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How Coconut Yogurt Became A Global Hit

It was all about thinking outside the square, says founder Henry Gosling Building a global brand is never an overnight business. But if you produce the right product, it may
29 Jul 2017 19:52
How Coconut Yogurt Became A Global Hit
Henry and Sandra Gosling. Photo: Sunshine Coast Daily.

It was all about thinking outside the square, says founder Henry Gosling

Building a global brand is never an overnight business.

But if you produce the right product, it may just take off.

CO YO founders and owners Sandra and Henry Gosling did just that.

Their company CO YO Corporate Pty Ltd, is based in Yandina, Queensland.

But Mr Gosling was born in Fiji and spent a lot of his younger days in the then coconut plantation dominated Savusavu.

He was later General Manager of the original Fiji Sun in a newspaper career that spanned New Zealand, Fiji and Australia.

After launching the first ever yogurt made from coconut milk in 2010, Mr and Mrs Gosling continue to produce innovative products for a growing dairy intolerant consumers.

Earlier this month Mr Gosling was the keynote speaker at the Pacific Coconut Sector Value Chain workshop in Nadi. This is his story.

 

How CO YO created a new food genre worldwide

Fiji was settling down after the great war of the 1900’s.

In the late 1926  Captain Frank Williams sat down with his son in law  Captain Harry Gosling to think out side the square on how they could start a joint business together.

Both were sea captains and they talked about how they could both work together utilising their combined skills.  From that conversation and after looking at numerous opportunities they took a bold move and set up a stevedore business.

 

Williams and Gosling

On the 1 February 1927 Williams and Gosling commenced business.

Today under the ownership of the Aidney family this business is one of Fiji’s most successful and recently celebrated 90 years in existence.

In 1955 the then Ratu Kamisese Mara started to think out side the square.

How could he get the Fiji cricket team to gain more experience. They had in 1948 toured New South Wales but lacked international cricket exposure.

He decided to write to the West Indies Cricket Board and suggested that when the West Indies team toured Australia and New Zealand  that they play a one day game at Albert Park in Suva.

The West Indies board came back and match date was set for 12 January 1956.

What happened that day is folk law in Fiji and the players became Fiji legends.

The Apted Brothers, Raddock, Snowsill, Drui were part of that team to name a few.

Drui took 4 wickets for 26  and my father Jack Gosling contributed to the Fiji win with 6 wickets  for 25 runs.

Ratu Mara was elated as they celebrated at the Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva.  His team won by 28 runs.

On the 9 June 2009 Sandra and Henry Gosling unbeknown to them created a new Food Genre worldwide.

They thought out side the square and created a yoghurt made from coconut milk, a world first.

Today I will give you a brief version on how this happened and what can happen if you apply Passion and Commitment and start to look outside the square.

Sandra my wife was born in Auckland but spent most of her life in Matamata the small country town now known as the Home of the Hobbits.

She has always had a great interest in nutrition  and healthy food options especially plant based food production.

And she has always looked outside the square for options especially with her own health challenges over the years.

Myself, I was involved in the newspaper industry in New Zealand, Australia, including a stint as GM Fiji Sun in 1984.

In 2000 I ended up at a boutique cheese factory in the Sunshine Coast hinterland 1.5 hours north of Brisbane as General Manager, a far cry from the newspaper industry.

Here we made beautiful award winning handcrafted cheese and yoghurts.

In 2008 I decide I need a break and left the company but after a while the chances of a 62-year-old getting another job was becoming remote.

So thinking outside the square I wondered about the opportunity of having an organic coconut oil certified organic and then Kosher certified and exported to Israel.

With this in mind I went to see Stacey and Ken from Nature Pacific about getting some certified coconut oil from them.

My half hour appointment stretched to 3 hours as I listened to the story of the Banaban brand.

This was truly a couple thinking outside the square not only starting a business but also helping out their community.

At the time there was a shortage of organic certified coconut oil.

When I was about to leave Stacey said ‘Henry can you make coconut butter?’

Why I asked?

Well you run a dairy company don’t you?

Yes, but we make cheese and yoghurt, no butter, I am sorry I cannot help you.

 

How It All Started

Today I see among our speakers Stacey King.

If we were to say how did we get into this business it was probably my meeting with Stacey and her husband Ken from Nature Pacific and the Banaban brand in late May 2009 that planted  a seed in my subconsciousness.

I drove home that day and dismissed the idea of sending a Kosher certified coconut oil to Israel and I was sure that Sandra would not back me and think of it as another silly idea of mine.

I have had plenty of those during my life.

Coconut oil to Israel?  Well, out-side the square for sure.

Then something amazing happened three weeks later

In the middle of the night, in fact at 3am on June 9  2009 I woke up with this idea that why not make a yoghurt from coconut milk

Where this thought came from I am not sure

I jumped out of bed. Sandra asked what I was doing and when I told her that  someone had told me to make a yoghurt out of coconut milk she dismissed this as yet another of my  silly ideas.

 

Coconut Yogurt?

I got on the computer and googled coconut yoghurt. Not a person in the world was making this except a small company in the USA but they did not call it yoghurt.

Well, said Sandra  when I got back into bed.

‘Would you believe no one is making yoghurt from coconut milk’ and I find that hard to believe I replied.

Well she said, if it had worked, that is  making a yoghurt from coconut milk there would be lots of coconut yoghurt on the market wouldn’t there!

I would say it was  not achievable, she said.

She was probably right.

On that Sunday afternoon I went to the local book shop in Eumundi to get some books.

I walked in the store and there starring me in the face was what would become our bible.

 

Our Bible

The Miracle or Coconut Oil by Dr Bruce Fife. I was blown away. Was this another message from out there for me to make this product.

I rushed home, sat down and read the book.

Reading page after page I was surprised how little I knew about the coconut.

My family on my mother’s side have been in the Pacific for 150 years and no one had ever mentioned  Lauric acid.

I knew if I could get Sandra to read it I may have a chance to make my coconut   yoghurt.

Sandra read it over the next day and then came to me and said You know Henry, this silly idea of yours to make a yoghurt from coconut milk could have possibilities. Why don’t you do a few trials.

Sandra did not know what she let herself into nor did I.

 

Research

I googled, I researched, I then out of frustration rang a professor in Ghana. They had made coconut yoghurt using coconut milk and dairy milk. I explained where I was at and could he help. He replied that these where trials they did and were just that an academic exercise.

He had a new project Bettlenut was I interested in that

I rang the head of the largest culture company in Europe.

I think he thought I was mad as he had never heard of such yoghurt but offered to send samples of cultures until I found the right one.

 

Relentless Quest

I became relentless in my quest.

I cleaned out supermarket shelves of all major supermarkets on the Sunshine Coast. Day after day I went from town to town looking for coconut milk, putting my hands behind the tins and scooping them into a supermarket basket. Looking back now they must have thought who is this nut case.

One miniature yoghurt maker went to twelve.

Day after day, week after week and month after month I was like a tevoro.

It devoured every minute of my day and night.

Week after week Sandra took samples to her yoga class and I waited for the comments when she arrived home and then it was back again to the kitchen bench again and again.

Henry Gosling. Photo: Sunshine Coast Daily

Henry Gosling. Photo: Sunshine Coast Daily

Breakthrough

Finally on the 19 November I took a sample to Sandra

I knew from the look it was ‘Oh not another one!’

She tested it and she smiled, ‘you know you may have done it.’

She came back that day from yoga and said they think it is “Heaven in a Mouthful.”

Wow we had just created the world’s first yoghurt made from coconut milk.

But all very well having a product that few yoga ladies had thought was delicious but what about the market.

Sandra and I went down to the local health food store Kanaura and spoke to Grace the Naturopath and Andrew the Manager taking a sample with us.

They sampled it, wow said Grace we have been waiting for this  and said if you can make this commercially we will stock it and every health food store in Australia will also.

After 6 months of experimenting we finally cracked the code and launched CO YO into the Australian market 10 Feb 2010.

I had never made yoghurt commercially so taking a 1 litre sample to commercial reality was a challenge.

 

Divine Appointment?

I could go on about how the first batch was made but what followed was a string of events that only someone upstairs made happen.

I look back now and think about the holidays I spent on Nagaga plantation in Savusavu owned still today by the Jackson family.

Or the Waibalabala plantation in Savusavu Bay where my aunt Emsil and uncle  Reg McGowan had their coconut plantation. I often wonder if deep down the seed was planted then.

Or even the school holidays I spent on the inter- island ship Ratanui where we picked up copra by lighters from outlying villages in Taveuni. I was lucky to have a father who was a shipping manager at Burns Philp and a grandfather a sea captain

Today’s marketplace is changing rapidly and to survive you need to be

 

Thinking outside the square

It is not easy to move from the conventional to the unconventional.

You need to be disruptive, you need to be different, you need to test the boundaries of what is already there

When I went to see my old mate Dick Schroder, a dairy farmer who had a yoghurt plant sitting in the corner of his milk factory in rural Queensland and asked if I could use his yoghurt equipment he looked at me and said

‘Henry, you of all people know that the yoghurt market in Queensland is saturated. You must have plenty of money to waste. Mark my words Henry you will go broke.’

What Dick did not know was that I was well outside the square

We were entering the yoghurt market, but not the dairy market, but I was about to make the first yoghurt made from coconut milk in Australasia – in fact I say the world.

When making a product that has never been made before you have to have belief – big time!

We had that with help from friends somewhere in the universe.

In March 2010 we had been going 2 months, resources were stretched.

 

Coconut on the beach

Sandra and I went for a walk along Coolum beach not far from our home. We took Buster our dog as this was a dog beach.

It was a bleak day none on the beach, black clouds on the horizon and waves crashing in.

We walked for about 45 minutes then turned around and walked back.

Then somewhere out of nowhere a coconut washed up in front of us covered in barnacles.

We both looked down and then at each other, is this sign we are mad to go ahead with this or is this another sign we need to grab this opportunity and give it everything.

Everything for us was selling a house to finance the business. We sold the house.

 

Education Journey

What we did not know was Sandra and I were about to embark on an education journey ourselves and also we would start an education process for Australians, then New Zealanders, then English and the Americans of what the coconut was all about.

I grated coconut most nights of the week when I was growing up in Suva. The eldest son always gets the good jobs!

If it was not coconut scraping it was whitewashing dad’s cricket

 

sandshoes.

Once I had started production of CO YO I asked my mother why she did not tell me about the health benefits of the coconut. She looked at me with some surprise, what are you talking about she replied.

She had no idea of the health benefits of the coconut.

The coconut industry opened up a new world for both Sandra and I.

 

Why Coconut Is Popular?

Why is the coconut so popular you may well ask as thousands of our customers throughout the world where CO YO is consumed every day continually ask us.

We explain the benefits every day of the week and along with the Banaban brand and ourselves we have probably done more to educate the population than any other companies in Australia about the coconut and this is face to face with consumers.

In the UK, USA, NZ and Australia, chances are you will find someone from the CO YO brand talking to people about the health benefits of the coconut.

So why Think outside the Square with the coconut

 

Competitive Market

The market is becoming more and more competitive

The coconut yoghurt genre we started in 2010 is just as competitive as the coconut oil market.

In the USA we have three competitors now.

In the UK 4 and in NZ 4.

In Australia we have 7 and some of these are dairy companies who see alternative non-dairy as a threat.

To get the edge you need to look at what is in the market place and what else can you do to get an advantage.

At CO YO we were a little late into the market with coconut ice cream

The market has matured as more and more companies move into this space.

 

A Threat For Dairy Companies

Dairy companies see the threat of coconut yoghurt and coconut milk products as consumers become more aware of health issues.

But thinking outside the square we took a different approach.

All ice creams are the same – full of sugar at about 20-22gms per 100 gms.

CO YO was the same until we went to London to a Trade show on sugar.

Sugar has become the No. 1 enemy at the moment in the food space.

Our CO YO ice cream was like the rest of them ,yummy but wow what a sugar dose you get with each mouth full.

We looked outside the square!

 

CO YO Ice cream

Sandra worked with our Research and Development team to look at what we were doing with our CO YO Ice cream.

She wanted the same taste profile, same smoothness, same coconut mouth-feel and most of all she wanted 10gm sugar.

Three months later CO YO  is the first coconut ice cream in Australia that has 10gms of sugar per 100gms and is as yummy as you will get.

We launch this in the UK in a couple of months.

We are about to export to New Zealand in 7 weeks.

Thinking outside the square is not easy.

You can approach the market from lots of angles.

Look at what is already there and make improvements to existing products.

 

Market Demand

Or look at what can be done outside the square.

At CO YO we continue to look at the coconut from a health perspective.

We started our yoghurts with sugar, moved to Xylitol, then stevia and now we have no sugar at all in the yoghurt.

Does the market want sweet yoghurt, yes 50 per cent of the market does – but that is changing.

Does the market want to move away from dairy, yes they do.

 

What are the alternatives?

Soy or coconut, which would you rather have?

Thinking outside the square has opened so many opportunities for us

Our travel around the world to look at trends and products has opened our minds to what is happening in the market place.

But when we seriously think about it we come back to saying to ourselves: ‘The coconut has so many opportunities waiting to be served up.’

 

New Products

CO YO has 6 new products on the drawing board most of them well outside the square.

Today I would suggest that the coconut industry is expanding at a rapid rate. The world has woken up to the coconut and the enormous health benefits that it has to offer.

Our job is to bring the coconut health benefits to the consumers by way of education.

Not only the consumers but also to the growers

We are no longer in the 20’s, 40,’s and 60’s when we use to sit by the radio listening to the FBC or Radio Fiji at 7.00 clock in the morning to hear what the copra price was for the week.

Retired Agriculturist Sant Kumar, Co Yo Director Henry Gosling and Fiji Agro Marketing Mere Salusalu. Photo: WAISEA NASOKIA

Retired Agriculturist Sant Kumar, Co Yo Director Henry Gosling and Fiji Agro Marketing Mere Salusalu. Photo: WAISEA NASOKIA

Global Presence

We are in about 7000 stores globally. You can find us in Germany or Singapore as well

We use the milk from some 6 million coconuts a year globally and this is increasing.

I would suggest that what the coconut industry needs to do is to look seriously at education.

 

Educating Workers

Educate the plantation workers on the health benefits on the product they harvest, get them to spread the word on the ground. Make them proud of the product they grow.

Three weeks ago I was at a plantation where we get our milk from and thanked the workers for their contribution in growing a coconut that we used in our product that was judged the best Natural Heath Food product in Australia at the recent Naturally Healthy Foods show in Sydney.

 

Our Ice Cream is a finalist in the Food Magazine Awards in Sydney.

 

Lauric Acid

Now if mother’s milk is 10 on a scale – did you know that coconut milk is 8.

Why, because coconut milk has lauric acid and it will help build your immune system.

Now the consumer gets it, it is a healthy super food, the coconut.

 

Coconut Experience

What have we learnt from our coconut experience we started a little business that was to provide us with some income and not realising the health benefits of the coconut but the CO YO was yummy and a little different to dairy yoghurt.

It turned out the market was looking for a healthy alternative to dairy and CO YO slotted into this space.

Sandra and I have been fortunate to have been able to travel to a number of countries to assist license’s and also investigate the markets in general.

As with the coconut on the beach, things happen from the unexpected quarter and in Singapore recently a gentleman from Sweden was put in our pathway.

Sandra and I travelled to Sweden and Anders introduced us to a number of people in a variety of industries and environmental research organisations.

Sustainability and climate change are to be the drivers of business in the years to come.

Anders gave us a new insight into the movement of plant based foods and the environment reasons behind it especially global warming.

 

Meatless Meat

He is producing a plant based protein that even the diehard meat eaters are loving.

Sandra and I enjoyed a meatless meat dinner with him and we would not have picked that we had an alternative to meat in our stroganoff that night

The amazing thing about Anders in Sweden is that his successful meat  based business run for some 20 years and he is now converting to plant  based manufacturing factory and  CO YO will be added to his impressive array of plant based food products.

He will be producing both CO YO yoghurts and ice creams for us in his factory

Anders marketing message is the unsustainability of the dairy industry, we must find alternatives and coconut plays a very important part in this transition. Coconut is not a fad it is strong and, it is here to stay.

 

Coconut Products In Demand

There is a massive demand for coconut products in China. Some of you may be aware that currently barges are been loaded with coconuts from Asia and shipped there.

In China there is a very large intolerance to dairy and we are approached on a daily basis to supply this market.

Cutting down rainforest to grow plant based products is not the answer.

We need to look at the opportunities that are available to us as Pacific Islanders and bring more acreage into coconut production to meet the demand with new innovative products

 

Grow Organic

This industry is continuing to grow and organic certification of plantations is becoming so important.

Our company in Australia was certified in January this year and the move from conventional to Organic has been challenging especially with the volume of milk we require not to mention our global partners that will be moving in this direction over the next 12 months.

If you asked me where the market trend was moving I would say have all your plantations certified organic.

Products grown with chemical based fertiliser is on its way out.

There is an awaking that has been happening over the past 10 years towards organic healthy products and Coconut is right up there with the so called superfoods.

 

Challenges

The challenge we have at present is with Saturation fat.

The backlash from some quarters has to be overcome.

The benefits of coconut saturated fat needs to be promoted and can only be done through education.

There also needs to be casinate free processing of coconut products especially coconut milk powders.

There has been some change in processing over the past two to three years.

My view it is simple, get rid of the casinate. Coconut is a dairy free product why add in a diary by product.

 

Proud Kai Viti

Thank you letting me share how Sandra and I took an idea from outside the square to reality and turned it into a global business based on the coconut.

This Kai Viti and a Kiwi farm girl from hobbit land hopefully have made a difference in the world through the use of the fruit from The Tree Of Life.

Thank you and please talk to us so we can get more inspired by what you are all doing with the coconut.

Please be Passionate and be Committed to the coconut it has an enormous future ahead.

Source: Henry Gosling

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