Would you be willing to risk it all for you biz? That's what Aussie expat Koel Thomae, co-founder of Noosa Yoghurt did. And it's a route we hear many entrepreneurs take. As they say, without passion and risk, there is usually no reward.
Thomae, alongside co-founder Colorado dairy farmer Rob Graves, launched Noosa in January 2010, with the idea of bringing the sweet, tangy and full-fat yogurt of Australia to America. They are now in the full swing of things, developing new flavor profiles that customers can't get enough of.
So today, we’re talking trusting your gut. You know, going with that undeniable feeling - even when the world is telling you otherwise. Read through as founder Koel Thomae shares her experience keeping it 100 while scaling her company and why she thinks it’s ultimately the core of their success.
How much of your new flavor offerings is driven by data and market research?
In the early days it was all instinct. As we've grown up into a national brand and face more competition for shelf space we obviously have to be mindful of what's happening in the category and if we are missing any of the top tier flavors. But ultimately we want to deliver a wow taste moment and aren't afraid to walk away from a flavor if it doesn't achieve that mark by our own internal tastebuds!
How much is driven by trusting your gut?
So much. I think too much consumer research can be crippling in innovation. If you love food you know what tastes good and that to me is the ultimate barometer.
Is that still an essential part of being a woman in business for you?
Absolutely! The few times I haven't listened to my gut it has ultimately been a bad decision. But I also take every mistake as a learning opportunity versus beating myself up.
Are flavor profiles and the new “mates” driven by trends that you’re seeing in the food world?
We gain insights and inspiration from so many sources in the food landscape, from farmer's markets (can someone please grow more Dapple Dandy pluots so we can launch this flavor!) to the culinary world to looking beyond our category in the grocery store. We have seen a rise in snacking as a whole and know that yoghurt consumption is still underdeveloped compared to other global markets and this was the starting point in our thinking for mates. As we developed flavor profiles we absolutely knew coconut had to be part of the lineup - this flavor has exploded beyond the traditional pina colada of days past!
How do you get ahead of trends in the food world?
I often think of myself and my team as flavor/food trend anthropologists. We all have a passion for food and travel and these in tandem allow us to see and taste so many new things that we bring back to our internal think-tank so to speak. I've taken both national and global food treks (did I mention that I LOVE my job) and we see more ethnic flavors showing up across categories, more spice, more fermented foods. Obviously not everything lends itself to yoghurt but it's a great framework to ideate within and it keeps us at the forefront of trends.
Noosa has really exploded over the last year. We see it everyone. People are freaking out over it. Part of how you continue to innovate is through flavor. What else?
I know, I have to pinch myself at how much people love noosa. Beyond flavor I believe our success is a testament to staying true to who we are and that's making bloody good yoghurt, staying grounded, always making sure we hear and respond to our fans and ultimately having fun.
How do you test new flavors in different markets? What kind of strategy goes into wide-releasing new flavor profiles?
We are so fortunate to have had amazing support from our retailer community in Colorado in tandem with the best fans a yoghurt could ask for. This has allowed us to use our backyard as a test market as we push the boundaries on what is expected from yoghurt, like our sweet heat launch. We also love to reward our Colorado base with special batch flavors like Palisade Peach, available this summer. But we also know when we've got winners that can go national out of the gates like our new Mates.
What’s your favorite flavor in the newest "match" batch?
Maple ginger! I'm a ginger fan and I love that we haven't shied away from delivering on that flavor promise!
And we need to know, how much yoghurt are you eating daily?
I'm a passion fruit noosa a day kinda gal! But now that we have this amazing Mates lineup it could be noosa for brekkie, afternoon tea & dessert!