It used to be a struggle for husband-and-wife team, Fred Chen and Phuong Nguyen, to get their one-year-old daughter to eat any type of dairy.
“When we started off it was never a business idea,” Chen told DairyReporter.
“My wife and I were trying to find a way to continue to supplement our daughter’s overall nutrition with dairy, but she hated drinking milk.”
This frustration was compounded after the couple found that yogurt sold at stores had either too many additives such as thickeners and artificial sweeteners, or was too sour in taste for their daughter.
This prompted the couple to make a Vietnamese-style yogurt, reminiscent of the dairy snack Nguyen’s father used to make for her growing up in the DC area.
Amending customary Vietnamese yogurt
Traditional Vietnamese yogurt is made with sweetened condensed milk, but Chen and Phuong fine-tuned the recipe by using organic whole milk sourced from small dairy farms in New York. To control the sweetness level, the duo made their own sweetened condensed milk that adds six grams of sugar per serving.
The result is a thick, creamy consistency with a hint of caramelization and 100 calories per four-ounce cup.
“With most of our American friends when we sample it with them they think it might be vanilla or some other flavor that they’re more used to,” Chen said.
After having friends and family sample the yogurt, the next step was scaling up from their kitchen stove to a 30-gallon vat pasteurizer in order to fulfill orders generated from the Kickstarter fundraising campaign.
YaÜ is in the process of obtaining USDA-organic, gluten-free, and Kosher certifications with the target date of May to fulfill all its Kickstarter orders.
The company currently makes one plain flavor, but with more funding will create three other flavors: mango coconut, blueberry lavender, and lemon ginger.
Undefined target audience
Chen and Nguyen found that their shared passion for creating a nutritious dairy snack for their daughter has translated into a diverse consumer audience.
“We’ve shared our yogurt now with so many different people, there just isn’t that one person,” Chen said. “We seem to do pretty well with self-proclaimed yogurt snobs.”
The yogurt has also garnered demand from young mothers and seniors who are more concerned with their bone and digestive health, according to the company.
Grocery stores still a barrier
The company said it has the entire supply chain “nailed down” and that its most challenging barrier is getting on store shelves of major retail stores because of the high cost.
Nearby Washington D.C. is the company's first targeted market where they have received some retail interest for YaÜ from local independent grocery chains.