By Betty Williamson
When the van der Ploeg family came from Holland to the United States in 2003 to establish the Mid-Frisian Dairy in eastern New Mexico between Clovis and Texico, one of the first things they missed was having access to the kind of yoghurt they knew and loved.
Andle van der Ploeg remembers his wife, Sjierkje, saying that “it sure would be great if we could buy the kind of yoghurt we like here.” They eventually realized the solution was “to make it ourselves.”
The van der Ploegs are the affable owners of one of the newest family businesses to take foot on the high plains: Freanna Original Yoghurt.
Note the spelling. That’s right. Yoghurt. With an “h.”
“That’s how you know it’s real yoghurt,” Sjierkje says with a smile.
The van der Ploegs have a daughter and three sons, all living on or near the dairy. Karla, a graduate of Eastern New Mexico University and licensed realtor, has turned her full attention to developing and marketing the Freanna yoghurt. Bart manages the dairy; Jeroen is a certified welder who also manages the yoghurt plant; and Gerben is running the farm. Jeroen’s fiancé, Tracy Tuttle, has also had a hand in the new business venture, and is credited for Freanna’s slogan: “A yoghurt like no other.”
Freanna Original Yoghurt is not the thick, sweetened yogurt that many American consumers might expect. It is made only from whole, pasteurized milk (easy to find on a dairy that milks 1,600 cows) and the family’s secret (although FDA-approved!) mix of live and active cultures.
“Some cultures and the process used makes yoghurt taste sour,” Andle added, but said his family has spent the last couple of years refining Freanna’s smooth, mild flavor.
There are no preservatives, sweeteners or flavorings of any kind.
Karla said that most yogurts also contain thickening ingredients. Because Freanna does not, the final product has a mild taste and smooth consistency.
An 8-ounce serving has only 121 calories, yet provides 21 percent of the recommended daily allowance of protein and 23 percent of the recommended amount of calcium. Freanna yoghurt is filled with active cultures and pro-biotics.
The gleaming stainless steel collection of tubes and state-of-the-art custom-engineered tanks that has already been used to make the first batches of Freanna yoghurt came to the high plains in parts from several different countries and was installed by a local business.
From pasteurization to the activation of the yoghurt cultures to the highly automated packaging, the process for making a batch of yoghurt takes about 12 hours. Unopened and refrigerated, the yoghurt has a two-month lifespan. After it’s been opened, the van der Ploegs encourage customers to finish a carton within three days.
The name Freanna is in honor of the family’s home province in Holland—Friesland—and also pays homage to Anna, or actually several generations of Annas, prize-winning cows from the van der Ploeg herds.
The company logo, a distinctive blue and green soft heart shape with a rocking red heart in the middle, can be seen anywhere the yoghurt is currently carried, including Paradise Market, Coffee Bistro, Makin’ It Natural and Gallery 15 in Clovis, the Do Drop Inn and Veggie Shack in Portales, the Old Country Store in Farwell, the La Montanita Co-op and Keller’s in Albuquerque, the La Montanita Co-op in Santa Fe, the Toucan Market in Las Cruces, and the Silver City Food Co-op.
Karla and her mother have given out lots of sample tastes of the yoghurt at events around eastern New Mexico and west Texas.
Sjierkje said a number of tasters commented that Freanna yoghurt “tastes more like homemade yoghurt.”
“People are amazed that plain yoghurt can taste this good without additives,” said Karla.
The purity and quality, ultimately, are what it’s all about.
The van der Ploeg family is counting on converting plenty of consumers to the tasty, healthful product they have eaten and loved for years.
If you’d like to learn more about Freanna yoghurt, visit www.freanna.com.