Back in black

Sept1_Mon_Hero copy copyHave you seen the new kids on the block in the yoghurt section of your supermarket? The bold black-and-white containers give the impression they’re muscling in on shelf space.

Gippsland Dairy Organic yoghurts are not really new – they’re a relaunch of an old favourite that was discontinued in 2013 due to a lack of supply of certified organic milk. A subsequent consumer backlash saw the company’s conventional yoghurt sales drop also.

Overwhelming consumer feedback via social media and regular mail was responsible for the company’s getting another certified organic range back on the shelves. Retailers were also asking for it.

Sourcing consistent supply

General Manager of Sales and Category, Lynley Radford, says sourcing certified organic milk gets harder every year, and having walked up and down many a dairy track to talk to farmers about converting, she appreciates how difficult it is for producers to get organic certification.

“We’ve been on a really strong learning curve during the past 12 to 18 months to learn about organic. I’ve visited farmers who are in conversion and learnt there are a lot of challenges for them.

“They don’t get paid organic prices until they are fully certified, which could take three years. Meanwhile, they have to pay organic prices for grain if they need to supplementary feed during drier periods.

“There was a lot of community gossip around these farmers as well for farming differently. I love the fact that farmers get rewarded for changing to organic.”

Woolworths worked closely with Gippsland Dairy to bring the yoghurt back. Securing more certified organic milk would enable the company to expand its range, which currently includes Vanilla, Natural, Mango and Blackberry & Raspberry in 450- and 900-gram tubs.

Lynley is fully aware of the challenges involved in providing a consistent certified organic product: “It’s going to be tough through the peaks and troughs of the seasons.”

Factory standards

DSC_3077_544If you think it’s hard for farmers to be certified organic, the same stringent requirements apply to processors and manufacturers.

As a business that makes certified organic and conventional yoghurts, Gippsland Dairy is required to keep ingredients and products segregated and clean equipment down between batches according to particular requirements.

The factory is audited once a year to make sure it complies with the Australian Certified Organic Standard. This process also checks that only certified organic ingredients go into the organic yoghurt.

Certification matters

Gippsland Dairy’s consumer research told the company the key marketing messages to include on the packaging were: organic, organic certification and Gippsland Dairy, in that order. As a result, the Australian Certified Organic logo features strongly – on the front and on the lid.

Lynley says, “It definitely came through in our consumer research that people are increasingly looking for signs of certification, not just the word ‘organic’, particularly in some of the markets outside of Australia.

“Australia is seen as clean and green but organic certification adds a level of trust. Australian Certified Organic is the biggest certification stamp, so that’s why we choose to go with them.”

Determined to grow

DSC_3081_548 copyAustralians are consuming more yoghurt per capita each year – 7.6 kilograms a year in fact; however, that’s low compared with Europe because in Australia it’s mostly recognised as a breakfast food.

Organic makes up four per cent of Gippsland Dairy’s turnover and frustratingly it’s not lack of customers that hobbles its growth. Lynley says, “We’d love to make organic ten per cent of our range but we need to source more ingredients. Supply is the only thing holding the product’s growth back.”

So if you’re a dairy farmer, Gippsland Dairy would like to hear from you! Meanwhile, look out for the black-lidded tubs at a Woolworths near you.

If you’re interested in becoming certified organic go to, call 07 3350 5716 or email