While they had often discussed their desire to produce a product on their family goat farm, Cheryl Haskett, Co-Founder and CEO of Udderly Ridiculous and her husband decided to move forward with the idea when a major buyer of goat milk in Canada began buying from another country through the USA.
Udderly Ridiculous is a gourmet goat milk ice cream produced using sustainable agriculture practices, while accessing partnerships for local ingredients to produce a product that is tasty and satisfying for people with lactose sensitivities and those who just love ice cream.
“We wanted a product other than cheese, something less pretentious,” said Haskett. “Our product had to be locally driven, delicious, accessible and fun.”
Since she was unsure whether it would work, Haskett started experimenting in her kitchen during a Christmas break with a small ice cream maker and recipes intended for cow dairy. “People really liked it,” she said which spurred her to keep going.
Initially, they envisioned starting with a food truck that housed a commercial kitchen. However, they soon learned that it is illegal to produce ice cream outside of a processing plant. That caused them to pivot to a co-packer.
“We had to find a co-packer who could do specialized batches and recipes,” Haskett said. “Some days are exciting, some are terrifying.”
Making the leap to retail also required barcodes and large packaging purchases but it also allowed them to support other farms. “We don’t single source, so we are adding sustainability,” she said.
Recently winning the Retail Council of Canada’s New Product Award was an achievement that Haskett hopes will give the company more credibility and exposure. “When you are competing with big brands for retail freezer space, this award tells people we have a great product that has been vetted by food professionals.”
Working with Innovation Guelph (IG) helped them with pivoting the plan, branding, package and logo design and building a network of consumer packaged goods entrepreneurs with whom they are learning and sharing. “We’ve connected in community without competition,” Haskett said. “The mentorship helped us avoid some of the mistakes.” Haskett is looking forward to participating in the second cohort of Rhyze Ventures in October 2020 as she says having a posture of learning prevents getting stagnant.
COVID-19 impacted Udderly Ridiculous causing delays in communications with stores and preventing in-store promotional activities such as sampling and eliminated events. COVID-19 also changed shoppers’ behaviour. “Shoppers don’t come into grocery stores to browse,” she said. “So, we want our product to make their list.” Haskett said they have added ecommerce. The cost of shipping frozen ice cream is significant due to the requirement of dry ice, so instead she is doing regional delivery personally and is partnered with grocery delivery services such as: Mrs. Grocery, Grocery Gateway and coming soon to Voila by Sobeys.
“We are trying to find our way and keep things growing to reach to the new normal,” Haskett said.
She advises that research is very important for entrepreneurs. Haskett said she was surprised by the expectations of retailers and that distributors don’t provide the services she anticipated. She has learned how to ask deeper questions to get at the knowledge she needs to make informed decisions. She also emphasizes the importance of connecting with others in the industry, building relationships and helping each other.
“Don’t feel like you have to hold back,” she said. “There’s room for everyone and collaborating can help you keep your sanity.”