Anita’s Founder Talks Scaling Struggles

Meagan McGinnes

Anita’s Coconut Yogurt is going back to the basics after a year of growing pains.

Anita Shepherd, a self-taught vegan pastry chef, founded the Brooklyn-based vegan yogurt brand in 2013. At its peak in 2017, Anita’s was sold in nearly 300 locations with retailers including Whole Foods Market, Fairway Market, and was available in numerous formats and flavors. But earlier this year, the company’s production facility suffered a yeast contamination that compromised any yogurt made in roughly the first six weeks of the year. Although safe to consume, the quality of the product was effected and Anita’s issued a voluntary withdrawal from stores.

After a subsequent production issue this spring that resulted in customer complaints, Shepherd decided to take drastic measures and pull all products off shelves in early May.

Shepherd used the break to regroup and strategize. Earlier this month, Anita’s began shipping product once again — now with a renewed focus on quality.

Shepherd hopes her focus on quality can set Anita’s apart at a time when the dairy-free yogurt market is seeing increased interest from consumers. The category is expected to rise to $7.4 billion by 2027, according to a report by market research firm Future Market Insights (FMI). While almond currently accounts for a majority of the share for non-dairy yogurt sales, coconut ranks second accounting for 20 percent of category sales.

Though Anita’s is still working through production and quality issues, the brand’s challenges, Shepherd said, are simply the same difficulties many emerging brands face.

During the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York City earlier this month, Shepherd spoke with NOSH about the challenges of scaling. To hear more about how she communicated those issues to her customers and why she thinks a laser focus on quality will help her business succeed, watch the video above.

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