IT IS one of the few first names on show in nearly every supermarket in Wales thanks to its connection with one of the country’s most popular foods.
And now, the founder of Britain’s first organic dairy is aiming to gather together the world’s largest collection of people who share the name.
The online Calling All Rachels campaign, fronted by glamorous television presenter Rachel de Thame, is a world away from the modest beginnings of a company which hit the big time almost by accident when its owners began selling products locally having been snowed in on their farm during the winter of 1982.
Rachel’s Organic was founded on a farm near Borth, near Aberystwyth, when Rachel Rowlands and her husband Gareth started selling milk, cream and home-made butter and yoghurt to local shops after one of the worst snowfalls in recent history meant milk could not be collected from the farm to which her grandmother had moved in 1942.
Within weeks, the demand for the products was enormous and grew so much that a purpose built dairy was commissioned in 1990. The company was taken over by the US food giant Dean Foods in 2004.
Today, the 100% organic company supplies Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Morrison’s as well as The Ritz Hotel, Eurostar and a host of independent retailers, with more than 10 million pots of yogurt.
Their new campaign aims to encourage people to lead a healthier lifestyle and will hope to create a bigger community, albeit online, than the 1,224 Joneses who broke the record for the largest gathering of people with the same surname at the Wales Millennium Centre in 2006.
Some well-known Welsh Rachels it could persuade to sign up are Rhondda author Rachel Tresize and former Office actress Rachel Isaac, from Maesteg, while more famous Rachels include pop star Rachel Stevens, English actress Rachel Weisz and model Rachel Hunter.
But the idea was not over-enthusiastically received by ordinary Rachels yesterday.
“Rachel is so popular a name I don’t think I’d bother getting involved with this,” said Rachel Williams, 28, a civil engineer from Ammanford. “I don’t feel a particular connection with other people called Rachel – it’s more a case of feeling common! – and I doubt it would lead to me buying the yoghurt, though I have done in the past.”
Marketing experts said the campaign was a risky but clever strategy. “We would never usually advise clients to base their campaign on such a negligible part of their target audience. You have to wonder what percentage of their target audience are actually called Rachel,” said Fiona Anderson, head of PR at Working Word PR.
“But that’s not the point here. It’s a clever campaign which is generating wider exposure for the brand thanks to a unique approach.
“The best marketing campaigns are the ones that get people talking, such as Dove’s ‘real women’ campaign. That seemed like a risky strategy for the company to take, moving away from the airbrushed models usually associated with advertising beauty products, but it really struck a chord with the public and sales soared.
“Rachel’s is a brand that punches above its weight and this is another example of how they set themselves apart from their competitors with a quirky and creative approach to their marketing. A campaign that has a ‘talkability’ factor is worth its weight in gold.”
Aled Edwards, marketing account director at Freshwater PR, said: “It’s a bit restrictive. I don’t know how many Rachels there are out there, but everyone but Rachel may feel a bit left out. Saying that, it is quirky and different which will generate publicity so it has done its job.”
Mrs Rowlands said: “In the 1980s we based everything on the simple premise that, given the choice, consumers do in fact prefer fresh, natural food produced in harmony with nature.” She is now semi-retired and acts as a consultant to the company.
“It was a leap of faith at the time but one that paid off. Little did we know that we were actually pioneering Britain’s first organic dairy brand. Those very same core values underpin everything that Rachel’s still stands for today.”