Noosa Yoghurt constructing $5M expansion

BELLVUE – On a family dairy in this small town north of Fort Collins, a fast-growing local yogurt company is embarking on a $5 million expansion, its second in less than three years.
Beams form the skeleton of what will eventually be a 32,000 square-foot production facility for Noosa Finest Yoghurt. The facility sits among the company’s existing buildings and those that house operations for Morningfresh Dairy, from which Noosa gets the milk it uses for its yoghurt.
The expansion is scheduled to be complete this spring, according to Wade Groetsch, COO of Bellvue-based Noosa.

The facility, along with another 30,000 square feet of office and warehouse space scheduled for completion in the summer, is just the latest in Noosa’s efforts to keep up with its exploding growth.

In October 2012, the company completed a 25,000-square-foot expansion, but rapidly growing distribution and sales meant that another expansion would soon be needed. Noosa operates on Morningfresh’s land, under a lease from the Bellvue dairy.

The company began in 2010, after the yoghurt was brought over from Australia, where it is sold as Queensland Yoghurt. In the beginning, samples of Noosa were included with deliveries of Morningfresh milk, with comment cards that would be picked up and returned to Noosa.

Since then, the company has grown exponentially. Distributed in all 50 states and Puerto Rico, Noosa is now the fastest-growing yogurt brand in the country, Groetsch said.

The company doesn’t release revenue figures, but it saw 260 percent growth from 2011 to 2012, and 130 percent growth from 2012 to 2013. In the last 18 months, it has increased from 18 to 68 full-time employees, Groetsch said.

Noosa yoghurt comes in nine flavors. Its blueberry is the most popular, and is sold in nearly every major retailer in the country, including Kroger, Target and Whole Foods.
Noosa is boosting marketing efforts in other parts of the country as the brand seeks to expand its reach. Sample trucks have made appearances in Atlanta, Chicago and San Francisco to expose more consumers to the “Aussie-style” yoghurt, and social media campaigns reach out to customers old and new.

Atlanta is serving as a test site for many types of marketing that are new to Noosa, such as billboards. The focus so far has been on marketing through social media, promoting the product on the street via trucks, and other forms of “guerrilla marketing,” Groetsch said.
A statistic called “all commodity volume,” is essentially a snapshot of what percentage of store shelves a given product occupies, Groetsch said. In Denver, Noosa is on 80 percent of store shelves, while nationwide, the product is on about 35 percent of shelves.

The goal is to increase the nationwide awareness of the brand while maintaining top-of-the-line quality, Groetsch said.

Noosa’s fast growth has made it eligible for bank financing where other young companies may not have been, making their many expansions possible.

“Noosa has experienced tremendous growth as a result of their team’s commitment to making quality and flavorful yoghurt,´ said Paul Watkins, vice president and senior business relationship manager at Wells Fargo, which provided the loan for the expansion. “Wells Fargo has been fortunate to help them along their growth path by providing a line of credit, various equipment loans and now a real estate loan.”

Yogurt in general has seen large increases in popularity in recent years, especially the Greek variety, which has challenged many larger traditional yogurt brands. Traditional yogurt giants like Yoplait and Dannon have come out with their own versions of Greek yogurt to compete with brands like Fage and Chobani, which are often considered healthier, mostly because of higher protein content.

But Noosa hasn’t experienced a threat from its Mediterranean cousin, Groetsch said. The Australian style is thicker and more tangy than typical yogurt sold in America, similar to the Greek style, so the increasing popularity of Greek yogurt has actually served as a boon for the burgeoning company, according to Groetsch.