Friday, June 22, 2012

Greek yogurt: A great American story

Hamdi Ulukaya was managing his small cheese company in Johnstown, N.Y., in 2005 when he stumbled upon an advertisement that would change everything. For sale: yogurt-making plant in Columbus, N.Y.

A native of Turkey, Mr. Ulukaya decided the next day that he wanted to buy the former Kraft Foods Inc. facility. Five months later, he made that happen using loans of less than $1 million, including one backed by the Small Business Administration.

The Greek-style yogurt landed on store shelves in 2007 and is widely credited with starting a craze in the U.S. Chobani is now the No. 3 manufacturer of nonfrozen yogurt in the U.S., with about $745.6 million in retail sales, says market research firm SymphonyIRI Group Inc. The only companies ahead of it are Yoplait and Dannon, giant brands that each have more than $1.2 billion in annual retail sales, according to the SymphonyIRI. ...

Greek yogurt—which is strained to remove excess liquid, leaving it thicker and creamier—now represents 28% of U.S. yogurt, up from a 16% share a year ago and a 3% share three years ago, according to UBS. The category, which is led by Chobani, will increase 40% over the next year, and 120% over the next five years, UBS forecasts. ...

WSJ: You spent 18 months coming up with the recipe for Chobani. What took you so long?

Mr. Ulukaya: I wanted to make sure the product was perfect because I only had one shot and it had to work. ... I hired a family friend from Turkey who is a master yogurt maker and we came up with the recipe together. He was our sixth employee.
--Sarah Needleman, WSJ, on the immigrant American dream still being alive