There was a time when Chobani vehemently argued nobody could out-Greek its yogurt. How times have changed: The company that essentially sold America on thicker, strained yogurt has just released a new line called Smooth, an utterly normal, very Yoplait-ish set of five flavored yogurts. It’s an attempt to stay on top in an industry that once made “healthy” snacks that were en vogue, but has recently lost some luster. In the last year, sales of Greek-style yogurt have slipped by almost 5 percent, so CEO Hamdi Ulukaya insists this change is just Chobani being adaptive. “I knew everybody didn’t want to eat Greek yogurt,” he tells Bloomberg. “I’m trying to find a solution for the people who are leaving.”
People who recall Chobani’s rise will also remember the company blasting the non-Greek kind as inferior: too unhealthy, full of artificial sweeteners, and too ho-hum and not sexy (get those Activia priobiotics ads out of here). But Ulukaya, who’s now gunning for Dannon, the top dog in terms of yogurt sales, thinks expanding Chobani’s repertoire into traditional yogurt — a category that only shrunk 2.8 percent in the last year — will pull them ahead. According to Bloomberg, he believes the glut of copycats that rode Chobani’s coattails ultimately doomed Greek-yogurt products, because the novelty evaporated. Smooth is sold in convenient two-packs, that retail for $1.79, which is very suburban-America packaging, and the cups stand out because they’re dark-colored instead of Chobani’s standard white.
An extra benefit is that Whole Foods is willing to sell it. Chobani hasn’t been in Whole Foods stores since 2013, when the grocery chain quit stocking the brand. (The official explanation was because Chobani wasn’t GMO-free, but Whole Foods also said it was after something more “exclusive” and “unique.”)
Chobani also just surpassed Yoplait in sales, which has Yoplait scrambling as well. Its executives recently killed their Greek-yogurt line because it wasn’t selling. Their new big idea is something called Oui, a “French-style” yogurt that comes in a “French-made glass pot.”