- Chobani founder and CEO Hamdi Ulukaya has helped the company flourish and nurture a new, wildly popular category of yogurt in the U.S., but that didn't stop the rumors that Ulukaya may be forced out of his CEO role. Ulukaya will, in fact, remain at the helm, but is searching for an operations head.
- When Chobani hit a rough patch, including production delays, canceled orders, and a product recall last year, Ulukaya sought financial backing from private equity company TPG Capital in a swap for preferred stock. Under the terms of the deal, Ulukaya had to consider finding an experienced manager to be his replacement.
- However, Chobani has turned things around with 15 months in a row of positive earnings and a new product line, Flip, sales for which Ulukaya expects to more than double this year. TPG is "pleased with the progress that Chobani has made and the future prospects under Hamdi’s leadership," the company said in a statement.
While Greek yogurt remains the darling of the yogurt segment, Greek has run into a slowdown, having gone from 114% growth in 2011 to only 15% growth last year. Still, even with that leveling off, Greek sales have soared about 500% since 2010, when Chobani debuted, while traditional yogurt sales fell about 22% in that time, according to Nielsen.
One food analyst told Bloomberg that he believed the Greek yogurt category needed another breakthrough besides being thicker, creamier, and containing more protein. With Chobani's Flip line, the company is trying to do just that by making the product more indulgent with crunchy mix-ins, making it more attractive to men and to women outside of breakfast time.
To keep up with the planned expansion of Flip and other Chobani products, Ulukaya is looking into finding a distribution partner, as he has "hired Goldman Sachs to study selling a minority stake to a larger food company with an established distribution network, as Keurig Green Mountain has done with Coca-Cola," Bloomberg reported.