|Founded||March 2005 (as Agro Farma)|
South Edmeston, New York, U.S.
|Headquarters||Norwich, New York, U.S.|
Number of employees
Chobani is an American food company specializing in strained yogurt. The company was founded in 2005 by Hamdi Ulukaya who had bought a plant in the town of South Edmeston, New York, that was being closed by Kraft Foods. Ulukaya hired several of the former Kraft employees as well as a "yogurt master" and launched his brand in 2007.
Chobani sells thick, Greek-style yogurt with a higher protein content than traditional yogurt and is one of the main companies to popularize this style of yogurt in the US. The company has also expanded to non-dairy, plant-based products such as dairy-free vegan yogurt and oat milk. The company promotes its products as health food. Chobani is the top-selling Greek yogurt brand in America and operates the largest yogurt facility in the world. Its products include a variety of Greek, or strained, yogurt cups, flips, drinks, and children's snacks, dairy-based coffee creamers, as well as plant-based products made with organic oats or coconut. Chobani's yogurt's market share in the U.S. rose from less than 1% in 2007 to more than 50% in 2013.
Chobani was founded in 2005 by the Turkish Kurd and businessman Hamdi Ulukaya. He chose the name Chobani as a variation of the modern Turkish word çoban, from Ottoman Turkish چوبان (čobân); itself derived from Persian چوپان (čupân) meaning 'shepherd'.
Chobani was inspired by Ulukaya's childhood spent raising sheep and goats and making cheese with his family. Not impressed by the yogurt options available in the United States, Ulukaya made strained yogurt at his home in Upstate New York. In 2005, after seeing an ad for a former Kraft Foods yogurt plant for sale in South Edmeston, New York, Ulukaya decided to buy it with a Small Business Administration Loan. He launched the strained yogurt business with the help of a handful of the plant's former employees. His goal was to provide Americans with a more authentic, nutritious and accessible yogurt. The first line-up of Chobani flavors included plain, vanilla, strawberry, peach, and blueberry. In less than five years after the launch, Chobani realized over $1 billion in annual sales and became the leading seller of Greek yogurt in America.
Ulukaya began adding new product lines to his brand in 2010, beginning with Chobani Champions, a Greek yogurt designed for children. In 2013 he added the Chobani Bite, a small-size yogurt with flavors including chocolate; Chobani Flip, yogurt with a separate section of toppings; and Chobani Simply 100, marketed as the first and only 100-calorie Greek yogurt made with only natural ingredients.
In November 2011, Chobani expanded into Victoria, Australia through the purchase of Victorian dairy company Bead Foods. It then invested $30m to expand the facility and began manufacturing from the Dandenong South plant in December 2012.
In 2012, the brand opened its second plant in what became the world's largest yogurt facility in Twin Falls, Idaho, with an initial investment of $750 million. The move created approximately 7,000 jobs, and unemployment rates in the region dropped from 6.3% to 2.4%.
In 2013, Chobani was ordered to change their yogurt's labeling in England and Wales after a judge ruled that the wording "Greek yoghurt" (rather than Greek-style) misled consumers into thinking the yogurt was made in Greece (yogurt imported from Greece is sold in Britain, and is the only type sold as "Greek").
On September 3, 2013, Chobani pulled some of its Greek-style yogurt from supermarket shelves after hearing of "swelling or bloating" in cups. The company said it has investigated and found a type of mold commonly found in dairy that may be to blame. Chobani announced a voluntary recall on September 5 in cooperation with the FDA. On September 9, 2013, the FDA reported at least 89 people reported becoming sick after eating the yogurt.
The Twin Falls plant won the 2013 DBIA Design-Build Project of the Year award and the 2013 Food Plant of the Year award from Food Engineering magazine.
Following the success of its product in Australia, in 2014 Chobani expanded its distribution to Asia and Latin America, beginning with Singapore, Malaysia, and Panama. The company announced plans for the Caribbean as well. In April 2014, Chobani reached a deal with private-equity firm TPG for a $750-million investment, which funded the company's expansion and the launch of a new line of products. In 2014 he launched Chobani Oats, a blend of Greek yogurt, steel-cut oats and fruit; Seasonal varieties, including watermelon and pink grapefruit; Chobani Indulgent, a dessert yogurt; and a 4%-fat plain Greek yogurt.
In April 2016, CEO Hamdi Ulukaya announced that he would be giving Chobani employees 10% of the company's shares. In October 2016, the company announced that it was implementing a program to give six weeks of paid parental leave to new parents.
Chobani introduced its products in Mexico in August 2016.
In 2017, Chobani surpassed Yoplait as the No. 2 manufacturer in overall yogurt. That same year, the company introduced new packaging and a new brand identity as a "food-focused wellness company". The company also announced a $20 million expansion of the Twin Falls plant, with a 70,000 square-foot sustainable facility and a new global research and development center.
When Chobani was launched, Greek yogurt made up less than 1% of the yogurt market in the U.S. As of 2017, Greek yogurt accounted for 50% of U.S. yogurt sales.
In the spring of 2018, CEO Hamdi Ulukaya appeared on the Ellen DeGeneres Show and Good Morning America to announce that the company was celebrating its 10th anniversary as a national brand by giving a Chobani yogurt to every person in America.
In November 2019, Chobani introduced plant-based beverages made with organic oats and Chobani Coffee Creamer, made with milk and cream that comes naturally from the company's yogurt-making process.
Chobani named in December 2020 that former finance chief of 8th Avenue Food & Provisions Jody Macedonio will be the company's new CFO. Ms. Macedonio has stated the company plans to expand their distribution network for their oat milk products while enlarging its product portfolio. She will be overseeing a wage increase for the company's hourly workers, making up 70% of people employed by the company, from $13 to at least $15.
In 2020, Chobani won the Lausanne Index Prize - Supreme Award.
In January 2021, Chobani launched a new product, iced coffee. It comes in four flavors: one black cold brew option, one with oat milk, one with sweet creamer, and another with vanilla.
Since the founding, Chobani has donated a portion of profits back into the communities where its employees live and work. The company's philanthropy focuses on improving childhood nutrition, strengthening the communities near its plants in New York and Idaho, and supporting those in need after major disasters in the U.S.
In November 2018, Chobani announced a new partnership with the national nonprofit Operation Homefront, with the aim of raising $1 million for America's military families. The funds will help in the delivery of critical financial assistance and support for military families across the nation. Chobani donated $500,000 and the company pledged to match up to $250,000 in additional donations facilitated by a new Chobani product called “Hero Batch” Red, White and Blueberry Greek yogurt. The new product was designed by military veterans at Chobani.
In May 2019, CEO Ulukaya pledged to pay the student lunch debt for all Warwick school district students in Rhode Island and urged other companies to step up to fight food insecurity across the country.
Hamdi Ulukaya launched the Chobani Food Incubator in 2016 to support food entrepreneurs aiming to challenge the food industry, improve broken systems, and bring better food to more people. The program provides food and beverage startups with a nonequity investment, resources, mentorship and programming.
In 2018, the company announced the creation of the Chobani Incubator Food Tech Residency.
In November 2019, the Chobani Incubator introduced its new Vets Cohort to help current and former armed service members who are also food entrepreneurs grow their business. The program was formed through a partnership with the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University.
In April 2016, Chobani announced it was giving 10 percent of its ownership stake to its employees. The company allotted shares to its employees based on tenure, reportedly helping some of the company's longest serving employees become millionaires.
Paid parental leave
Effective in 2017, Chobani implemented a new paid parental leave policy, offering 100% paid parental leave for six weeks for all full-time hourly and salaried employees that have completed at least 12 months of continuous employment. The program extends to both mothers and fathers for the birth, adoption, or placement of a foster child into the home.
In 2016, following reports on Chobani's practice of employing refugees, the company received calls for boycotts and death threats. Approximately 30% of Chobanis workforce is comprised from refugees and immigrants.
Alex Jones lawsuit
In April 2017, Chobani filed a defamation lawsuit in Idaho state court against Alex Jones following a number of allegations made on the InfoWars website. As a result of the lawsuit, Jones issued an apology and retracted his allegations on May 17, 2017.
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