A Healthy Success
When Anes Dracic (TPR 2014) and Aditya Dhere (TPR 2014) were hatching their 'Designing and Leading a Business' class project, they didn't have to look far. The two were both hooked on healthy living and the yogurt they'd been raised on.
Dracic's mother had sold yogurt from the family farm in their native Bosnia, while Dhere's mother continued the family's Indian tradition of making homemade yogurt.
"With Greek yogurt, Aditya and I noticed an unmet consumer need," said Dracic of a category that has grown exponentially in recent years. "Both of us lead a healthy and active lifestyle, which mandates a high protein intake; however, the vast yogurt options in the market had much more sugar than protein."
Anes Dracic, Jennifer Mrzlack, Aditya Dhere
"We saw that while organic food sales were trending up, organic yogurt sales were actually trending down," he continued. "After speaking with a multitude of consumers, our beliefs were confirmed — they wanted organic yogurt but were unhappy with the available options!"
Naturi organic Greek yogurt was born.
While transitioning their project into a business, the entrepreneurial pair connected with Jennifer Mrzlack (TPR 2010), an alumna who Dracic said had the same passion and drive for food, but also industry experience.
For production, the team carefully chose a third-generation family dairy farm in upstate New York, with organically pastured cows.
"Simply put, we are equally passionate about the health benefits and quality of our ingredients as we are about the well-being and treatment of the livestock that produces the delicious organic milk that we use in our yogurt," Dracic said.
Founded in 2014, Naturi has grown to five employees with products sold in more than 150 stores across 12 states, including four locations on the CMU Pittsburgh campus. Production of their five flavors of nonfat yogurt has steadily increased and the company plans to introduce two new product lines, including full fat (4 percent) and bulk (16 oz.) options.
"By offering a full-fat option, we are excited to provide what our consumers desire," Dracic said. "There are many benefits to consuming whole milk yogurt, including increased levels of omega-3 fatty acids."
The Naturi team is grateful for the numerous ways their alma mater has given them a leg up. Naturi was selected as a 2014 Carnegie Mellon Open Field Entrepreneurs Fund winner, receiving a $50,000 grant as well as mentoring, legal and accounting support.
"Directly and indirectly, CMU has helped in nearly every facet of Naturi's existence," Dracic said. "We met countless advisors and mentors, like Dave Mawhinney, Carnegie Mellon Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship co-director."
"In addition," he continued, "the network and credentials that CMU has given us are incredible and have provided us with contacts that enabled our growth at every step of the way."