Rising from the ashes of business disaster - with yoghurt

TUBS OF HEALTH: South Lismore entrepreneur Peter McKee, owner of Tree Frog Company, with his latest product – a vegan sugar-free coconut yoghurt.
TUBS OF HEALTH: South Lismore entrepreneur Peter McKee, owner of Tree Frog Company, with his latest product – a vegan sugar-free coconut yoghurt. Cathy Adams

IT WAS "poverty" that inspired South Lismore entrepreneur Peter McKee to come up with his latest product, an innovative, vegan, sugar-free coconut yoghurt.

Three years ago Mr McKee's South Lismore hummus business was going gangbusters until margin pressure by his biggest buyers pushed him to the brink of disaster.

Within 12 months, the business went from nine employees to two. He also lost $100,000 and was forced to remortgage his home to keep the business alive.

But like any true entrepreneur with grit, Mr McKee has begun his rise from the ashes.

"It has been struggle, struggle, struggle to get back. I had to refinance my home, had to sell several beloved personal possessions, just to get by," Mr McKee said.

"But I'm still here. I had to come up with some new products," he said.

His hoped-for salvation has come in the form of Frogyog, his take on the myriad of coconut products currently exploding in health food markets worldwide.

The forerunner in the coconut yogurt market is Sunshine Coast's Co-Yo, and he admitted it was an inspiration.

"They're the number one player. It was groundbreaking of them to do it."

Frogyog takes it one step further however, because it's sugar-free, a blessing to all those people watching their intake of the white stuff.

It's taken a painstaking nine months to come up with the right recipe, to get the thickness, flavour and look just right.

The product made its debut at Lismore's North Coast National last month.

"We've done six batches now and I've been distributing through one local distributor from Potts Point to Macksville," Mr McKee said.

About Real Foods

TWENTY years ago, South Lismore-based Mike's Real Foods pioneered gourmet hummus varieties such as black olive hummus, sweet chilli, and sundried tomato before anyone else was doing it.

That led to a supply agreement with Coles and Woolworths which lasted for 17 years.

Mr McKee would like to see labelling laws improved to educate people exactly about where food comes from, so people can appreciate what's truly local.

Topics:  business entrepreneurs

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