Chobani is turning to trendy oats in an effort to strengthen its market dominance in yogurt, while expanding its reach beyond the popular snack to include its first foray into milks and creamers.
It’s a bold undertaking that will see the New York company go head to head with CPG giants such as Nestlé and Danone with its new product launches. Peter McGuinness, Chobani's president, said this roll out marks the most new formats and product SKUs the company has ever introduced at once throughout its history.
“We’ve been talking about oats forever and ever and ever. We think oats is probably the king of the plant-based world,” McGuinness told Food Dive. “That is a whole new muscle for us. It’s a whole new category for us."
The new product lineup will include oat-based yogurts, traditional Greek yogurt with the popular cereal grain on the bottom, as well as an oat milk for coffee shops. But it's not just oat products. A dairy-based coffee creamer also will make its way to store shelves.
The products, which will all be branded under the Chobani name, will start hitting retail locations in December beginning with the yogurts. Oat milk and the dairy creamer will come in January.
Oats, McGuinness said, more closely resemble milk in flavor profile, taste and texture and have more nutritional benefits than almonds. Chobani's products will be made with organic oats.
“We’ve been talking about oats forever and ever and ever. We think oats is probably the king of the plant-based world. That is a whole new muscle for us. It’s a whole new category for us."
A growing number of food products have incorporated oats — which are valued for being naturally gluten free, high in fiber and loaded with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants — into their milks, bars and cereals.
Danone launched a line of oat milk yogurts under its So Delicious brand this summer and Oat Yeah milks and yogurts as part of its Silk line. Kellogg’s RXBAR introduced single-serve oatmeal cups in August. Other companies have entered the oat beverages realm, including Elmhurst, Sweden's Oatly brand and Campbell Soup’s Pacific Foods. PepsiCo entered the oat milk category with its Quaker Oat Beverage hitting the market nationwide in February, but the CPG giant appears to have since quietly pulled the product.
McGuinness said Chobani was particularly eager to enter the $3.9 billion creamer category, which is dominated by Nestle’s Coffee Mate and Danone’s International Delight. The segment has grown about 7% in the last year, according to IRI, as people drink more coffee. The big brands, he said, masquerade as creamers — a factor underscored by the fact that they are called creamers and are sold in the refrigerated section — and don’t include cream in their ingredients list.
“We kind of like this fight. I liken it to when we entered yogurt” 11 years ago and it was largely controlled by high-sugar options from Dannon and General Mills' Yoplait, McGuinness said. “It’s a massive growing market ripe for disruption and it feels like a perfect Chobani playbook, frankly.”
Chobani, he said, will take cream left over from its yogurt making a day earlier and combine it with three other ingredients: milk, cane sugar and another flavor, such as hazelnut or vanilla.
Chobani has been aggressively broadening its reach into new categories during the last year. The company paired its low-fat Greek yogurt with nut butters to create a nutrient-intense and energy-rich snack. Chobani introduced Non-Dairy Chobani, its coconut-based offering, to enter the plant-based space. And last December, Chobani rolled out a new line of kids' yogurt products, called Chobani Gimmies.
While competitors have watched revenue tumble, Chobani sales in 2019 have risen 9% through early November, according to Nielsen data supply by the yogurt company.
McGuinness teased an even bigger product expansion into new categories next summer, though he declined to preview what it would be.
"We're restless. I don't think we're ever really totally satisfied and happy," McGuinness said. "That kind of keeps us on the edge of where we need to be."