Like many business owners across the country Cass Spies, founder of Australian frozen yogurt company Twisted Healthy Treats, felt the sudden shock of the COVID-19 lockdown and pandemic when her business ‘went to zero overnight’. But, in a remarkable turnaround, Cass’s planned expansion into overseas markets, turned 2020 from potential disaster to tangible delight.
Back in March, 2020, when Australia felt the first pangs of the COVID-19 pandemic, with lockdowns and business closure across the nation, Cass Spies, the founder of Twisted Healthy Treats frozen yoghurt company, watched her business disappear.
“When the lockdown first occurred, our business went to zero overnight, which was an incredibly scary place to be as a business owner,” says Cass, who had spent the past 11 years building Twisted Healthy Treats into a national success through several development phases and significant investment.
The overriding emotion at the time was panic, she recently told Game Changers presenter Natarsha Belling. “The first things were panic and sadness because we had really built the business to a point where I felt very confident and strong in terms of the position we were in,” Cass explains.
“My first thought was, how do we get through this together as a team? How do I make sure I am looking after the people on my team? I had people’s livelihoods in my hands…that was really first and foremost in my mind, as well as the safety of the team.”
Indeed, the business prospects appeared bleak as the public’s attention shifted from frozen treats to hoarding toilet paper and other essentials during an uncertain and, at times, frightening period in the country’s history.
Cass and her company create frozen yogurt and ice-cream treats that are not just delicious but are also good for you. Twisted Healthy Treats come in low-sugar, zero-sugar, gluten-free and probiotic varieties that are sold in thousands of supermarkets across Australia, as well as school canteens.
“We lost our school canteen business, our grocery sales pretty much plummeted,” Cass recalls. “Then, just as things were starting to look grim from the sales perspective, our first purchase order from corporate retailer Costco in the United States came in and we were able to turn our attention and all our energies to that. And that was a real game changer for the business.”
At the heart of that abrupt change of fortune were years of dedicated demanding work. “It was a project we’d been working on for just over two years,” Cass says, “We had hoped it would land at some point in 2020. We’d done so much groundwork, the licenses and approvals from Canberra, the ability to export Australian dairy is not for the faint-hearted. But we got there, and the team was amazing in terms of getting behind it.
“I think the most exciting thing about that time was the first four forty-foot containers of frozen Australian dairy product was meant to last three months on the US shelves, but it actually sold out in three weeks. So, on the back of that, we have generated more and more and more product, and were about to close the door on the 20th forty-foot container for the year, which is really exciting.”
The success hasn’t just benefited Cass and her company. “It’s been amazing for everybody in our supply chain,” says Cass. “It’s all Australian dairy – something I am very passionate about – but also our packaging is from an Australian manufacturer, so in hindsight, it’s been a wonderful year.”
CHECK OUT CASS SPIES INTERVIEW WITH MELISSA DOYLE BELOW