This story has been updated with comments from Chobani.
Chobani is doubling down on its fast-growing creamer business with the launch of a new plant-based product.
Chobani Plant-Based Coffee Creamers, which are currently hitting store shelves, are not only designed to grab a larger share of the at-home coffee drinking market accelerated by the ongoing pandemic, but also attract consumers who have been turned off by the texture or taste of other plant-based offerings.
"We want to disrupt the category of creamers. We want to bring better options. And we want to bring more people into the category and grow the category," Peter McGuinness, Chobani's president and chief operating officer, said in an interview. "These [plant-based creamers] were designed … to be the closest thing to dairy creamers that we can make."
The new plant-based extension took about 18 months to create, and is made from a blend of ingredients derived from coconut, sunflower and pea protein. The creamer will be available in four flavors: Caramel Macchiato, Chocolate Hazelnut, Sweet & Creamy and French Vanilla.
Chobani entered the creamer business two years ago with plans to upend a stagnant category that was dominated by a few players by offering natural, non-GMO ingredients while eschewing artificial flavors, sweeteners or preservatives — the same approach it took to yogurt in 2007. At the time, the top four creamer brands controlled nearly 80% of the market with oil-based products that did not contain real cream and often depended on artificial ingredients.
Since Chobani launched its dairy coffee creamer in 2019 and oat-based variety a year later, the company has witnessed meteoric growth, and gained confidence that it could make further inroads in the category through plant-based products. Sales of Chobani's dairy-based creamers have surged 120% during the 52 weeks ending Dec. 25, 2021, according to Nielsen data cited by the company.
McGuinness said the success of Chobani's other creamers "gave us some permission and confidence" to deepen its presence in the space.
Chobani's creamer debut in 2019 came just a few months before the COVID-19 pandemic forced more people to work from home while forgoing visits to their local coffee shop or restaurants. Increasingly, people looked to mimic the out-of-the-home experience on their own and demand for creamers gained momentum.
In 2021, U.S. retail sales of coffee creamers totalled $3.9 billion, according to data provided by Euromonitor, up nearly 40% from 2016 to 2021. The expansion of its creamer business further puts Chobani head to head with CPG giants such as Nestlé and Danone, multinational food giants that control much of the category.
The growth of its coffee platform is the latest move by Chobani to expand its reach beyond its signature Greek yogurt, and a key step in laying the groundwork to grow sales and evolve the 15-year-old business into a total food company.
Yogurt generated $1.2 billion in sales for Chobani in 2020, according to a filing last November with the Securities and Exchange Commission, while its other products including cream, oat milk, coffee creamers, ready-to-drink Chobani Coffee and Chobani Probiotic beverages posted net sales of $157.7 million.
McGuinness noted that the success of the company's launches into other areas underscores the reach and recognition of its name across the marketplace. It’s a major reason why each product, including the creamers, leads with Chobani rather than the creation of a new brand altogether.
"Now that we're in these other categories, we know the brand can live across platforms, and transcend yogurt," he said. "We're very thoughtful about these extensions and evolutions."
Chobani, which filed to go public last year under the symbol "CHO," is expected to officially debut on Wall Street later this year.
Cristina Alesci, chief corporate affairs officer at Chobani, said the company was able to learn from its oat-based creamer how plant ingredients interact with coffee in making the newest product.
"Coming up with that ideal blend, to give you everything you love about dairy without the dairy, was extremely important. And yeah, it's challenging," McGuinness said. "There's a lot of bad food out there."
Chobani joins an increasingly crowded plant-based creamer category. Nestlé has offerings through its Coffee-mate Natural Bliss line and Starbucks Non-Dairy Creamers, while Danone has a presence through its Silk brand. Several upstarts also have products on shelves, including Califia Farms and Laird Superfood.
Chobani also announced Tuesday the launch of a fan-inspired dairy coffee creamer flavor called Sizzlin' Brown Sugar that will be available for a limited time. Last February, the company asked fans to create a flavor, and three were later put to a vote — the other two being Strawberry Shortcake and Lemon Blueberry Pie.