Chobani Food Incubator aims to rev up next generation of mission-based food start-ups

By Mary Ellen Shoup

- Last updated on GMT

Part of the six-month Food Incubator program will take place at Chobani's SoHo offices in New York City.
Part of the six-month Food Incubator program will take place at Chobani's SoHo offices in New York City.

Related tags 2016

In keeping with its mission-based foundation of “making better food for more people,” Chobani is now accepting applications for its new Food Incubator Program to help entrepreneurs and small food companies grow their businesses.

The inaugural program will last six months, running from October 2016 through March 2017, and will provide the selected two to three natural food start-ups with access to business advice from food industry experts including Chobani CEO and founder Hamdi Ulukaya.

“We’re already seeing a ton of applications come in from really great companies,”​ Chobani VP corporate communications Michael Gonda told DairyReporter.

The selected applicants will participate in monthly week-long programs at Chobani locations across the US, including manufacturing facilities and a dedicated space in the company’s New York offices.

Interested applicants will be asked to electronically submit information about their products along with a short video and biographical information by August 10, 2016. Finalists will be notified by September 15, 2016.

Helping those in a similar position

Those selected for the Chobani Food Incubator program will receive a $25,000 grant to help grow their start-up food businesses. Gonda said that participants will be selected based on business “ideas that are ready to go to the next level.”

“I think that fundamentally Hamdi designed the food incubator to build on the founding mission of the company: which is making better food for more people,”​ Gonda said. “Very specifically, he designed it to help entrepreneurs who were in a similar position that he was in when he first started Chobani.”

The program will conclude at the EXPO West trade show in Anaheim, California, where the program participants will showcase their products to more than 77,000 members of the natural food community.  

The end of the program parallels Ulukaya’s personal business journey when he exhibited at EXPO West for the first time nearly 10 years ago.

“There’s nothing that Hamdi has done at Chobani that is ‘textbook;’ this brand and its values were built from the ground up,”​ Gonda said.

One of the goals of the program is to help participants learn how to stay true to their values while they grow and scale, just as Ulukaya did with Chobani, he added.

Gonda also said that Ulukaya is committed to making the Food Incubator an ongoing program. 

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