Christiana Zhu proudly calls herself a ‘Chiwi’ (a kiwi of Chinese ethnicity). A New Zealand expat from Auckland, she was exposed to the Asian market while working in the NZ tourism industry. She moved to China in 2014 to explore the Chinese market, was hired by WildChina for a project and eventually stayed on as head of marketing with WildChina.The move to Beijing hugely impacted her physically; she developed allergies and severe eczema, while her body adjusted to the air quality, different environment, and foods. In an effort to manage her allergies, triggered by severe lactose intolerance amongst other factors, she tried various solutions, and that’s how she discovered coconut milk based yogurt, which has really helped reduce her skin related issues.
“When I realized how beneficial it was, I wanted to share it with friends, in the hope of opening their eyes and minds to new healthy options for people with food allergies, who might have difficulty finding certain foods here in Beijing”, Christiana tells us.
“My friend made coconut yogurt for me and taught me to make it for myself, as it wasn’t available anywhere in China, including Taobao! I started taking it to parties and gatherings. It slowly got popular and then, urged by my supportive friends, I tried selling it at Farms to Neighbors farmers market. I really did not expect it to be such a huge hit. I sold out every single time and started getting WeChat orders for the week”, she adds.
From there, the business developed naturally. There is a huge demand in Beijing for dairy free products, especially yogurts. Expanding to the Hatchery has helped with wider visibility. Since it’s still a part time venture, she continues with her day job and is somehow managing to keep up with this fast growing business as well.
Yeyo is only six months old and very much in its infancy right now. However Christiana is taking it one step at a time and enjoying the steady growth, while entertaining further expansion ideas. “The most challenging part is to find the time and energy to keep it going! Yet, every time I feel tired and get tempted to scale back, I get a message or feedback from some client telling me how much they enjoy my yogurt, how they’ve not had yogurt for years due to allergies and can’t thank me enough for making it available for them. They send me pictures with their yogurt! That re-energizes me and helps me plow through, to keep going”.
There’s no competition for her in the Beijing area, especially because it’s also unsweetened yogurt, which is hard to find in China. She offers dairy free yogurt, with the consistency of a Greek style yogurt, in three flavors every week. Two are standard, the pure yogurt and yogurt with honey. The third flavor varies every week, with a seasonal fruit compote at the bottom to make it interesting. You can find her yogurts at Farm to Neighbors Farmers Market, at the Hatchery and through WeChat as well. They come in 150ml glass jars for RMB 30, or a pack of four in a cooler bag for RMB 100. You can get a discount for recycling glass jars to reduce wastage. The delivery fee varies based on your location, and the yogurt needs to be delivered to your door within an hour, for it to be fresh. It’s usually around RMB 16 for CBD area and RMB 24 for the hutongs. And that name? It’s simple. Yeyo comes from the Chinese words ‘ye’ for coconut and ‘yo’ for yogurt!
Photo: Courtesy of Christana Zhu, Yeyo Yogurt.