Chobani looks beyond yogurt with its first plant-based product

Chobani is growing up from its scrappy startup days.This winter, the 10-year-old company launched 30 ...

Posted: Jan 9, 2019 11:58 AM
Updated: Jan 9, 2019 11:58 AM

Chobani is growing up from its scrappy startup days.

This winter, the 10-year-old company launched 30 new items, more than it ever has in one season. The products are spread across three new lines: A lower-sugar alternative to its flagship Greek yogurts, Gimmies for kids and its first-ever non-dairy Chobani retail product, which hits shelves on Wednesday.

Business and industry sectors

Business, economy and trade

Chobani

Companies

Consumer products

Dairy products

Food and drink

Food products

Kinds of foods and beverages

Sugar

Sweeteners

Company activities and management

New products

Product management

Fruit

Fruits and vegetables

It's been an "unprecedented" period of expansion, said Peter McGuinness, Chobani's chief marketing and commercial officer. For now, Chobani is focused on filling the gaps in the yogurt aisle and encouraging more Americans to eat more yogurt.

Don't call it a yogurt

You may find Chobani's new product in the yogurt aisle, but you won't see "yogurt" on any of the packages.

The coconut-based products are available in single-serve cups and drinks. Cups come in vanilla, strawberry, blueberry, peach and slightly sweet plain, and drinks come in vanilla chai, strawberry, mango and slightly sweet plain. The company said that the coconut-based products contain about 25% less sugar than other plant-based yogurt alternatives. Coconut is the only base for now, but there may be others later.

The non-dairy yogurt alternative segment is still very small. But Chobani saw a parallel to its flagship product.

"Greek yogurt, ten years ago, was less than 1% of the market," McGuinness said. Now it's the most popular type of yogurt by far.

About 59% of yogurt shoppers said they bought Greek yogurt over a three-month period, according to a June survey conducted by the market research company Mintel and Lightspeed. Only 42% said they bought regular yogurt, and just 6% purchased non-dairy yogurt alternatives.

Mintel notes that non-dairy yogurt sales are growing, as are consumer interest and product development. And Chobani is entering into a competitive field. Danone's Silk makes almond milk yogurts and its So Delicious line include yogurt alternatives made from coconut milk. Stonyfield makes soy-based yogurt, and smaller companies like Kite Hill — which has funding from General Mills — also make artisanal plant- and nut-based yogurts.

But with its new products, Chobani hopes to grow the category, rather than take share from competitors.

Chobani's competitors use "yogurt" and "milk" to help customers understand the products. McGuinness said that Chobani's decision to avoid those words may put it at a disadvantage, at first, as customers figure out what dairy-free Chobani is.

"You can't call it a yogurt," McGuinness said. That's because yogurt is technically a dairy product. "We are being absolutely by the book because we think words matter," he said.

Plus, regulations may eventually require companies to stop referring to nut- and plant-based drinks as "milks," and non-dairy snacks as "yogurt," McGuiness said. If that happens, Chobani will be ahead of the game. And dairy products offer different health benefits than non-dairy ones. Chobani doesn't want to mislead customers with inaccurate comparisons.

Despite possible challenges, Chobani thinks people will prefer its product. When asked, consumers said they don't like the taste, texture or high sugar content of available plant-based products, McGuinness said.

Room to grow

Yogurt is an $8.5 billion sector in the United States, according to Mintel. Despite projections that the sector will shrink, McGuinness thinks the market could grow to between $12 and $13 billion. With the right products, advertising and pricing, that growth could take place over the next few years, he said.

To get there, Chobani and its competitors will have to educate the public on yogurt as a source of nutritional benefits, like calcium and probiotics. It also has to encourage US consumers to see yogurt in a new light: as a healthier alternative to sour cream or a base for dressings, soups and savory spreads. Chobani's cafes help "inspire" customers to think of creative ways to eat yogurt, McGuinness said.

"There's tons of growth to be had" in the yogurt sector, he noted. "You'll see us continue to innovate in the yogurt aisle."

Chobani has its eye on a number of emerging trends. "Probiotics are big, and I think they're going to be huge," McGuinness said. "Look to us to be championing probiotics ... there could be products that really specialize." Functional beverages, which may include probiotics, protein or vitamins, is another big trend.

The company is also looking at enhancing its line of Greek yogurts. "You'll have more fitness-oriented ones, you'll have more indulgent ones," he said. "It needs to be evolved."

And Chobani is looking beyond yogurt.

"Our founding vision was always better food for more people. It was never better yogurt for more people," McGuinness said. "I think that gives you all the clues you need."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 36096

Reported Deaths: 2231
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion10095598
Lake3833203
Allen175371
Cass15927
Elkhart149528
St. Joseph133736
Hendricks119276
Hamilton118394
Johnson1121112
Madison59961
Porter55830
Clark53041
Bartholomew52739
LaPorte44624
Howard44036
Tippecanoe4294
Jackson3992
Shelby39722
Delaware38940
Hancock35127
Boone32435
Floyd32340
Vanderburgh2892
Morgan28426
Noble26821
Montgomery24818
Clinton2461
White2389
Decatur23131
Grant22523
Dubois2093
Harrison19522
Henry18412
Kosciusko1792
Vigo1788
Marshall1782
Greene17225
Dearborn17022
Monroe17012
Lawrence16724
Warrick16729
Miami1441
Putnam1427
Jennings1324
Orange13122
Scott1263
Franklin1168
LaGrange1162
Ripley1086
Daviess9916
Carroll943
Steuben882
Wayne866
Wabash802
Fayette797
Newton7810
Jasper731
Jay540
Clay533
Randolph523
Rush513
Washington501
Fulton501
Pulaski500
Jefferson491
Whitley453
DeKalb441
Starke393
Perry390
Huntington382
Sullivan371
Owen341
Wells340
Brown331
Benton320
Knox310
Blackford272
Tipton261
Crawford240
Fountain222
Switzerland210
Spencer211
Adams211
Gibson192
Parke180
Posey160
Martin130
Ohio130
Warren121
Vermillion100
Union90
Pike60
Unassigned0179

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 37282

Reported Deaths: 2340
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin6216293
Cuyahoga4732259
Hamilton2767167
Marion268631
Lucas2313263
Pickaway209638
Summit1505181
Mahoning1466191
Butler94832
Columbiana89152
Stark782101
Lorain72260
Montgomery72016
Trumbull59451
Belmont44715
Warren39821
Medina37625
Tuscarawas3674
Miami36630
Delaware35514
Ashtabula34738
Portage33357
Lake32012
Fairfield3148
Clark3137
Wood30449
Geauga30034
Wayne29351
Licking26710
Mercer2238
Allen21933
Clermont2185
Richland2164
Darke18923
Erie18516
Madison1637
Washington11819
Crawford1184
Morrow1081
Greene1055
Ottawa10417
Putnam9514
Sandusky8512
Monroe8015
Auglaize773
Ross732
Hardin710
Hocking705
Jefferson672
Huron611
Williams561
Union551
Muskingum541
Holmes543
Hancock531
Wyandot482
Shelby463
Fulton450
Coshocton450
Clinton451
Logan430
Fayette410
Preble391
Guernsey382
Defiance342
Carroll343
Lawrence311
Brown301
Champaign281
Seneca262
Highland261
Knox251
Vinton212
Ashland210
Perry191
Athens181
Henry170
Scioto170
Jackson140
Paulding140
Adams111
Harrison100
Pike90
Gallia81
Van Wert70
Meigs60
Noble60
Morgan50
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Few Clouds
88° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 88°
Angola
Few Clouds
84° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 86°
Huntington
Clear
84° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 84°
Decatur
Scattered Clouds
88° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 88°
Van Wert
Scattered Clouds
88° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 88°
Sunny & Pleasant Weekend
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events