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Chobani’s global ambitions: Too much, too young?

By Mark Astley , 24-Jan-2013

Chobani’s global ambitions: Too much, too young?

At just seven years old, Chobani is a poster boy in the eyes of some, a market-devouring monster in the eyes of others. The New York-based Greek yogurt giant’s expansion plans in North America, Europe and Australasia are ambitious. But is it taking on too much, too young?

Seven-year old Mark Astley had completed the 100 metres swimming challenge and could boast a reading age of eleven. And I had won a Batman lunchbox.

I was an over-achiever…. What can I say?

If Chobani were a child, it would have wiped the floor with Michael Phelps in London in the summer, and would have ghost-written for Dan Brown.

I bet it would even have a few chest hairs – assuming it would be a boy that is.

So on this occasion, I must concede defeat.

In the seven years since Chobani founder Hamdi Ulukaya bit the bullet and purchased a former Kraft Foods yogurt plant, the company has gone from strength to strength.

Dramatic rise to glory….

It has grown to become the most popular yogurt brand in the US and driven the dramatic rise of the Greek yogurt category – all on the back of one production facility in New York.

Considering this quick rise to stardom, expansion seemed inevitable.

The brand has been launched in the UK and Australia, and in December 2012, the company opened two new manufacturing plants – one in the US, the other Down Under.

But earlier this month, the company hit its first global expansion stumbling block.

Chobani confirmed last week that due to external “circumstances” it had been forced to indefinitely postpone the construction of a manufacturing plant in Canada and a planned nationwide launch of its products.

Following some pretty thorough coverage of the pull-out, I wondered: Has Chobani – in the words of British ska group The Specials – done too much, much too young?

Has Chobani bitten off more than it can chew?

Its expansion success so far would suggest no.

The brand has been incredibly successful in the US, and this demand has since spread to Canada, Europe and Australia.

It has been forced to fight off attempts in the US by Danone and General Mills to knock it off the top spot, and survived efforts to have its yogurts pulled from shelves in Canada during a trial run in the country.

Chobani is a tough old (young) cookie (yogurt).

It has achieved a lot in a short period of time. When it will re-establish the Chobani brand in Canada is uncertain. What is certain is that it will move heaven and earth to do so.

But perhaps it should bear in mind the advice offered to me by my older brother at a slightly older age: “Don’t rush, just take it slow.”

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