How much difference can an unassuming little red fruit really make to a life crippled by a debilitating disease like gout? Enough for CherryActive owner, John Carey, to reinvent his life around it.
A man hobbles into the doctors with a terribly swollen big toe. The doctor stands up, takes one look and says, "Gout" - The man retorts, "But I've only just walked in!" Laugh!? definitely not. Gout has often been the subject of ridicule and jokes, but for those who suffer painful attacks, it really isn't a laughing matter!
I was diagnosed with this crippling disease when I was 28 years-old, a competitive black belt at judo and and marathon runner - not the stereotypical portly ex-colonel with a love for fortified wine and rich meat!
Gout is a form of arthritis caused by a build up of uric acid in the bloodstream - uric acid is a natural by-product of the body's normal metabolism. Although over-indulgence can be a factor, many people just produce too much uric acid or have kidneys that are less able to cope with its excretion. Over a certain level of concentration, the uric acid can precipitate into microscopic, needle-like crystals in the joints, causing inflammation and excruciating pain.
My doctor prescribed powerful anti-inflammatory and urate lowering drugs but still the gout attacks came every few months. In between attacks, my toes and ankles were very swollen and sore, meaning the sports I loved had to be shelved.
I was concerned at the long-term impact on my health from taking life-long medication with nasty side-effects, I consulted various complimentary therapists, abstained completely from alcohol and tried a myriad of diets, but the flare-ups kept on coming.
It was whilst on a trip to America a few years ago that I was introduced to a grower of the specialist Montmorency tart cherry variety. He claimed that although he sold his crop, like most other growers, in bulk, to produce cherry pies, muffins, etc., a growing number of locals drank his cherry juice to relieve their gout and arthritis pain. I decided to test this out and drank a glass of squeezed cherries daily for the next few weeks. Wow, I couldn't believe the difference. After about 10 days my toes were no longer inflamed and I had a full movement in both ankles. I brought a few cases of juice back with me and carried on with the regime - the results really were amazing.
A few months later, without any gout attacks or residual pain, I decided to revisit my friendly farmer in the U.S. Whilst most farmers seemed over-reliant on pesticides, artificial fertilizers and other intensive techniques to optimise their yields, my friend was more interested in producing high quality, nutritious fruit. He explained that his was a family-run farm and that he felt a responsibility to his customers to maintain a nutrient-rich soil, to grow well-managed trees and to keep an ecologically sound environment to produce a sustainable, safe and abundant harvest of the best tart cherries.
Although he wasn't registered organic, i was impressed at how his farming methods included natural fertilizers, the application of tar paper around the tree trunks to protect against climbing cutworms, the use of simple bait-lure traps to keep fruit flies at bay and the conservation of natural populations of beneficial mites, bugs and spiders to keep other harmful pests to a minimum.
After many years working in the corporate finance world, I longed to start a business of my own and felt that i was developing a passion for a simple red cherry, grown with care and attention that had given me freedom from the torment of agonising gout pain. Surely there were thousands of fellow sufferers who could benefit? I left my job and CherryActive was born!
I was keen not to use detrimental harsh heat processes in the manufacture of our products like other juice concentrates, as research indicated that this could breakdown valuable nutrients. For several months before the launch, my farmer partner and I worked with a local cherry processor to finally produce our glorious, anti-oxidant rich concentrate. I launched CherryActive concentrate in 946ml (one US quart) in the UK in January 2006, followed by our award-winning CherryActive Capsules, made from freeze-dried powdered CherryActive cherries seven months later (many customers prefer the convenience of the capsules, whilst others prefer to enjoy it as the drink).
Ongoing research studies show that Montmorency cherries naturally contain an abundance of powerful antioxidant compounds, including high levels of melatonin and anthocyanins. Studies also suggest that these compounds may help with a variety of inflammatory conditions and anecdotal reports from our growing number of customers support these findings.
Over the past two years I have been working round the clock to build the business and am now well supported by my excellent team in various sales, marketing and distribution initiatives. Already this year we have launched our website www.cherryactive.co.uk and two new products, a new smaller-sized 473ml CherryActive concentrate; and our delicious CherryActive cherries - dried Montmorency cherries infused with apple juice concentrate without any nasty E numbers or colours - great for a nutritious snack for kids or to sprinkle on your breakfast cereals!
Although I feel CherryActive has cme a long way, I am still driven by the fact that our products really can help customers live a healthier, more active life. I get a real feeling of elation whenever a letter of thanks, or success story arrives from someone who feels that our products have changed their life - I feel very proud of that.