Global Trade Made Easy with Yarra Valley Dairy

Welcome to the Global Trade Made Easy podcast where we speak to global trade leaders, innovators, and influencers from around the world and Australia. We discuss ideas that can disrupt your organisation, industry, or career.

In this episode, we welcome Nathan Hyde, CEO of Yarra Valley Dairy and Nikki Rynia, Export Manager of Yarra Valley Dairy.

Nathan and Nikki share many insights on this 20-year export success story, including:

  • How the company started from an experiment in a family home.
  • The steps to growing an iconic Australian brand.
  • The artisan cheese product that put Yarra Valley Dairy on the map.
  • How they’ve experienced up to 60% growth, despite the pandemic.
  • Why competitors cannot emulate their premium product.
  • How they overhauled their brand for a greater connection to the product.
  • Why ‘world domination’ isn’t always better.
  • The must-have business ingredient to list within a supermarket.
  • How they circumnavigated challenges, and the lessons you can apply to your business.
  • How to spread your risk in terms of distribution.
  • 5 Top Tips to enter the export market.

Nathan Hyde is CEO of Yarra Valley Dairy, Australia’s much-loved, award-winning artisan cheese manufacturer. With a 20-year successful history of exporting to global markets, Yarra Valley Dairy and Yarra Valley Cheese is located in one of Australia’s premium wine and dairy locations, with a cheese factory and cheese shop on-site. To learn more, visit

Episode 2: Yarra Valley Dairy

[00:00:00] Nikki Rynia, Export Manager, Yarra Valley Dairy: So we have previously for about 20 years, we’ve been exporting to the middle east. So that market has been fantastic throughout COVID as well. We’ve seen some really good growth. 46% growth from pre COVID numbers.

[00:00:13] Tejas Oza, ImpexDocs: Hello and welcome to the Global Trade Made Easy Podcast. In this podcast, we speak to the global trade leaders, innovators and influences from around the world. and Australia. We talk about ideas that can disrupt your organization, industry, or even careers. So let’s dig in.

Hi everybody. This is Tejus Oza I’m the Chief Revenue Marketing Officer for Impex Docs. In today’s show, we will be talking to Nathan Hyde, CEO of Yarra Valley Dairy. And also Nikki Rynia, the Export Manager from Yarra Valley Dairy.

Welcome, Nathan and Nikki.

[00:00:45] Nathan Hyde, CEO, Yarra Valley Dairy: Thank you. Thank you very much, Tejus. Good to be with you.

[00:00:48] Tejas Oza, ImpexDocs: Good to be with you as well. Let’s talk about the inception of Yarra Valley Dairy. Can you tell us a little bit about how Yarra Valley Dairy started or how you got engaged Nathan with Yarra Valley Dairy and, uh, the journey so far.

[00:01:02] Nathan Hyde, CEO, Yarra Valley Dairy: Sure. I will let Nikki take you through the journey of the dairy, but I joined the business three years ago. So, as the CEO. A long background in food and beverage, manufacturing, distribution, marketing, and so on. The real appeal for me was to join a business that had brand integrity and also something that I could, uh, work with a great team and shape and, you know, put them into a position that really has us at the forefront of that artisan cheese making within Australia.

And it’s an industry that was fledgling for a little while there, but it really seems to be lifting and growing. And interest in cheese at the moment is very strong. The progression of our brands is pretty high in demand. A while ago I created the role of Export Manager. Nikki’s been with the business for around about 12 plus years.

Initially as National Sales Manager and then Nicki had a break to spend some time with her family and a well deserved one I might add. But I wanted to keep Nikki engaged in the business because of Nikki’s experience and also understanding of the whole artisan cheese category. And so I just asked Nikki to come back in a capacity that worked for her more than anything else and her family.

And so Nik’s been doing the export role now for around about 18 months and is really starting to make some solid inroads. And we’ll talk more about that later on, but Nik it’d be great if you could take Tejus through the history of the dairy, how it came about. Cuz I think you’re a bit stronger in that area than me to be honest.

[00:02:42] Nikki Rynia, Export Manager, Yarra Valley Dairy: Very happy to. One of the things I’ve loved about working at the dairy is being able to be a part of this story. You know, and to work with Mary Mooney, who is the original owner of the dairy, who really started this whole vision and business. So it’s been, yeah, an incredible journey to be part of that story.

And really where that story began was in 1994, when Mary who lived on the farm, which was her original family’s home, began to experiment with making some cheese, really for her family. So it was a really simple style cheese that she was making. I think originally she was even hanging the cheese from, you know, cheese cloth on the back of a chair in the kitchen.

It was a very simple, soft farmhouse style of cheese. But Mary’s absolute dedication and persistence and vision to create something unique was what started the process of creating Persian Feta. So Australia’s first marinated cheese, which I think most people listening, I hope have tried this style of cheese and are well versed in Yarra Valley Dairy Persian Feta. So for me, it was a real no brainer. Same as Nathan, to come on board with a really iconic Australian brand and be part of that story. And being part of a family owned business. If anyone out there is, has been, part of one, you know you really do become part of the family.

It’s incredible. And I think people, when I meet them, they just assume that I am actually one of the members of the family. Because you do, you get so incredibly passionate and you get involved in all different areas of the business from, you know, where I started, which was in the factory washing cheese molds, to making cheese. Terrible cheese, by the way. I only lasted about a week in that role before the team, I think, realized I’d be better talking about cheese and selling it, than making. But I think it really is just about being part of such an iconic Australian brand for us working with Mary and an incredible team. To just keep that tradition alive and make handmade, beautiful cheeses.

It is a slow process. You have to be dedicated, I think, to be part of artisan cheese in Australia. It’s not a commodity cheese, it’s a very artisan product that we make. But yeah, just an incredible journey to be part of it.

[00:04:59] Tejas Oza, ImpexDocs: That’s a beautiful story. So tell me one thing you mentioned Persian Feta. Tell me more about it.

[00:05:05] Nikki Rynia, Export Manager, Yarra Valley Dairy: Absolutely. Have you tried it?

[00:05:06] Tejas Oza, ImpexDocs: I have actually.

[00:05:08] Nikki Rynia, Export Manager, Yarra Valley Dairy: So I think the most incredible thing about Persian Feta is it’s very different to a traditional feta. It really is this indulgent, incredibly creamy like luscious mouth feel that you get from this product. And one of the main difference is being cows milk.

So traditionally feta is a goat or sheep combination, but what makes our product so incredible, it is this incredibly decadent, creamy cows milk cheese that you get at the base of this product. It’s then brined or dry salted and marinated in oil and herbs. We use only the best milk that we can source. The best herbs.

All of the ingredients are really premium. So the end result is just an incredibly beautiful and decadent product. We’ve found over the years, a lot of people have emulated this style of cheese, but if you cut corners with this style of cheese, you just don’t get the overall premium product that it needs to be.

And I think that’s why it’s stood the test of time and has been championed by chefs and retailers, and delis for over 25 years now.

[00:06:14] Tejas Oza, ImpexDocs: I’m only feeling like having some Persian Feta cheese now. You explain so beautifully. So Nikki, tell me one thing in your new role of being the Export Manager, what’s the role and how do you go about finding your markets and what do you do.

[00:06:30] Nikki Rynia, Export Manager, Yarra Valley Dairy: Yeah. So when I first came back to the dairy in the role of export manager, I was looking for a challenge, but my goodness COVID. I picked a very challenging time to come back in this role. And I, look, I had big plans to travel, to get out into new markets, to meet buyers, to conduct tastings, and all the fantastic things that you would do as part of an export strategy. But unfortunately, with COVID that wasn’t a possibility. So for me, it was a good opportunity to go back to the drawing board, to look at our story, to look at our ingredients, our packaging, and really, you know, so for me, it was about reigniting with what our story was, what made us incredibly unique, and why export markets would be interested in the product.

So it’s been an incredible process to do that. To take that story and those products out to the market. It’s been very challenging to get people, to sample the product, obviously with freight, being an issue. But the interest that we now have, I think the perception of Australian products overseas is they are premium.

So we’re in a good space there. And I think particularly dairy, I think the interest in Australian dairy is growing immensely. So it’s really been about getting our story out there, getting products out to people. And look, as soon as I can get back out in the markets and start traveling again, it’s gonna be fantastic.

Cause I think, for me, it’s such an incredible product. I can just let the product do the talking.

[00:08:01] Tejas Oza, ImpexDocs: Right, right. Makes sense. And in terms of your current target markets, what are those target markets you’re looking at for your cheese?

[00:08:10] Nikki Rynia, Export Manager, Yarra Valley Dairy: So we have previously for about 20 years, we’ve been exporting to the Middle East.

So that market has been fantastic throughout COVID as well. We’ve seen some really good growth, you know, sort of 40%, 60% growth from pre COVID numbers, there. So, we’re looking to increase our retail opportunities in those markets.

The UK, we have incredible interest from the market over there. But freight has been a challenge. We’re hoping to be back in the US in the next 12 months. Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea is just about to come on board. So we’ve got a lot of interest. I think the good thing for us is being a handmade product.

We’re not looking for world domination. We’re just looking to find the right fit in the right market. So we’re looking for the high end premium delis, retail spaces. So at the moment, it really is just about finding the right distribution and the right fit.

[00:09:06] Tejas Oza, ImpexDocs: Right, right. Understand, understand. And, Nathan, you joined as a CEO before some time. Can I ask you, what’s your vision for Yarra Valley Dairy?

[00:09:19] Nathan Hyde, CEO, Yarra Valley Dairy: Look, there’s a couple of answers there, Tejus. It’s Yarra Valley Dairy itself. We want position as one of the leading handmade artists and cheese products in this country and internationally. Yarra Valley Cheese, which is made in a different technique to Yarra Valley Dairy, but still a premium product.

And that is really well positioned through our major trading partners, such as Woolworths and Coles and Costco, Aldi. And again, that’s a great opportunity for us to enter markets such as the UAE, New Zealand, because they’re quite strong with supermarket trade themselves. So it’s a really good footprint for us to get in there.

When I first came on board, it was about working out and restructuring both brands, because the team were a little confused with what Yarra Valley Cheese meant to them and what Yarra Valley Dairy meant to them. So our marketing manager worked very hard on gathering data and working out what those brands actually meant to our consumers.

And certainly the first piece of work that Catherine did was the Yarra Valley Cheese rebrand. But also digging into what the values of that brand were and why do our consumers love it? Why do they want to eat this? Why is it growing with our trading partners? And so the vision was to get the brands right, and for the team internally to understand who we are pushing towards.

As Nikki mentioned that about picking the right partners internationally for us and what brands sit where. So it’s not about chasing volume. We have interest from a major trading partner in the United States, and if they push the go button tomorrow, capacity wise we would be in a world of pain. So a nice challenge to have, right. But it’s, again, a lot of capital expenditure to build and expand.

Ideally, what we want to do is position ourselves as a leading premium artisan cheese maker in our areas of expertise. But to also then underpin that with financial stability for the business to move forward so that we can do that confidently and expand our footprint essentially.

And that might be through manufacturing or building new facilities or whatever it may be into the future. So, that’s a decision that Mary and some of her board and confidants would make that decision on, in conjunction hopefully with myself. But, I think where we’re headed at the moment and certainly creating the role of export, is more about making sure that we spread our risk as a business as well.

I love doing business with everybody, but it’s good that you don’t have, you know, one particular trading partner that might be 25, 30, 35% of your business and if you lose a listing within a supermarket, it can hurt you quite badly from a cashflow perspective.

So our mantra really is to get awareness of the brands, but we want to do it in the way that we’ve always done it. And that’s about letting the products speak for itself. But Nikki will tell you more about this, but the rebrand of Yarra Valley Dairy, the labeling is just second to none. Some of the photographs and videos that have been done recently for that brand, like you said earlier, Tejus, where Nikki’s describing the cheese, it makes you want to eat it.

You look at some of these visuals and you look at the rebranding of Yarra Valley Dairy and Yarra Valley Cheese, and I’m very proud of the team of where they’ve got it to. Because it actually speaks a premium product to our audience.

[00:12:58] Tejas Oza, ImpexDocs: Nice. So obviously your strategy is expand the revenue and cash flow sources, I guess. Yarra Valley being a position that it is a premium brand, but position as on the premium brand, uh, your strategies that you want to distribute through supermarkets, if I heard Nikki, correct. And Nathan, you also mentioned that, you know, some of those markets have strong supermarket culture, strong supermarket environment. And that helps your brand to get distributed as well. So am I hearing it right? That’s the core strategy, that’s how you are thinking, Nikki?

[00:13:35] Nikki Rynia, Export Manager, Yarra Valley Dairy: Yeah, I think, as Nathan mentioned, because we do have two brands within the company.

So we have our Yarra Valley Cheese brand, which we do service more of the FMCG market and our Yarra Valley Dairy brand, which is more fruit service. It’s more your premium artisan ranging. So we do have the ability to service both markets. And absolutely I think within some of the markets that we’re approaching there is opportunity within the supermarket space. I think for me, it’s, you know, as it has worked domestically here, to champion the artisan range within food service, you know, to have chefs who are putting that product on the menu, you know, recognizing that it is Yarra Valley Dairy, marinated cheese.

I think is such a great way to get some gravitas behind the brand and some interest with the product. And that’s where we’re really lucky to have those two brands. So we can sit in both of those spaces.

[00:14:33] Tejas Oza, ImpexDocs: Yep. Makes sense. Makes sense. Absolutely. And you mentioned some challenges obviously because of COVID, et cetera. How has been the business in last 12 months? How is it looking currently and what are the key challenges at the moment?

[00:14:50] Nikki Rynia, Export Manager, Yarra Valley Dairy: So for export, really it’s the similar challenges that most exporters have been facing, obviously with freight, with port delays.

I think we’ve been so lucky with the existing markets where we’ve had those relationships, and those logistics set ups already in place. We’ve been really lucky to keep those markets going, but new markets has been a huge challenge during COVID. You have buyers overseas who are similar to they are here.

They’re stressed, they’re understaffed. They’re trying to minimize risk. So sometimes taking on board a new customer that you haven’t received a shipment of before, or trial the product, was a risk. Getting buyers to move forward with a product without having any sampling available in store.

It’s hard for us going into a lot of markets, because marinated fresh cheese isn’t even a product in a lot of markets globally. I recently was entering our cheese in a world cheese award and there wasn’t even a category for marinated cheese. So it shows you that we’re really going onto a global arena that consumers are not sure really yet what to do with this product.

So for us to get that message and show people what the application is with this new product, without doing that with sampling, has proven very tricky. I think that’s why you were saying I’m getting better at talking about cheese because for the last 12 months, I’ve had to sit in front of buyers and eat cheese on the screen and talk about it, which is, it’s very, very tricky.

And staff has been a huge challenge, hasn’t it Nathan? I think domestically, I think everyone’s in the same boat there. But we are feeling a bit of ease I think in that department. We’ve been able to hire some incredible staff members over the last couple of weeks. And cost of goods.

[00:16:37] Tejas Oza, ImpexDocs: Right, right. Yeah, I mean, this is something which, I guess, many Australian businesses, in fact, most businesses around the world are facing. Would that be fair to say, Nathan, is that the kind of challenges which we are facing in Australia and you as a business as well? The other dairy manufacturers around the world or, your competitors, in other market or other countries as an example, or even in Australia, are facing probably the similar kind of challenges, right?

[00:17:04] Nathan Hyde, CEO, Yarra Valley Dairy: Yeah, absolutely they are. I’ve described the the second half of financial year 22 is the most challenging six months I’ve ever seen in business.

It really came to the forefront for myself in about the middle of December last year. And there’s been a lot of sleepless nights. There has been, you know, how do we cycle through this? Because all of a sudden one of our key ingredients, the second most valuable ingredient that goes into our product in terms of oil, doubled in price in, you know, in not a very long space of time.

And to pass on price increases is quite a logistical challenge in particular with our trading partners who do expect a 90 day period where they can adjust their own pricing. This was followed up by labor shortages and then labor increases in terms of costs, raw material costs in terms of packaging increasing.

And then usually the new year milk pricing you’ll receive that from the farm is usually in May, first week of May. So that’s when I usually finalize the budget for the next financial year. Once we’ve got that and can work out what the cost of goods are going to be. I received that on the 28th of June, at 6:00 PM and nearly fell off my chair because it was a 35.2% price increase in milk.

Now this has sort of been brought around from, uh, we are lucky. We’ve had a relationship with suppliers for quite some time, and we know the quality of product we get is outstanding. And as a business, and one of our core values is that we do pay farm gate levies because the farmers have done it hard for a number of years.

And good on them this year. They’re making, as the old expression goes, make hay while the sun shines. We had to lock in our annual volume straight away because I had my priority was to protect the business based on what we see as a forecast, as a budget for the year. And at this point in time in Australia is going to be a shortage of milk in certainly the second half of financial year into 2023.

Now that depends on what international markets do. There’s a small rumor that maybe New Zealand might have some excess milk, which could find its way across to Australia and assist with some dairy products, being cheese and so on. We personally wouldn’t use it because we hang our hat on the fact that we’re 99.9% of Australian content. And we source as much locally as we possibly can.

So, yeah, very challenging period. We had a terrific catch up with the team on Wednesday and we sort of talked about where we, I love to do a reflection piece with the team and we talk about, you know, 12 months ago when we did the planning for the financial year just gone. And each of the team, I don’t think anyone gets an opportunity to stop and think about what they’ve done and what they’ve achieved within that 12 month period against what their strategies were for the year. And I think each and every departmental head that talked about the year had just about ticked most of those boxes, except for a lot of the unforeseen ones that nobody saw coming. So again, really good planning from the team. But the second half hit us pretty hard.

We saw, as I said, the cost increases and small revenue increases, but that’s offset by price increases and some severely hefty ones as well. So, um, we were very fortunate that for the start of financial year, I managed to have some meetings with some of the senior executives within our trading partners and talk to them about the challenges ahead and they have all very supportive in moving the prices forward and wanting to support Australia dairy industry, which is great, and we’re also very grateful for.

Nikki, same thing, uh, trying to establish some of these export markets and then going straight back to our trading partners internationally and saying, oh, by the way, I’m terribly sorry, but we’ve gotta lift the prices before we’ve even shipped a box. And again, very supportive understanding what the challenges are within. So, um, unfortunately it’s an erosion of farmers not having made enough money in previous years off their cattle, for milking purposes.

So the amount of cattle in Australia available for dairy has dwindled across the years. It’s showing signs of recovery and it now needs encouragement from bodies, such as Dairy Australia, and dairy industry, that will try and encourage farmers to continue to expand that. And, uh, I’ve always been a believer in paying a fair price for materials so that it’s more sustainable, longer term.

Let’s fix prices for three years, five years, whatever it might be. And if that’s a higher price at the beginning, that’s okay. And if the market fluctuates up and down, it still protects everybody. When I first joined the business, we couldn’t lock in milk contracts for 12 month period because it was literally, if there was an abundance, it would be cheaper. If there was a shortage, you would pay a lot more. I explained and sat down with suppliers that we couldn’t operate like that and have a model that way, because it’s, we can’t have these major fluctuations on our cost of goods because it’s all at the wrong time of year. We need to set out an average.

So we managed to work with, uh, suppliers that lock in prices for us for 12 month period, so that we can cover the financial year quite soundly and, and know what we’re reporting against.

[00:22:35] Tejas Oza, ImpexDocs: It makes so much of sense, you know, locking in prices that gives you this certainty that also gives your customer certainty of pricing.

So I think that’s very, very nice, and then makes so much of sense. Now talking about May. You referred to May in another way, but, uh, I, I, uh, read one of the news pieces that you had won some award of where in the Dairy Industry Association, of the national product awards, one of the awards for your cheese, is that correct Nikki?

[00:23:03] Nikki Rynia, Export Manager, Yarra Valley Dairy: We actually won the World Cheese Awards about 15 years ago for the Persian Fetta. We produce an amazing array of products. So we have our marinated cheeses, but we also make, um, as we mentioned, the Hubert’s which is an incredible washed rind cheese, and our semi-mature goats cheeses quite often win awards.

Our Gentle Goat, which is a very beautiful, fresh goats cheese, quite often wins awards as well. And that product is just it’s really a testimony to the pure, goat milk, the amazing goat milk that we purchased from a farm in Mansfield.

[00:23:40] Tejas Oza, ImpexDocs: So Nikki tell me one thing. You told me that you have spoken in last 12 months online, uh, tested cheese, talked about it, to new potential customers and new customers, or even existing customers for the new products, et cetera. Um, tell me, what do you tell your potential new buyers about your cheese? Why they should be choosing your products versus your competitors products?

[00:24:06] Nikki Rynia, Export Manager, Yarra Valley Dairy: Yeah, absolutely. Our products are obviously all Australian made from premium local milk. Um, as I mentioned earlier, many people have tried to emulate the style of Persian Feta since its creation in 94. But one of the key elements of Persian Feta is obviously Australian ingredients, premium ingredients.

A lot of people in Australia make a style of Persian Feta, which unfortunately can sit at around 30% Australian ingredients. There are a lot of producers who will purchase, Danish, feta, or fetas from other parts of the world and then repackage that here in Australia. So we pride ourselves on only producing from Australian ingredients.

Our recipe has not really changed since 1994 before when Mary first created the product. The only difference that we have made, is just improvements to the packaging, looking at sustainability. Uh, we are always looking to improve the ingredients and make sure, for example, you know, we’ve recently changed our garlic to Australian garlic so always looking for improvements.

[00:25:15] Tejas Oza, ImpexDocs: So Nathan, we talked about last 12 months, we talked about some of the challenges, et cetera. I guess markets are changing. Uh, the freight situation is stabilizing slightly, uh, as compared to last, uh, let’s say six months, eight months back. What is your future strategy, let’s say for next 24, 12 to 24 months. How do you see the business? And what are your key elements of the strategy?

[00:25:43] Nathan Hyde, CEO, Yarra Valley Dairy: When we’ve taken on board all of these price increases that I’ve spoken to you about in terms of raw materials, for us when we’ve passed on those price increases, it’s about stabilizing.

I wouldn’t refer to us as opportunists and think that we could add a little bit more margin and make a little bit more money. We want to work with our partners in terms of making sure that we deliver, uh, a great product that’s good value to the consumer overall. So that is always top of mind and key as part of our strategy. Is that everything we do is the very best that we can put out all the time.

So we monitor quality all the time. In terms of freight issues and challenges. Um, Nikki knows my thoughts on terms of, we like to do everything FOB when it’s going into the export markets, because the fluctuations, the freight generally, we don’t make money on freight. We don’t wanna make money on freight.

So if people are asking us for, um, CIF terms, it’s really hard. We’ve been fortunate enough to, uh, have been served in first class on Emirates for, it’s now in its 14th year with Yarra Valley Dairy Persian Feta. Now we export 20 foot refrigerated reefers across to them.

When I joined the business, you’re talking about $2,500 thereabouts to, uh, get that from the Port of Melbourne into Dubai. That’s now pushing up towards $13,000 in that, in what are we talking three years? It’s incredible. And, uh, Emirates have not faulted in the fact that they still want to serve that product.

And yes, if you travel first class, I’m sure the additional freight cost can be factored and allowed for. But it it also adds a layer of complexity to their business in terms of additional costs as well. So, uh, when that happens, it’s like everything, it all pushes back onto all of us. We pay more for airfares and so on and so forth.

So look, our strategy is about keeping our portfolio very high quality, fairly simple. We have a new product development team, which Nikki is a part of. So we’re always looking at innovation within the business that meets the ethos and values of the business. So it has to remain preservative free. It has to remain, you know, going into sustainable packaging. It has to be something that is within the realms of what we are capable of doing, but also delivering something to our consumers to make sure that they are trying new products. So, we certainly have a fairly full calendar for the next, uh, 12 to 24 months.

So range, expansion, market expansion, and again, taking the key risks out of business by spreading our risk in terms of distribution and who we work with around the world.

[00:28:37] Tejas Oza, ImpexDocs: Nice, nice. So if I just play it back, what I heard from you, basically, we are talking about changing the terms, commercial terms and core terms, which will make sure the freight, do not become the barrier as such, in a way, from your, perspective, right?

Changing to FOB where possible, that’s one thing, obviously, new market development with the new product introductions. That’s the other thrust of the strategy. They’re the core factors. Plus obviously keeping, uh, the overall quality extremely high as per ethos and principles, that they are the key elements of the strategy. Would that be fair submission?

[00:29:15] Nathan Hyde, CEO, Yarra Valley Dairy: Yeah, it’s a very good summary, absolutely spot on. We’re not an overly complicated business, it’s, it is more about making sure that people are safe products safe, um, and, and what we deliver to the consumer is absolutely spot on.

So, and also giving the team that confidence in our products as well. I mean, it’s great to sit down with a member from the production team and say, do you realize that, you know, that tub of Persian Feta that you’ve just made sells for $16. And they look at you and they go, does it really? You know, I’m say, look, when you go into a supermarket, take a look at it, take some pride because you’ve done that. You’ve had a hand in making that.

And that really makes somebody feel quite good. That cheese that you mentioned earlier, that Hubert’s. When we were developing that product and we’ve done a lot of work on that. Nikki was part of that team in Nikki’s previous role and, uh, Nikki and Catherine, who’s, the marketing manager, came to me and they said, right, this is the product. And took me through the whole premise of it. And talked about our distribution partner in Australia here, Calendar Cheese Company for Yarra Valley Dairy and what price points could it retail for? And I looked at the price list. I looked at the market. And I said, I’d like to position this is a 180 gram piece of cheese. Washed rind.

I said, I’d like to position it at a retail price point of $18. Cath and Nikki nearly threw it at me and uh, and said, you’re kidding. That’s gonna be the most expensive washed rind in Australia. And I said, good. And let’s make it the best washed rind in Australia. So we spent a lot of time working with our artisan cheese maker to get it right, because, certainly, and let me tell you, we wasted a lot of product.

But eventually we got it right. That cheese now sells for over $20. And as you saw, it won the award and we’re super proud of it. It’s actually one of the biggest selling products in our retail venue. And we see approximately, you know, 250,000 visitors a year in a full year when there’s no lockdowns.

Nobody’s got a problem with buying it. Our distribution partner, they can’t get enough. We can only make a certain amount of it. But we still need to continue to innovate. So, certainly something I give a lot of thought to, and where we sit as a product I’d like to develop into, uh, into our major trading partners. And position that in a different part of the cheese category that they wouldn’t even contemplate. And the reason I wanna do that is because from a price point and quality perspective, I want it to sit in a different area, because it’s got a premium feel to it. And you know, most people, if it’s sat in the area, uh, of, of snacking, for example, we would stand out like a sore thumb because the price point would be double and a bit more. If you put that into a premium cheese area within a supermarket, I think it would sell, cuz people would see it and they’d look it up and they’d go, oh yeah, good. I trust the brand. And I think that is what we work so hard on is getting people to trust our brand. And that’s also part of our long term strategy.

[00:32:32] Tejas Oza, ImpexDocs: So tell me, Nikki. About this cheese I’m quite intrigued. So you brought the cheese to Nathan and his assessment was it’s a premium cheese to that level. Tell me about the cheese now.

[00:32:48] Nikki Rynia, Export Manager, Yarra Valley Dairy: Absolutely. So our inspiration for this product really was an. So really stinky, traditional French style wash rind. Which we, uh, you know, it was MP Dairy is one of the, the reasons why I’ve been here for so long. Some weeks I’ll have to sit around with the team and spend, you know, a good two or three hours a week just tasting cheese. And it is, it’s always a good day in the dairy when we are doing MP day. And we were very particular how we wanted this cheese to evolve.

Nikki Rynia Quote

We wanted it to take on its own life. I think like with any cheeses when you’re inspired by France or Italy you take inspiration from these cheeses. But when you make it here in Australia, with the milk, with the cheese makers, the different microbiology of the factory, it becomes something else.

It really becomes our take on this product and that’s how that product evolved. And I think, you know, we were a bit nervous to take on such a traditional French style cheese and make it our own. I think that’s where the hesitation came. You know, around just really owning it and moving forward and charging the price that we really needed to, to make this product worthwhile.

But my goodness, you know, it’s almost surpassed Persian Feta sales here at the dairy in the cheese shop. And it’s an incredible addition for both cheese boards, We do a baked top pot here in our cheese shop, which I was saying before you just dig in with crusty bread into this incredible product.

And, uh, it’s become a bit of a cult hit really here in the cheese shop. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to export that to the Middle East because it is washed in Brandy, but I’ll be finding some new markets for it hopefully soon. It is a challenge with shelf life with the semi mature products, because you’re really, you’re only looking at about six to eight week shelf life from production.

So, for me, minimizing risk and export at the moment, I’m really focusing on the marinaded cheeses, which have around six months shelf life. I’d have a few sleepless nights, I think, if I was exporting the six week, at the moment.

[00:34:53] Tejas Oza, ImpexDocs: Incredible. I’m looking forward to you finding ways to export it. It sounds like a fantastic product and yeah, I will visit your premises, especially to have that special recipe that you’re saying it’s becoming a cult. Fantastic.

[00:35:07] Nikki Rynia, Export Manager, Yarra Valley Dairy: And look, I think the great thing about exporting into new markets with this marinated cheese, is that, you know, we’re sending a product that is so typically Australian. I think in Australia, cheese making is relatively new, uh, in the industry.

And there’s not a lot of cheeses that we can call an Australian cheese. But since we created marinated cheeses in Australia, it really has become, well, it’s become a category in its own. Right. And I think in most retail spaces, it’ll be very hard to find a cheese section that doesn’t have some kind of representation of marinated fresh cheeses.

So I think there’s such an opportunity to grow that in export and make our own space. You know, really selling what is, what we say is just a jar of sunshine. It really is. It’s an example of Australia’s love of, you know, outdoors, salads, sharing food, premium products. We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel, say for example, in Europe and try and sell an Australian Cam or Bri, where we’re really selling a piece of Australian, lifestyle and a representation of our culture.

[00:36:16] Tejas Oza, ImpexDocs: Nice. So this is what I wanted to, you know, understand more. Tell me about this history of the marinated cheese. You’re telling me that, uh, Yarra Valley Dairy was the first in Australia to come up with this marinated cheese. Tell me about it because that’s a story what I think people should know.

[00:36:34] Nikki Rynia, Export Manager, Yarra Valley Dairy: Yeah, and look, it’s a great story. Mary was inspired. When she first started to produce a fresh cheese of some way of preserving the product and creating something new. I think she was around the time she invented it she was working with a lot of wineries and producers in the Yarra Valley.

I think around that time it was sun dried tomatoes were a big thing in the Yarra Valley. And I think that was her initial inspiration with the olive oil marinade. And she also worked with a cheese maker at the time who had been inspired by a lot of traditional preserving techniques.

So yeah, the idea was to marinate the product.

[00:37:11] Tejas Oza, ImpexDocs: Nathan, you have been exporting in such a long time at Yarra Valley Dairy. What would be your suggestion or guidance to any new exporter, or even your peers, uh, who wants to get into the export market?

What would be your suggestion to them? What should they keep in mind and how should they go?

[00:37:36] Nathan Hyde, CEO, Yarra Valley Dairy: Firstly, I’d say that choosing the right partner is paramount in any market and just making sure that the trading partners that you, you approach and you talk to you do a number of things.

So you really should be doing a fair amount of research in terms of their reach into the market, talking to some of their customers within the market to see how they perform. And how they treat your product in terms of logistics. But making sure most importantly, that it’s a fit for your brand, and that your brand is being represented to the level that you would like it to be.

And that is supported with, you know, Nikki being available to be in market moving forward. But really, to me, it’s about doing research to start with. It’s about having an innate understanding of your own brand and working out where you want to position it. Where do you want to be in that market?

Nikki and I spoke at huge length about where we wanted to be in the United Kingdom. And it was all about working with premium delis and cheese shops and going through a premium distributor. And it wasn’t about chasing the volume. It was about let’s build the brand slowly. And Nikki fought like crazy to get some product over to the UK because logistics was a nightmare.

And the great team at Austrade represented us at the London Food Fair. And what a hit, what an absolute hit. So that really gave us the impetus to work with this particular company. And this is who we will work with moving forward. But that’s taken Nikki I reckon the best part of 12 months to identify that company and to position our brand based against the brand values and our company values and who we want to work with.

So it’s more important that you find a positioning for your brand, but having that innate understanding of that plan. Where do you want to be? Which market channels do you want to go into? Who do you wanna speak to and how does your brand get represented? And certainly, in the past there’s always been a real, um, you know, particularly in my background wine industry, days from years ago, you would sometimes go and chase a volume market, and that would backfire more times than not, because you really didn’t have your plans, your brand plans and all those sorts of things in place and knowing the channels that you wanted to get into. So for us, it was a lot of consideration and thought before going there. And I’d recommend that to anybody. If it takes you an extra six months to find the right distribution partner, I would suggest that that’s okay.

[00:40:25] Tejas Oza, ImpexDocs: That’s really sound advice. Especially in today’s circumstances, it becomes even more important. So thank you, Nathan. That was, um, I’m sure people will benefit from the advice and from your experience. Thank you very much.

It is a fantastic story and I wish Yarra Valley Dairy and the Yarra Valley Cheese, both the brands, really well. Some of our best artisan cheese. So all the best. I would love to visit you when I’m in Victoria.

[00:40:51] Nathan Hyde, CEO, Yarra Valley Dairy: Please do. You’re very, very welcome.

[00:40:53] Tejas Oza, ImpexDocs: Thank you very much.

[00:40:54] ImpexDocs: This has been the Global Trade Made Easy Podcast. Thanks for tuning in. Be sure to subscribe to our podcast so you don’t miss an episode of innovative ideas from trade leaders across the globe. For even more insights on global trade, visit our website at where we share resources for successful international trade management. Until next time, happy trading.

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