Chobani made Greek-style yogurt part of the American food mainstream, and now the brand is trying to stay on top against catch-up efforts by every other major yogurt brand in the land.
Dannon, with its Oikos brand, has managed to join the startup Chobani brand on the top tier of the only category of yogurt consumption that is growing in the U.S. market these days. But the original Greek-yogurt brand in America, Fage, and Yoplait, which also is trying to play catch-up, are fading in their efforts to ride the boom that Chobani created.
Chobani already has become about a $1-billion concern over the past few years and owns nearly 50 percent of the category, according to a recent report by the Sanford Bernstein securities firm. Even after a furious catch-up effort, Dannon USA still has a less-than-20 percent share, and Fage 14 percent, while General Mills' Yoplait brand limps in with just 6 percent.
"We're dealing with some large organizations that aren't as nimble as Chobani," Niel Sandfort, director of marketing for Chobani, told brandchannel. "We're a billion-dollar company but still entrepreneurial. And we're continually investing in our core."
By that Sandfort means, in part, that Chobani is heavily investing in new manufacturing capacity in New York and Idaho "that will allow us to move with the market."
At the same time, Chobani is still trying to make more of a market for Greek-style yogurt — which is richer, creamier and more akin to European and Middle Eastern yogurts than typical American-style fare.
One area of pioneering for Chobani has been to appeal directly to kids with their own Greek brand, Champions. In its latest promotion, just in time for Summer Olympics fever, Chobani is featuring Jennie Finch, a pitcher for the U.S. gold-medal-winning women's softball teams of four and eight years ago, and mother of two. "Win the Day" is the theme.
Meanwhile, Sandfort said, Chobani is attempting to stoke other kinds of demand for its yogurt. For example, in July it will be introducing for the first time Chobani products with fruit blended throughout rather than just on the bottom. And Chobani is beginning a push with its Chobani Kitchen marketing initiative to educate American consumers about all the uses of Greek yogurt as an ingredient, which it is doing both digitally and by adding recipe images and actual recipes to some of its packaging on pints and quarts of yogurt.
"If you look anywhere but North America," he said, "yogurt is a staple ingredient for soups, sauces, dressings — it's just always there. We think there's a big opportunity for that in the United States. We're watching it happen."
Just like Chobani "watched" the takeoff of Greek-style yogurt in the first place.