Cartems X Yoggu!
We went to the Yoggu! facility to take a look around and talk to Jade, the founder and original coconut cracker:
Where did the idea of Yoggu! originate from?
So I started the company back in 2018, I had just moved back from living in Paris and eating really decadent dairy yogurt. When I moved back to Vancouver I decided to go plant based and I couldn't find a dairy free alternative that was thick and creamy that actually had good ingredients. I was working a 9-5 job straight out of university and realized pretty soon that that was how I wanted my life to evolve, so I decided I was going to do what I loved, which was make food. At the time, making coconut yogurt just didn't fit my schedule, it's very time intensive, so I quit my job and became obsessed with whole process of perfecting a recipe that replicated what I had been experiencing in France.
Why coconut? Did you try other plant based products?
Coconut was always the one. I did try variations of coconuts, when I first started the company, I was opening young coconuts by hand and making my own coconut cream, which ended up being the product we launched with. The jars ended up being $20 and from a sustainability and accessibility point, that just wasn't a good business model. So through some research and development we have the product that we have today. Coconut also gives you that super creamy texture I was looking for, its good for you and the coconut we use has quite a neutral flavor which I think is great for yogurt. Also, one of our biggest things that we had to get right was taste and texture. If we want to get people to even consider eating plant based yogurt, taste and texture is one of the big things that people react to and I think coconut really lends itself to that.
Why was developing a plant based alternative so important if the decadent dairy yogurt from France was so good?
For me personally, I had just gone head first into plant based and was in a vortex of learning. What does it mean for the environment? How does this affect animals? What happens in the dairy industry? How does it affect your health? And I really like the challenge. The dairy industry is so saturated with really great dairy yogurts, and I wanted to figure out how to do that within the plant based community.
You mentioned before that you wanted to be more sustainable and accessible, what have you done to make that change?
I think being a plant based company already leans more towards being more sustainable than the dairy industry, when you think about how much water is used to produce milk and the manufacturing process of dairy yogurts. One of the great things we have to our advantage is we manufacture everything in house and we know exactly how much waste we produce and where all our garbage is going. We also partner with a lot of zero waste stores, so if that is something people are conscious of, there are options for them too.
Are there any sustainable practices that you started out with that ended up not being very sustainable in the end?
So back in October we made the transition from glass to plastic. There were a few reasons we did this. One was to make the product more accessible to people, especially as we expanded across Canada. Another was, glass is extremely heavy so it made our shipping costs go up and we needed a bigger footprint to store it all. Also, with the glass we had a much shorter shelf life so we had a lot more food waste. A local company called Coastie Craft actually did a study* on how many times a glass jar needed to be re-used for it to have the same carbon footprint as a recycled plastic cup and they found that a glass jar needs to be re-used 14 times and the average re-use is 2 times before it gets put in recycling, where it goes through a whole process that uses a lot of emissions before its ready to use again. So we decided that our focus was going to be on being plant based, sourcing good ingredients and making accessible, great tasting yogurt.
Obviously having great ingredients is super important to you, were there some limitations in terms of sustainability vs quality vs accessibility?
I think sourcing the right suppliers and having good relationships is really important. One good thing about having such a small ingredients list is you can be a lot more focused on quality over quantity. When we were choosing a coconut cream supplier we were able to focus on ones that were fair trade and didn't use animals, as well as taste and texture, rather than the most price effective option. So we were able to strike a really good balance between our ingredients and our price point.
In terms of design, Yoggu! really stands out on the shelf and even being here at the facility its very 'on brand', was that really important to you?
Yeah! When I started the brand I wanted to make it really fun and fresh. Yogurt branding for so long has been the 'wholesome cows grazing in the field' idyllic farm scene, but with plant based I had a clean slate where I really felt like I could make a super cool yogurt brand, and I think its really different from what's been traditionally done. I think the dairy industry has relied on their 'you need milk for calcium and probiotics' marketing for so long, and we know now that that isn't the case, so being able to bring that in a fun, plant based way is really great.
Right now you have four delicious flavors, are there any plans to expand the range?
Short answer is no, but we try to collab with different local companies who want to use Yoggu! in interesting ways, so even though we don't have plans to make other flavors, there are interesting things happening. Also, Yoggu! original is a really great base for people to get creative and think outside the realm of 'yogurt and granola', we really love when someone uses Yoggu! for savory recipes like salad dressing or a curry base.
*You can read the Coasies Craft Glass Jar study here.