A family-run organic dairy brand, Yeo Valley’s range of yogurts hit Spinneys' shelves this past weekend. And with their marketing team flying all the way over from the UK especially for the launch, we couldn’t miss the opportunity to discuss their products, what sustainability means to them and whether cows are more intelligent than we think.
It’s fantastic that you’ve travelled all the way over from the UK. Why did you feel this was so important?
Our culture is such that we want to sell direct as much as we possibly can. We always find that we can tell the story better and explain the benefits of our products in more detail if we’re doing it face to face. Of course we’ve got great samplers and store managers at Spinneys and if we can impart our story onto them, then they’re going to do that for Spinneys’ customers as well. We’re really passionate about our brand and our products.
You’re a family-run business; why is this of value and how does it make you different to other dairy brands?
There aren’t many dairy brands these days, particularly in the UK, that are independent; we’re family-run and always will be. Tim’s (the owner of Yeo Valley) number one objective is to remain this way; we don’t have to answer to shareholders so we can do what’s right for our customers.
Consumers use their hard-earned money to buy our products, they should get the real deal. Transparency and authenticity are at the very heart of what Yeo Valley tries to do and family values are what it’s all about – we like to think that our products are for families too. If someone enjoys our products then maybe we’ve done something to make their lives a little bit better.
We remember the infamous advert that featured rapping farmers. Where did the inspiration for this come?
Yeo Valley is a dairy and farming business; we look after our land, our animals and the environment, so we like to think that we live in harmony with the countryside and harmony is obviously a key word in music. The Yeo Valley family also loves music so it was a very simple step. We came up with this cracking idea of using rapping farmers – something people wouldn’t necessarily expect – but wanted to show that they are people who like to have fun and don’t take themselves too seriously.
The company has been organic from the start. Why do you feel it’s so important to be organic and why should customers care?
We are farmers ourselves and we believe the best way to look after the land and to produce the best food is to farm organically. We’re not preachy about it, we just give people the information – it’s up to them to make the choice. We believe organic food is better for the planet, better for the environment and certainly better for people’s long term health.
What is the difference between an organic and a non-organic product?
We would certainly say the taste, although it’s a difficult one to prove because it’s so subjective but that’s where we would start. The differences between organic and non-organic include stricter welfare standards for animals and that’s particularly important, there are certain measures that you have to meet in terms of protecting the environment.
You mention your sustainable farming methods on your website – can you explain a bit about them?
Sustainable farming starts with the soil. 95% of everything we eat relies on the soil – the top six inches produces food for everyone on the planet so you have to look after it. We don’t use any artificial pesticides or fertilizers, everything is natural and we’ve found that if you adopt those practices over a long period of time, the level of nutrients in the soil is much greater.
We look after our animals as well and try to be as carbon neutral as we can, producing a lot of our own electricity from the land. We have a big cowshed with an acre’s worth of PV (Photovoltaics) solar panels which enables us to generate enough electricity for our farms.
On your website there is a video claiming that cows love jazz. Are cows more intelligent than we think?
I think so, they just don’t let on. It’s amazing, if you look at the herd there’s a definite pecking order. They’re creatures of habit; there’s an alpha cow and she will always be the first one into the milking parlour, they will always file into it in the same order – they’re bright animals, they really are!
What is bio-live yogurt?
When you add cultures to milk in order to make yogurt, you’re introducing good bacteria. Cultures are microbes, both good and bad bacteria that we all have inside our bodies. Good bacteria is great for gut health and making sure your digestive system is working as it should do. So, bio-live simply means that what’s added is still live at the point of consumption. When you buy the yogurt off of the shelf you can be sure that you’re still eating good, live bacteria that works in harmony with your body, particularly your tummy.
You clearly go beyond selling food products, with lots of events and tours and courses on the farms. Why do you go to this extra effort?
One of the differences between us and many other dairy brands is the fact that we come from a real place – Yeo Valley is in the heart of Somerset and we think that’s our key point of difference. We do whatever we can to invite as many people as possible to come and see us.
Last year we had 25,000 people come for lunch, tours of our organic garden or cookery demonstrations; we even put on our own festival. We do that just to make sure that people understand we are a real place so that even if you aren't able to visit, when you see these things that are going on you still have a degree of trust in Yeo Valley that it’s real.
How would you sum-up the brand in three words?
That would be our promise which is, taste, the right way. We always promise to deliver great tasting products in the best, ethically sourced way. We try to do the right thing – we might not always get it right but that’s at the very heart of what we do.
It’s the start of a new year, what are the dairy trends for 2017 and what can we expect from Yeo Valley, particularly in the UAE?
There are a few trends going on at the moment – Greek Style and Greek products are more popular than they ever have been and I’m delighted to say that we’ve introduced our new-look Greek-style products to Spinneys stores. Extra thick yogurt is more important, there’s even rumours of vegetable yogurts coming onto the market so we’ll wait and see as there have been some good launches in the UK recently.
Also for those who have a sweet tooth, there are more confectionary flavours coming in as well, like our Greek-style yogurt with ginger and salted caramel. Also ice-cream, we’ve got a significant ice cream launch coming up in the UK and that’s something we’ve very keen to introduce to Spinneys in the not too distant future.
If you’re feeling inspired to get creative in the kitchen with some exciting new dairy products, click here for lots of yummy yogurt recipes.