Entrepreneur takes yoghurt from mum's kitchen to Harrods

29 May 2011

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Yoghurt-maker Shaun Jacka is one New Zealand-based entrepreneur who is pleased he decided to enter the 2010 Business School Entrepreneurs' Challenge. Since winning a share of $1 million last October, his gourmet product has finally hit the shelves of Harrods in London… and he couldn't be happier.

At the same time, the Auckland-based co-founder of Piako Gourmet Yoghurt announced a major deal with Fonterra to distribute the luxury product in the dairy aisles of supermarkets around New Zealand. The partnership with Fonterra could eventually see Piako's products in 90 percent of supermarkets nationwide, potentially quadrupling sales within the next two years.

It's a far cry from the early days when Jacka, together with his brother and a mate, decided to make creamy yoghurt in his mum’s kitchen.

Stocking Harrods with yoghurt under the brand Little Melton Gourmet Yoghurt is like a dream come true, he says, despite delays from December's European "weather bomb" and other elements.

"We have a lot of room to grow, because of the size of the UK market. Winning a share of the Challenge pot was huge for us. It means we are on the cusp of transitioning from a small family business into a more substantial financial contributor to the New Zealand economy," Jacka says.

Challenge investment committee chairman Dr Brian Hannan says Piako is the epitome of the kind of company that benefactor Charles Bidwill had in mind when he donated $3 million to the School three years ago.

"The notion that Piako has cleverly rebranded itself for the UK market and pursued successfully placing its products on Harrods shelves is just what Charles wanted. That lofty dream to get Kiwi yoghurt into one of the world's most coveted foodhalls is a glowing endorsement of what the Challenge enables businesses with global potential to achieve."

2009 winner Allpress Espresso has also seen its international potential soar since winning a share of funding two years ago. Its new Shoreditch coffee roasting house in London is so popular that international stars reputedly visit frequently for a cup of Allpress' finest coffee.

Co-owner Michael Allpress says the three-storey 4,500 sq m roaster café is a dream come true.

"It's fantastic to see our roastery in action. It's been a long time in the planning and to see the operation up and running here in London gives a huge sense of achievement and is testament to the hard work invested," Allpress says.

"Our site in Redchurch Street is among design studios, art galleries and advertising agencies so the location couldn't be better. London provides us with a fantastic opportunity and we love seeing our small local coffee brand in such a vibrant city."

The Entrepreneurs' Challenge, established in 2009 with funding from expat Auckland financier Charles Bidwill, has kickstarted its 2011 campaign and is encouraging applications in advance of its 25 July deadline.

For further information:

Visit the Entrepreneurs' Challenge website