Amelia Harvey: Co-Founder of The Collective
If you’re in the habit of rushing past the yoghurt aisle in favour of more ‘trendy’ desserts, think again.
The Collective is a new breed of yoghurt changing the concept and quality of dairy. No bull! My Little Black Book meets ambitious co-founder, Amelia Harvey.
My Little Black Book: Amelia, you’re the co-founder of The Collective, a gourmet yoghurt brand which launched in 2011. Why yoghurt?
Amelia Harvey: I remember walking up and down the aisles of my local supermarket a couple of years ago and thinking it was all a bit same old same old with nothing exciting jumping out from the shelves.
I strongly believed there was a gap in the UK market for a tasty, innovative and fun new offering which didn’t take itself too seriously!
Just as luck would have it, my business partner Mike Hodgson and I met up with two ex-chefs from New Zealand who had just launched The Collective from their dairy in Auckland. We loved the taste of the product so much and thought the packaging was so innovative. We struck a joint venture with them in January 2011 and launched onto shelf in the July of that year.
MyLBB: The Collective is stocked in all major supermarkets, including Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose. How do you set yourselves apart from other yoghurt and dessert products on the shelves?
AH: The first thing that will hopefully catch people’s eye is our packaging. 80% of consumer’s purchase decisions are made in front of the shelf so we have to grab attention from the get go.
Once we’ve grabbed attention we hope that our yoghurts taste like nothing people have tasted before. Our yoghurt has a smooth, silky, clean texture that melts in your mouth. We use only the finest ingredients to create a truly gourmet yoghurt. We make our yoghurts in Somerset using the finest West Country milk (only ever from farms that are approved by the “Red Tractor Farm Assurance Dairy Scheme”).
The signature yoghurt base is slightly sweetened with honey and the different varieties of yoghurt contain a unique double layer of compote to ensure a mouth-watering balance of sweet and tart flavours—and so there’s no annoying digging to the bottom to get at the compote!
And finally after product, customer service is high up on our list. We love our 1 to 1 interactions on Facebook and Twitter and reply to all emails from customers within 24 hours.
MyLBB: Yoghurt suffers from a slightly stale image. How does The Collective overcome this misconception?
AH: We are constantly evolving and launching new, unexpected and innovative flavours: our Limited Edition variety changes every few months. We are always keen to showcase the brand’s daring originality.
For example, this October 2013 The Collective launched the UK’s first alcoholic yoghurt with the ground-breaking Raspberry and Amaretto flavour.
In March 2013, The Collective launched the first yoghurts in the category with different top and bottom layers, such as Raspberry and White Peach.
Other imaginative gourmet flavour choices are Blood(y) Orange – a seasonal citrus fruit with a gory name and a tangy bite, and Russian Fudge, based on a classic New Zealand recipe which is largely unknown in the UK.
MyLBB: There are 10 different Collective yoghurt flavours. How did you decide on these?
AH: We are constantly experimenting with new flavour combinations and have many exciting plans for the future, watch this space! We also listen to our consumers. For example, our Raspberry & Amaretto Limited Edition was so popular we are bringing it back for 2014.
MyLBB: You’ve worked for a number of famous brands, including Kellogg’s and Gu. How does running your own business differ to working for such large corporations?
AH: I’m really lucky to have had great blue chip training from Kellogg’s and L’Oreal at the start of my career so I’ve got a good framework from which to work. I can then apply this structure to the reality of a start up environment so hopefully we create the balance between entrepreneurial culture coupled with a bit of structure!
I believe in a flexible working structure and embrace everyone getting “stuck in” whether from home or at the office. Larger companies often find it hard to get their head around this concept. I had a baby in the same year Mike and I set up the company so an adaptable and flexible approach was key.
The Collective’s offices are open plan with an open culture; everyone in the team knows how the business is performing and is involved in the decision making.
The Collective actively pushes responsibility and decision making on to young, ambitious people and allows them to run with real responsibilities.
MyLBB: What is it like being a woman in the FMCG sector?
AH: I think this is a great time to be a woman in business – there are so many opportunities available for ambitious women in this modern age of technology. The Collective really got off the ground at the beginning using social media to communicate directly with consumers. If you’ve got the drive, there is much to be achieved.
It’s important to trust your judgement, ignore detractors, and simply go for it!
MyLBB: You have a young son. How do you balance the needs of your business and family?
AH: I actually think that having a young son means I am more productive when I’m at work, and that I value the time at home with my family even more as a result. I have become far more balanced and I think that keeps me fresh (apart from on those sleepless nights that happen now and again with a baby!).
MyLBB: Where do you see The Collective in three years’ time?
AH: We’ve been on supermarket shelves for 2 ½ years now and at the beginning, we could only dream of getting on the shelves of the supermarkets we’re in now. We’ve had some amazing feedback from consumers and sales keep increasing, so I hope in 3 years time we’ll be more of a household name within the yoghurt aisle and continue to deliver ground breaking product development.
We have recently launched in Ireland and feedback so far has been really positive, so in future we hope to see The Collective launching in more countries.
We are also planning innovative new product launches, all in the name of daring dairy!
MyLBB: And finally, how do we best enjoy The Collective – straight from the pot or as part of a pudding recipe?
AH: I wouldn’t like to dictate that, we hear stories of pots being finished before they even make it to the kitchen table!
When I’m entertaining I like to add a few extra ingredients to serve as an easy dessert. For example, our Luscious Lemon variety is amazing with shortbread biscuits, or our Raspberry & Amaretto Limited Edition is gorgeous with fresh raspberries and some amaretti biscuits crumbled on top. I think people know when they’re coming round to ours for dinner what’s on the menu for dessert!