ReGen Brands Recap #52

Hayley Painter @ Painterland Sisters

Regenerative Skyr Yogurt Safeguarding The Family Farm

Hayley Painter is one of the Co-Founders at Painterland Sisters. Painterland Sisters is supporting regenerative agriculture with its line of organic and regenerative Icelandic skyr yogurt products made with organic milk sourced from the Painter's family farm and others in the Northern Pennsylvania area.

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Yogurt, Supercharged

Painterland Sisters offers organic skyr yogurt in six flavors (plain, strawberry, blueberry, lemon, vanilla bean, meadow berry). Skyr-style yogurt is one of the most nutrient-dense yogurts available, with low sugar and high protein. 

Unlike most yogurt brands produced using a high-speed centrifuge (losing all of the whey protein and micronutrients in the process), Icelandic and Greek yogurt are both strained. Painterland uses an ultra-filtration process originally developed in Iceland that strains water out (and 50% of the sugar) of yogurt while preserving all the protein and micronutrients. For every one cup of yogurt, they’re using four cups of milk with 6% milk fat, resulting in a protein-rich, lactose-free product with a rich, velvety texture and billions of BB12 probiotics.

The quality of their milk is also a key contributor to taste and nutrient density. Using a “grass-based” diet of 95% grass and 5% nutrient-dense grain (based on what wild ruminant animals eat), they can ensure their cattle get all the nutrients they need.

“We’re very strong believers in diversity from what the cows eat all the way to what type of cows we have. All of our cattle are crossbred so we can provide the healthiest possible animal with the highest longevity.” – Hayley
 

Saving the Family Farm

Hayley and her sister Stephanie are the fourth generation on their family’s organic dairy and crop farm based in Northern Pennsylvania (their ancestors brought over the first milking short horns to the country). After a childhood running in the wild and working the farm, Hayley was heartbroken when she learned only 2% of the country's population is directly involved in agriculture. Hayley now sees how disconnected consumers are from the source of their food, the American family farmer.

Recent events made the two sisters realize that their family farm was in jeopardy, and that they needed to develop value-added products to ensure its viability long term. They knew finding a way to connect consumers to the farm was the answer, but they weren't originally sure what products to make.  

The sisters went on a quest – from Costa Rica, to North Carolina and New York – to figure out the right value-added dairy product to make. They settled on organic Icelandic skyr yogurt, seeing an opportunity for premium quality products with high protein and micronutrients. They partnered with a plant in Pennsylvania, founded by a 10th-generation Icelandic skyr maker.

“You can't make it as a family farm alone. It takes a whole community and others like you. So we set out to sustain our family farm and others like it, to showcase what we’re doing and to connect the farmer directly to the consumer, providing transparency and a voice.” – Hayley

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Off to a Hot Start

Painterland launched its first product in March 2022, getting its first big distribution win with Giant, a northeast regional grocery chain with 190 stores. The support they received from Giant and the success they had on the shelf quickly turned them into a national brand. Within their first 12 months (despite having to hand-label their first 60k cups!), Painterland sold more than a million dollars worth of yogurt and is on a path to sell $3.5 million by the end of its first 2 years in business. The product is currently available in more than 2,000 stores nationwide and sold in every state but Alaska.

We were chasing a mission and did whatever we had to do to get there. We learned as we went and we were running…If someone shut our farm off tomorrow, could we could sustain ourselves? That was the question we were trying to answer.” – Hayley 

Rallying the “MOO-Crew”

Hayley is thrilled to capitalize on consumer demand for better nutrition and traceability, telling their story as a farm and brand through social media. Unlike some organic farmers who focus on the negatives of conventional farming, Painterland is all about supporting other farmers, staying vulnerable and humble, and playing up the positives of farming and a rural lifestyle. 

The local community has rallied behind them, advocating for the brand because they feel like Painterland’s mission to save family farms is their own. Their “MOO-crew” is spreading the word across the country as brand ambassadors, posting pictures on social media and sharing the story by word of mouth. 

Where Regeneration Starts

As a farmer, Hayley has always considered regenerative ag about restoring soil and, more importantly, restoring balance – and we can’t do that without the symbiotic relationship between the land, farmer, and grazing animals. She emphasizes how important it is to allow animals to work with nature, to graze outside on fresh pastures and restore nutrients to the soil; and how important it is to change the market incentives, so farmers can think beyond yield and focus on the longevity and health of their land. 

“To me, regenerative means sustaining and giving back to the land, the soil, the environment, the animals, and the communities and the farmer itself. The farmer is the steward of the land, and if farmers can't even sustain themselves and their kids for future generations, how can they provide for the land and to the animals?” – Hayley

Hayley shared much of the uncertainty facing generational farmers and the need for a clear path to the future. She emphasized the need for brands to work with existing farmers and partner with them in their transition – rather than rushing to “pop up a brand new house.” 

Funding for the Future

In addition to funding from grants through the USDA and the State of Pennsylvania, Painterland Sisters always welcomes the advice that comes with it. “We never assume we know everything and aren’t afraid to ask questions or be transparent,” she adds.

They’ve also opened a WeFunder campaign to fund continued growth and create diversity in the food system. Their goal is to scale profitably, building something that serves their community for decades to come rather than looking for an exit to a strategic buyer.

“90% of the brands on grocery shelves are owned by 10 companies. That’s not diversity. Our vision is to create this difference for a long time and to have a company that really soars and hits profitability and can stand on its own. And with that goal, we want investors who want to come in and reap those benefits along the way. It's not a system of, hey, come in, we're gonna sell the company within 5 to 10 years. It's, hey, come in, we're going to create an empire together and you can either get the distributions of profits or you can sell your share that's gonna be worth a lot more because you're gonna help us grow with it.” – Hayley

50% Market Share for Regen by 2050

For Hayley, fundamental to regenerative ag is ensuring farmer livelihoods. Farmers are ready to make the transition to regenerative practices, but they need the resources and support to do it. As the movement gains momentum, with more shelf space and greater marketing opportunities, margins are critical.

“If we get that 50% market share, I want to make sure the market provides an adequate sales price so these brands can continue to thrive. More importantly, so we can pay that directly back down to these farmers because getting regenerative certification, changing how they farm, it's going to be an extra expense for them."

“Impact is not just about selling products. It’s how we connect consumers to farmers, and farmers back to consumers. It’s about building sustainability in the food system, supporting agricultural communities and education.” – Hayley


You can check out the full episode with Hayley Painter @ Painterland Sisters HERE.

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This ReGen Recap was produced with support from Kristina Tober