Rachel Rowlands, Founder, Rachel's Organic

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The Independent Online

She's the yogurt lady, right?

Very good, though Rachel's makes a bit more than just yoghurt these days. Have you tried the chocolate desserts? They're to die for.

Are they rich?

The puddings aren't – very light in fact – but Ms Rowlands and her husband Gareth haven't done too badly: having built it up for almost 20 years, they sold the business in 1999 for £1.5m. Since then, they've worked as consultants to the company.

So what's going on now?

Rachel's is being sold again. Its current owner, Dean Foods of America, has flogged it to Groupe Lactalis, a French company. No one is talking publicly about a price, but £20m is the word on the street.

Goodness, that's a lot of yoghurt.

The business has certainly come a long way since the Rowlands founded it in 1982. It's quite a pile given that Ms Rowlands stumbled upon the idea almost by chance.

Tell us more.

Well Ms Rowlands is the daughter of Dinah Williams, an organic farming pioneer – the family farm, Brynllys in mid-Wales, was a founder member of the Soil Association. The winter of 1982, by which time Ms Rowlands was in charge, was a brutal one and for 10 days, the snow was so bad that the farm's milk couldn't be collected. Rather than throw it out, Ms Rowlands made pots of cream from it that she sold locally. The sideline continued once the snow had melted, leaving the farm with left-over skimmed milk. Ms Rowlands began using it to make yoghurt and the business took off.

What a charming story.

Indeed, and Ms Rowlands is a smart cookie. On selling the business in 1999, she insisted that the American purchasers commit to maintaining production at the Aberystwyth base to which it had moved after outgrowing Brynllys. The new French owner is expected to honour that pledge. This is a business with a £40m turnover and a customer base that includes major supermarkets, the Ritz hotel and Eurostar.