I eat yogurt regularly, and I've been a convert to Chobani lately. I started eating greek-style yogurts with Fage, and have had several other brands but Chobani flavors and texture are superior (IMO).
If you don't already know, it's the most expensive yogurt at most supermarkets, and is even pretty expensive compared to other brands at specialty retailers. So in the interest of saving some money, I recently bought some Dannon greek yogurt with coupons for about 1/4 the price.
It was awful in comparison. To get a similar texture, they use gelatin. The texture is still inferior. And the flavors are not in the same league either. I think it's refreshing to see someone rewarded for not buying into the conventional wisdom that the American public has no taste and can't recognize/won't pay up for quality products.
And their 2% version has 17g of protein:
I imagine the difference is only because the fat displaces some of the protein in the low fat version, not because there is some special "high protein" quality to the nonfat.
I continue to be baffled by Americans' obsession with nonfat products, when nearly all current nutritional research says there is nothing wrong with fat, and that in many cases it's good for you.
I love plain full-fat yogurt (ex: Fage total or brown cow cream top). Unfortunately non-fat yogurt tastes terrible once you've had the good stuff and is all you can find outside of specialty stores. (I have only ever seen/tried Chobani 0% so I can't rate their 2% fat yogurt)
Anyway, after years of never finding the good stuff I gave up on the system and dropped $30 on a yogurt maker on Amazon. Now Yogurt is $1/half gallon (price of milk) - 2-3 times that price for strained/Greek yogurt since you throw out the whey, it's super-easy to make (pasteurize milk, add culture, let it incubate for 6-12 hrs), and it's always just the way I like it.
By the way you don't even need a crockpot, just heat the milk, put in the yogurt then keep it warm for 7+ hours (google it for a more detailed recipe).
I don't know if I'm right or wrong, but it would be interesting to see a comparison of both caloric density and volume of average meals divided by culture, region, etc.
It's not working...
Fat happens to be the most calorie dense of the required macronutrients, however. At 9 calories a gram versus 4 calories for carbs and protien it's the easy culprit for people trying to cut weight (by reducing calories). For a while it became the diet fad because of its supposed links to heart disease as well. People want a silver bullet to get thin, once it was fat, then carbs and now, probably more sensibly, it's processed foods like HFCS.
In the end it's not that hard: Eat less.
Based on this article and the research suggesting a weight-loss effect of yogurt I'm thinking about getting into the yogurt business.
Wow, such a refreshing view. Especially considering the recent sellouts of natural/organic brands to major CPG companies.
I am kind of surprised that existing food heavyweights, as well as smaller "organic" labels failed to see the opportunity for a premium yogurt that's not loaded with sweeteners.
The interview really didn't get into distribution, but it is quite impressive. A few weeks ago I even saw it in groceries in a very rural part of northern NY. From what I have read about the grocery business, it's extremely competitive and there is huge pressure from manufacturers and distributors to dominate prime shelf space. For a startup to muscle in so quickly is a real accomplishment.
EDIT: The rural NY distribution may relate to the dairy industry connection described by kcurtin and Gaussian.
Really, I'm not kidding. It's a major acquired taste, that 99% of America has not acquired.
So I spend about $240 a year on yoghurt (ignoring the others in our family) - so your 3 million would give $720M a year revenue if 1% of the US population liked natural yoghurt as much as I do.
Seems like a pretty good market to be in to me.
I guess the lesson here is trust hard data, not your assumptions.
I'm a skyr convert --tho you have to get used to its texture.
It's about $2 per 5.3oz.
I had a much harder time finding good coffee in Europe, actually.
This is not a joke, I'm genuinely curious whether "technical" cofounders are specific to the tech domain or if they are necessary in every startup (another example is chef / restaurants)
It depends on the category, really.
In this case, it's not as if Chobani invented the concept of strained yogurt. Rather, it practiced the time-honored art of geographical arbitrage: it found a product that had a long history of use overseas (Greek-style yogurt), and introduced it to the US in rather auspicious and on-trend times (the low-carb, high-protein craze). That's more a feat of marketing and operations than one of technical prowess or product development.
I'm sure that there were "yogurt experts" on hand to oversee production, ensure the right consistency, flavor, etc. But it doesn't appear as if there were a "yogurt expert" co-founder in this case. I might be wrong.
That's not to say that product wasn't crucial in this case, because it almost certainly was. But I don't think a "yogurt expert" co-founder would have been absolutely necessary, or that a "yogurt expert" presently occupies one of the top executive spots at Chobani the way a product person would at a tech firm.
"I came from a family of farmers who made cheese and yogurt..."
His dad was urging him to make cheese as early as 1998, and he did in fact start doing that a few years later.
I don't think many people decide to start selling yogurt because of a business opportunity. People that start yogurt companies are (hopefully) passionate about yogurt, and I would think they would have some experience in making their own yogurt. Starting a restaurant would be similar.
In summary, I think the main distinction is that the barrier of entry to programming (and engineering in general) is greater than that of making yogurt or cooking. There are many people passionate about computers and their applications that don't know anything about programming, but I would think there are far less people passionate about yogurt (and unhappy with the current offerings) that don't know anything about making yogurt.
For cultural reasons Americans simply don't seem to like cheeses that are not bagged, shredded and kept in the refrigerator. (American HNers might be surprised to find that a lot of cheeses are not meant to be kept in the refrigerator). Good cheese is like a living organism, it not something dead that needs to be kept cold. It has bacteria that lives on it and it alters and changes its taste. I believe you won't even be able to sell that in US simply because of local food safety laws -- cheeses have to be pasteurized to be sold here.
I don't think marketing a high quality cheese is going to be impossible in America, (well, maybe not Casu marzu, but I don't give a crap how good that is, I'm not eating it) you'd need to educate your customers and take steps in terms of packaging or co-products to help them use the product best.
(Note: there are exceptions to every rule.)
(Of course, if it can be sold cheaper by being made in America, that's a great selling point!)
I see that market as pretty occupied right now.
The United States already produces over twice the amount of cheese of any other country. It seems to me that you are not from Wisconsin and I would guess not from any of the states where cheese is big. Try going to a supermarket in Vermont or New York...the market for imported cheeses would be quite small.
I am not a cheese maker, I've merely read this on food blogs.
I mainly eat cheese from unpasteurized milk...
Hah. I have friends who rave about Greek yogurt, but not a one of them doesn't drown it in fruit, sugar and honey first.
It would do these large companies well to hand old factories over to internal skunk-works teams to tinker first.
I live in western Canada and haven't had opportunity to try anything from Chobani, so I'm genuinely curious.
What I'm curious about: Is that the main reason they've become so popular and done so well? I wonder if many others are following the same diet, or if there's another reason they've become so popular vs. all the other yogurts out there.
Anyone else on HN eat Chobani regularly and, if so, what are your reasons? Any other insights as to why they've done so incredibly well?
Most American yogurt is pretty dreadful. When I did an exchange program in Germany in the 1990's, my host family fed me some Swiss yogurt. I'm sure it wasn't "Greek style" or "low-fat", but man it was some of the best yogurt I have ever had in my life. I have been trying various custard varieties ever since in an attempt to get that European style flavor, but all of them are poor imitations.
So, I'm Greek and like Greek yoghurt, but unless I am totally missing something, it is nutritionally pretty similar to plain (unsweetened) American-style yogurt. It's just drained; the name is Greek is literally "strained yoghurt", and you can get an effect that seems pretty darn similar to my taste buds by buying a typical American plain yoghurt (note: vanilla-flavored sweetened yoghurt is not "plain"), and draining it overnight with a cheesecloth. But then I mostly use my home-strained yoghurt to make tzatziki, so I might be missing some of the nuances if you eat it plain.
I prefer to take my yogurt plain and mix in my own jams, rather than the fruit on the bottom variants. That gives me more variety than the default flavors provided and lets me control the amount that goes in.
That is my reason for eating it.
Also, it's true that yoğurt is of Turkic origin. If you go to Turkey, you will find it in almost all of their dishes. It's odd, though, that Americans don't seem to know anything about any of this. I'm nearly certain that if this Turk would have sold Chobani as "Turkish Yogurt", we wouldn't even know who he was...
Companies like Dannon who make all sorts of dairy products don't have this advantage.
I have a feeling what this guy means about American yogurt being "horrible" is that it is typically low fat and healthy.
I've tried products all over the world and whenever I hear this type of statement it tends to come from someone who has never looked farther than Velveeta and cheeze wiz. You can buy just about whatever you want in America, if you look a little harder. Heck, I can get my Brazilian Cachaça and Açaí at Ralph's (local chain) for C-sakes. It's a world economy these days.
Someone else made the comment that often "Low-Fat" advertised products are jammed with sweeteners or sodium to replace the lost flavor that fat provides.
I think it's funny that the American consumer has been indoctrinated into thinking "Low [Insert Nutrient of the Month]" == Healthy.