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Yoghurt the sustainable way

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Photos: Barker Photography

Raglan Coconut Yoghurt founders Tesh Randall and Seb Walter produced one of the more memorable moments of the Westpac Waikato Business Awards.

On a night of black-tie glitz they and their team trod their own path with “beach wedding” style clothes, though they drew the line at jandals.

They also trod their own path with their acceptance speech – a rap-style double-hander poem that didn’t just say thanks but also sought to provoke thought.

In part, they said:
We believe the future is plant based, reality must be faced, if we continue with the status quo the planet’s beauty will be all erased.

Their message was in keeping not only with their product but with the award itself, which was for social and environmental sustainability.

Winning the award meant a lot, Randall said later. “I really did want to win that because that [social and environmental sustainability] is something we’ve made such a big effort with, and really consciously done the whole way. It was cool to be recognised for that, and the team were thrilled.”

It was recognition for five years of development, from a product that drew unexpected interest on a Facebook post to one that is well known throughout New Zealand while also being exported to Hong Kong, Singapore and Pacific islands. Randall says it has 49 percent of the New Zealand dairy-free yoghurt market, an impressive figure which comes despite – or perhaps because of – being a premium product which is sold in glass jars, rather than plastic containers.

Randall says their organic coconut cream, which they source from Indonesia, is three to four times the cost of milk.

The journey started when Randall tried making her own coconut-based yoghurt because of Walters’ intolerance to lactose. They started out in their garage, migrated to a shipping container that they shifted into a Bow Street building and then slowly took over the rest of the building, as the business grew. That growth saw them make the national Deloitte Fast 50 rankings the same week as the Westpac awards.

Despite their hippyish vibe, Randall says buyers of their yoghurt come from a broad spectrum. At expos, she says she gets positive feedback from grannies, burly construction workers and Ponsonby mums alike.

Now with a staff of 24, they are set for further expansion. They have bought land at the Nau Mai business park just outside Raglan and will build an 850 square metre building – three times their current size – due to be completed by May.

Along the way they have ensured they pay their workers at least the living wage while also becoming carboNZero certified.

The aim is in one sense simple: to be the most-loved yoghurt in New Zealand. But the bigger plan is trying to get more people to eat plant based.

“It seems overwhelmingly clear the planet cannot continue at the high rate of consumption of meat consumption and dairy consumption it has at the moment,” Randall says. “We cannot sustain it, we do not have the land mass.”

Theirs is a very Raglan story; after shifting from Auckland, they have found a supportive and like-minded community in which to flourish.

“This is the place,” Randall says of their adopted town.

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