Greek yogurt giant Chobani has opened what it claims is the world’s largest yogurt factory - a one million square foot plant in Twin Falls Idaho and its second domestic manufacturing facility - following a $450m investment.
The firm, which broke ground on the 200-acre site in December 2011 and began construction earlier this year, said phases one and two of the project were completed in just 326 days.
“At Chobani, we’re makers. Our business has been built one cup at a time, by the hands of our people,” said Hamdi Ulukaya, founder, president and CEO.
“Today marks not only the opening of the world’s largest yogurt plant but symbolizes the revitalization of U.S. manufacturing. We believe that no other yogurt facility is comparable to the size, technology and efficiency displayed in our new Twin Falls site.”
We will continue to grow and invest in our New York operations
He added, “Twin Falls is our second home but will not replace our Central New York plant, which will continue to operate at full capacity. In fact, we will continue to grow and invest in our New York operations.”
More than 300 people have been employed at the new plant, with production and distribution already underway on new product launches set to launch nationally in 2013, said the firm.
“Additional hires are expected to come on board over the next several months.”
It’s the first time we’re seeing significant growth in what’s been historically a sleepy category
Sales growth at Chobani, which only started producing Greek yogurt in 2007, has been nothing short of meteoric in recent years.
The firm, which is America’s top selling yogurt brand, now commands a dollar share of more than 20% of the overall US yogurt market compared with 13.9% last fall, corporate communications VP Nicki Briggs told FoodNavigator-USA in October.
“The yogurt category is really exciting right now. It’s the first time we’re seeing significant growth in what’s been historically a sleepy category.”
Some rival products aren’t authentic…
But she added: “When our CEO first launched his products his vision was that everyone deserves access to high-quality authentic Greek yogurt. A lot of people said American consumers don’t want this kind of product, but we’ve seen amazing growth and a lot of competing Greek and Greek-style yogurts coming to market.
“But some of the products aren’t authentic, they are not thick and creamy because they are strained, but because manufacturers are adding thickeners and stabilizers and milk protein concentrates (MPCs), which in our opinion is to the detriment of the category.”
While there is no legal definition of Greek yogurt, and the FDA has ‘stayed’ sections of its regulation on yogurt standards of identity that exclude the use of MPCs, it was frustrating, she claimed.
“If consumers have not tried authentic Greek yogurt before, you want them to have the best experience.”
Asked about its plans for Canada, where bosses plan to build North American factory number three, she said:
“We’re very committed to Canada, our Canadian fan base wants Chobani yogurts, but we have faced significant delays in our expansion plans due to litigation.”