News Feature | December 20, 2013

Whole Foods Breaks Up With Chobani

Source: Food Online
Sam Lewis

By Sam Lewis

Chobani Greek Yogurt

In an effort to free its shelves of food with GMOs, North America’s largest organic grocer decides to no longer sell Chobani products

Desiring space for foods that do not contain genetically modified organisms (GMO), Whole Foods — North America’s largest retailer of natural and organic foods — announced on Wednesday, Dec 18 it would stop selling Chobani Greek yogurt by early next year.

In March, Whole Foods announced it would require labels on all products containing GMOs by 2018. A Huffington Post survey from last spring indicates 82 percent of American consumers believe GMO food products should require labeling. Currently, Whole Foods sells 250 brands that do not contain GMOs, which the grocer claims is more than any other North American retailer. For now, Whole Foods has no additional plans to drop other yogurt brands containing GMOs, like Chobani’s rival Fage.

Chobani is the leader of the Greek yogurt industry and one of the more visible brands on American grocers’ shelves. The company was founded in 2005 by Turkish immigrant Hamdi Ulukaya and has grown to more than $1 billion in annual sales. Chobani’s popularity in recent years has food companies like Dannon and Pepsi struggling to keep up with American consumers’ demand for Greek yogurt.

It seems that Chobani is even having difficulty keeping up with demand. In a statement regarding the split with Whole Foods, Chobani says, “We require a high volume of milk, and right now there is not enough organic milk available to meet our broad consumer demand. We continue to stand by and work with the 875 farms that provide us with milk as they explore new feed options. In the meantime, we’re doing everything we can with what’s available to make the best cup of yogurt; using only natural ingredients and no preservatives, none of our non-dairy ingredients has been genetically modified, and our milk comes from cows that have not been treated with rBST.”

The decision by Whole Foods to drop Chobani products will likely impact the yogurt maker’s goal of becoming a household name. Regardless, Chobani remain hopeful it can continue its partnership with Whole Foods in the future. “Though we have limited distribution within Whole Foods, they have been a wonderful and important partner of ours over the years,” reads a statement from Chobani. “We share an affinity with Whole Foods and its shoppers. We know our fans love buying our products in their stores and we hope to continue our partnership moving forward.”

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