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New look for organic trailblazers

New look for organic trailblazers
Organic pioneers Bryan and Jackie Clearwater are rebranding their yoghurts to keep pace with a changing market.

When Bryan and Jackie Clearwater developed their organic yoghurt brand in 2003, their all-natural product was ahead of its time. Sixteen years later, the yoghurt is being rebranded to keep pace with a market that has followed in the footsteps of these organic trailblazers.

“Our claim to fame has always been that we make ‘New Zealand’s most natural yoghurt’,” says Jackie. “In 2003 that idea was really unique, but now lots of companies make ‘natural’ their big selling point.

They’ve caught up with what we’ve been doing all along.” Made at Peel View farm near Geraldine, Clearwater’s yoghurt continues to have a unique point of difference.

It’s a ‘pot set’ product, as opposed to the stirred yoghurts made by others in the market. That means their yoghurts are set in the pots they’re sold in, eliminating the need for stabilisers, thickeners and other additives.

The Clearwater’s also use whole, unhomogenized milk, which separates to create the “cream top” that’s so popular with the yoghurt’s dedicated fans.

Clearwater’s has always had good brand recognition and market share in the South Island, but the North Island – particularly Auckland – presents different challenges. The rebranded yoghurts that are soon to launch aim to catch the eye of that demographic.

“Because our product is made on a farm, in a picturesque area, we used a very rural image in our product design. But that Auckland market is young and urban, and a lot of them won’t even know where Geraldine is. They shop differently, and they’re always looking for what’s new on the supermarket shelves.”

The new-look white, blue and gold label isn’t the only change Clearwater’s is about to make. A new lactose-free organic yoghurt will also be launched to compliment their existing plain, honey, and vanilla cream-topped varieties.

This product – made by adding the enzyme lactase – is targeted to consumers who enjoy the taste of cow’s milk yoghurts, but have a lactose intolerance.

Jackie says this yoghurt will sell at a lower price-point than some of the lactose-free options already on the market made from buffalo, coconut, or almond milk.

Clearwater’s will also continue to make clotted cream – a New Zealand rarity – and rice pudding, which Jackie says is popular as a high-energy snack for cyclists and other athletes.

Bryan and Jackie began converting their farm to organic in 1999, and have seen significant changes in the farming sector since then.

While their approach once made them outliers, Jackie believes other farmers are beginning to see the value of embracing environmentally sustainable principles. “Bryan and I came to farming from horticulture, and for us, the soil is the number one priority. It’s a living organism.”

They utilise ‘soil food-web science’ and believe this low-input approach pays off in improved water-holding capacity, carbon sequestration, and enhanced soil health.

Jackie believes that, while some people “need to be dragged” away from conventional methods, others are beginning to see the bigger picture. She admits there are challenges.

Organic farming regulations mean they’re not allowed to use any bought-in food – meaning they can’t just supplement with a load of palm kernel following adverse weather events.

But for Jackie, the pay-offs can be seen in a herd that is under very little stress. “Happy, healthy animals are the best reward.”

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