positive change on a technicality if they outcompete worse products.