We’ve seen Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit. Now there’s another New Zealand cultural export that’s wowing consumers worldwide, but this time the culture involved is… well, yogurt, actually. EasiYo, the world leader in make-at-home yogurt, began life 23 years ago in New Zealand, then caught on rapidly in other countries, including here. Now the company is expanding its UK presence with the launch of a new version of its iconic yogurt maker which goes into stores here in August, backed by a high-impact marketing, PR and social media campaign.
Brian Dewar, CEO of EasiYo, met The Grocery Trader on his recent visit to London.
The Grocery Trader – To start at the beginning, Brian, there’s a lovely story on your website about the EasiYo system being invented by a Kiwi school teacher who wanted to make yogurt at home for his kids. Take us through what happened next.
The concept of making yogurt at home had always existed, starting with making it with hot milk, and then there were electric yogurt makers. The genius of EasiYo is that it means yogurt making is quick, simple and easy for everyone to do.
GT – Is he still involved in the business?
The company was sold in 2010. It’s now owned by Westland Milk Products, a co-operative of 400 dairy farmers on the West Coast of South Island. 80% of our business now is outside New Zealand. Our head office is in Auckland. We have other offices in Sydney, Shanghai and here in Derby.
GT – As CEO, what’s your role in the business day to day?
My main role is to oversee the company’s growth plan. I’ve been in the post for two and a half years. Previously I was marketing vitamin and mineral supplements, and prior to that was with Fonterra in Asia and Latin America.
GT – Who else is in the EasiYo team?
We have 120 people in the company in total. The lead team comprises a marketing manager, an operations person, finance, HR and regional sales people in the UK, China and Australasia.
GT – Tell me about the EasiYo make-at-home yogurt maker as a concept, and how it works. What is the end product?
The yogurt maker is an insulated thermos which holds a smaller plastic yogurt jar and keeps it warm during the yogurt making. You half fill the yogurt jar with tepid tap water, empty a sachet of our yogurt mix into it, shake to mix it properly, then top the jar up with more tap water. Fill the yogurt maker with boiling water pop the jar in, put the lid on and close it, leave it for eight hours and you have a litre of fresh yogurt.
GT – What ingredients come with the yogurt maker? What end products can it make?
The yogurt maker Starter Pack comes with two free sachets of yogurt mix. At the point of sale we also offer a line-up of flavours for people to choose from: Greek style, strawberry, banana, low fat and Fat-Free and many more flavours.
GT – How natural is EasiYo make-at-home yogurt? How different is it to shop-bought yogurt? How long does EasiYo make-at-home yogurt keep fresh?
EasiYo yogurt is completely natural and has no artificial colours or flavours, or stabilisers, unlike a lot of commercial yogurts. The yogurt mix stays shelf stable for 18 months, and once made the yogurt keeps for two weeks in the fridge, though once people taste it, it doesn’t stay around long!
GT – How big is home yogurt making as an activity here in the UK? What about in other countries? Potentially how many Brits could be doing it?
The number of home yogurt makers here is relatively small at the moment. 1% of UK yogurt eating households are making yogurt with EasiYo yogurt makers. In New Zealand it’s more like 6%, and we want to get to that level here.
GT – Is it really ‘EasiYo,’ or is it more ‘TrickyYo’? How easy is the yogurt maker to use?
It’s pretty easy to use, a five minute process, and after that you simply wait to enjoy it! Do it in the evening and it’s ready for breakfast.
GT – What kind of people buy your yogurt makers?
They tend to be “comforting providers” – the person in the household who takes the lead with preparing the food. There’s a trend for people to want to get back to the basics in what they eat. Home yogurt making is not hard or involved: it’s a quick and easy way to enjoy it. People want products with “clean labels” and no additives. Mums make it with their kids: foodies without families do it: anyone can.
GT – How many EasiYo yogurt makers have you sold to date worldwide? How many countries is the system sold in now?
We’ve sold over three million worldwide, in 20 countries. People have tried to copy it, but no-one’s succeeded: we provide not only the yogurt maker but the high quality yogurt mix to go with it.
GT – How many EasiYo yogurt makers have you sold here to date?
In the ten years we’ve been in the UK we’ve sold over 600,000 yogurt makers. -That’s with good support in store, but no major promotion elsewhere.
GT – Where can people buy EasiYo yogurt makers and yogurt mix?
They can buy EasiYo yogurt makers and yogurt mixes on Ocado, and QVC, and in retail outlets in Hobbycraft, Wilco, The Range, Lakeland, Holland & Barrett and garden centres, plus other retailers as they come on board.
GT – You’re launching a new version of the EasiYo yogurt maker here in the UK. Please tell us about it.
The new yogurt maker is a modern shape, with a contemporary design. It’s shorter, better for the kitchen cupboard. It’s a bright red colour, which adds to the look of the kitchen. It has non-slip ‘feet,’ and the insulation material is a New Zealand wool blend instead of polystyrene as previously. The yogurt jar, which sits inside the yogurt maker, is also an improved design, with a rounded bottom and no corners. Like the previous yogurt maker, it makes 1 kg of yogurt at a time.
GT – This is a very stylish gadget! How important is looks and styling in this market?
They are very important. The yogurt maker isn’t just functional, it’s a style accessory for your kitchen. Looks and styling are very important: you want people to keep the yogurt maker out on the worktop so they remember to use it.
GT – Where are your yogurt makers produced?
They are made for us in Auckland, to our design.
GT – What’s the Recommended Retail Price for the EasiYo yogurt maker and the yogurt mixes?
The RRP for the yogurt maker is £16.99 and the sachets sell for £2- £3, a similar price to supermarket yogurt.
GT – How much yogurt does a consumer need to make with an EasiYo machine to recoup the cost?
You don’t make our yogurt at home to save money, you do so to enjoy natural yogurt with billions of cultures and involve your family.
GT – What are your ambitions for taking the yogurt makers into supermarkets?
We have a good distribution base here already, and the next step is telling consumers.
GT – Where should these products be merchandised in store?
It varies with each retailer. In supermarkets in Australia and New Zealand our products sit in the dessert aisle or with breakfast items.
GT – Who is distributing your products in the UK?
We do our own distribution. We have our local office in Derby, and moved into a bigger warehouse there in early July. We also have a foodservice business, offering stainless steel electric yogurt makers in 6 kg and 13kg capacities. We supply hotels and caterers, and the Army and Navy.
GT – How are you promoting EasiYo yogurt makers to consumers in the UK?
We have given the new red EasiYo yogurt maker a soft launch to date. We are exhibiting at food shows, including the BBC Good Food Show in November, and working with food bloggers. We are active on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter. We have started a big consumer PR outreach programme, which will generate coverage from August. We are also looking to do in-store promotion, with off-fixture displays in store.
GT – Your present web site is distinctly from New Zealand! Will you have a UK-specific website in time?
There will be a UK element to the EasiYo website very soon. Our UK social media presence is live already.
GT – Finally, where do you see home yogurt making and EasiYo going from here in the UK?
We want to see EasiYo yogurt makers and yogurt mixes grow in popularity here, and reach the point where consumers across the UK enjoy making yogurt at home and EasiYo yogurt makers are seen as desirable presents for Christmas, Mother’s Day, weddings and other gifting occasions.