Can Greek yogurt be frozen on a stick and turned into a dessert? When Amanda Klane first explored the idea, food scientists told her the concept wasn’t feasible – the thickness of the yogurt with its higher protein content would be a processing issue for the equipment.
But Klane wasn’t deterred, and worked with the manufacturing plants to develop the right formulas. That’s when Yasso frozen Greek yogurt bars were born, debuting in supermarkets three years ago.
“We reinvented the yogurt category, ” said Klane, who cofounded the purveyor, Apollo Food Group, of Boston, with longtime friend Drew Harrington.
Q: You and Drew are young entrepreneurs, both 25 now. How is your youth an advantage and a disadvantage?
A: Being young sort of worked against us initially because we had no track record. But there were a few people willing to give us a shot. There will always be roadblocks, but when you figure out how to get around them, you succeed, no matter what your age.
Q: While developing Yasso, one of your first steps was attending an ice cream camp. What did you learn there?
A: I knew we wanted to do some sort of frozen novelty because I’m a huge ice cream lover and my grandmother owned an ice cream shop. But I also didn’t want a highly indulgent treat. We attended a dairy program at Penn State that takes you from ‘‘cow to cone.’’ Then we spent 18 months on research and development, perfecting our recipe.
Q: How did you decide on a flavor profile for Yasso?
A: We went through 20 flavors of strawberry before we got to the one where we landed. For strawberry, like most fruity flavors, there is a spectrum of combinations, from earthy and fruity to fresh. We worked with flavor and fruit suppliers to target the flavor we wanted, which was a very fresh strawberry taste.
Q: Your family owns and operates SM Klane, a food distributor, and you were previously a food broker. How did this experience help you?
A: I grew up walking the grocery store with my dad, looking at the different lines he represented and hearing how to get they get into the store, how promotions work, and more. It was a huge help having that knowledge. My father still gives us feedback every day.
Q: Any idea why New York is the Silicon Valley of yogurt?
A: There are a lot of dairy farms in upstate New York. That’s where we source our yogurt from as well. Greek yogurt leader Chobani started the boom and the rest of the industry followed.