Greek yogurt maker Chobani's third production facility in North America will be in Canada, FoodNavigator-USA has learned.
The firm, which is expanding its New York factory and will open a new $100m facility in Twin Falls Idaho in mid-2012 , has been test marketing the products in stores in the Greater Toronto area since late last year, said director of communications Nicki Briggs.
“We entered the Canadian market in October after receiving countless requests from our Canadian fans and have seen great sales results to date.
“We're committed to producing locally in Canada and are working closely with the Canadian government to do so. We'll continue selling in the Greater Toronto area while we prepare for local production.”
Idaho facility operational by mid-2012
She added: “Initially, our Twin Falls facility will be capable of matching our New York State plant's capacity, which is currently churning out about 1.6 million cases per week.
“However, at 900,000 square foot, our Idaho facility has been designed with future expansion capabilities in mind so we'll be able to increase our capacity as needed as well as launch new product lines and innovations, in addition to our 170g, 450g and 907g cups of Chobani and our Chobani Champions line.”
‘The yogurt story in this country is just getting started ‘
Asked how Chobani viewed the prospect of a new entrant to the yogurt fixture in the form of PepsiCo/Müller, she added:“We’ve seen 139% growth over the past 12 months alone, so our sole focus is on current expansion and innovation initiatives.
“But we feel that the yogurt story in this country is just getting started. There's enormous opportunity within the category for high-quality, authentically made brands to do well, and we look forward to growing with the category.”
Speaking to FoodNavigator-USA at the Expo West show in Anaheim over the weekend, director of natural channel John Casey said that the Idaho site would open up new opportunities for Chobani on the innovation front as well as driving supply chain efficiencies as product would not have to be shipped as far east to west.
He added: “There is still so much potential as we have 50% brand awareness among yogurt eaters, so we see a huge opportunity. We have pretty good distribution now so where we are listed, the aim is to increase the sku count.”
The rise and rise of Greek yogurt
All of the key players in the US yogurt market have been investing heavily in Greek yogurt over the past year, with General Mills (Yoplait) and Dannon both adding new manufacturing capacity to meet growing demand for the protein-rich, low-fat yogurt.
Chobani’s parent company Agro Farma launched the Chobani brand in 2007, and it is now the top-selling Greek yogurt brand in the United States – and the best-selling yogurt brand overall.
PepsiCo - which recently announced plans to enter the US yogurt market via a joint venture with German firm Müller - has not revealed whether Greek yogurts will form part of its new branded range. However, market researchers believe that this is likely given that Greek yogurts are driving overall category growth.