Orgánica started when I was 23. At that moment I was studying Exercise Sciences at the Universidad del Sagrado Corazón and worked as a personal trainer. My own clients helped me develop the idea. I have always been surrounded by wellness, nature, exercise: a healthy lifestyle. During a trip to New York City I went into a Health Food establishment that made me wonder what it would be like to create my own natural product back at home. So the first thing I did when I returned to Puerto Rico was research. I read endlessly about fermentation, milk, yogurt – and created my first product, the strawberry flavored one.
Do you have a motto? What is it?
What has always led me to accomplish things: one step at a time. You have to wake up in the morning
order to achieve my dreams?”
Do you feel you inspire others with your work?
I think so. When we offer our products to small businesses we inspire them to move ahead and grow. Many of my clients are young entrepreneurs like me, so we inspire each other, in a way. I know that they benefit from selling my product, and that way we all grow.
How do you define healthy eating?
Eating organic is about eliminating any chemically processed items from your diet. For example, think of a fruit, which is a lot less modified than, say, pasta. Many of the foods we buy are so processed that they have to artificially add in more vitamins and minerals because otherwise you’d have a dead product that won’t nourish you. Organic foods are healthy from the start, protected from the source to make sure you receive all the nutrients.
A good diet should have whole wheat, lots of fiber, and it should respond to your body’s specific needs. Even though I understand the vegan lifestyle, I don’t like completely eliminating meat because the body needs those proteins and fats that are only present in meat. Good fats, like the ones you find in fish and linseed, aren’t saturated. And of course, I have to mention exercise. The body needs exercise in order to properly absorb the nutrients and process the foods we put into it.
So, why yogurt?
That brings us back to my trip to NYC. When I entered that Health Food store all the employees were doing everything naturally, fresh. They were chopping carrots and fruits, churning them into products and packaging them right there. I looked at a refrigerator and saw some yogurt cups that looked good and thought to myself: “I want to make that product, that’s what I want to do” because it’s an extremely healthy thing that I’ve always liked. When I arrived in Puerto Rico I had no idea how to make it, so I burnt a lot of pots and milk.
Did you encounter many challenges when developing your business here in the island? How did the public receive your product?
When you talk to me about that I just think of all the times I have had to go to a government office and my life has been made that much difficult. Because of the economic situation, most of the agencies have less workers but much more work. I would bet that there are a bunch of business owners who stop doing what they do because of this. But all in all it just motivates me to encounter a problem and face it successfully.
Another obstacle in my way has been keeping my products in top quality. Thank God we’ve never had any major setbacks, but it’s difficult because any type of change in the temperature or the acidity can change the flavor of the product.
Reception, however, has been excellent. From my first flavor (strawberry) to my last (chocolate), clients have responded very well. We started out producing 15 units per week and now we produce 10,000 units monthly. We have around 50 clients all over the island, even as far as Rincón. They’ve all been great, really.
How is your product different from any other in the market?
Our product does not include any kind of preservatives or additives to make it last longer. Our philosophy is to always offer products that are natural and nutritious. We want to nourish the people! We also treat our employees with care and respect.
Where do you obtain the ingredients you use in your yogurt?
Many of the fruits are organic-grown by local farmers, like the papaya. I try to help move the island’s economy because we really need that. The cocoa we use is Fair Trade. We get it through La Chiwinha, a Fair Trade shop here in Río Piedras. I think they ship it in from Guatemala.
What’s your most popular flavor? Which is your favourite?
Strawberry is the most popular. Then oatmeal, and then mango. My favorite is coffee. I’m a big coffee lover and that one is made with local coffee from Jayuya. It’s really good, and I like supporting local coffee plantations. Sometimes we underestimate our own coffee but it’s unadulterated, really pure coffee that is toasted and ground in the same place, so I buy it fresh. Here we strain it and put it into the yogurt, there’s no coffee flavoring or anything like that in our yogurt. I think it’s a really special product.
What does your company do to reduce its impact on the environment?
We’re changing the plastic we use in our cups to a biodegradable one. We also give talks and workshops about recycling. The last one was at the Museo del Niño and we taught the kids to make a small vegetable garden with leftover yogurt cups. That way we plant the seed of recycling in the minds of young children.
What goals have you set for Orgánica in the future?
First, to reach the entire island with our products through big chain supermarkets. We also just developed a smaller, more cost-effective product. Another goal is to export our product, specifically to Latin America where people eat a lot of yogurt. We also want to expand to other foods in the long term, even vegetables, healthy products that we can obtain from local farmers and market under the Orgánica brand.
That product is a completely natural and organic granola bar that we’re developing. It has flax and sesame seeds, almonds, black sugar and honey, a very delicious and nutritious food. It also has almost all the calcium you need in a day. It’s a product that stays well-preserved, so it will be great for exporting.
That sounds so yummy! Can you tell me something about your company that you have not told another publication?
I’m not alone in this. I have a group of friends, some who have been with me since I first told them about my idea, and I’ve been lucky to have people who support me selflessly. I have only about four friends, but they’re always there for me. That’s really important for any person who wants to develop an idea.
Be sure to check out Organica’s Facebook!