- Chobani is transitioning its Single-Serve Oat Blend yogurt from plastic into a paper-based cup. The new packaging, which took two years to develop, is expected to reach store shelves late this year.
- The oat yogurt cups join Chobani’s recent product innovations — oat milk, cold brew coffee and coffee creamers — that already have paper-based packaging that is recyclable. The announcement comes as part of a broader companywide initiative to improve the sustainability of Chobani's packaging by transitioning from plastic to paper, and to encourage other food and beverage makers to follow suit.
- "Is this going to solve everything in packaging? No, but it's a step in the right direction," said Peter McGuinness, president of Chobani. "It's a ... start to reduce our reliance on plastic. There is a lot more work" to do.
Chobani has spent much of the last few years rolling out oat- and plant-based options, ready-to-drink coffee and creamers, a no-sugar offering and other products in an effort to transform the Greek yogurt pioneer into a more complete food company.
But Chobani, which confidentially filed for an IPO in July, has taken notice of the sustainability push infiltrating the food and beverage space and updated some of its packaging. While the majority of its products will continue to use plastic for the foreseeable future, the new packaging for its oat-blend yogurt is indicative of a company looking to reduce its environmental footprint and foster a broader discussion over ways to make recycling easier across the U.S.
"You have to walk before you run," McGuinness said. "But our absolute intention is to expand paper to other products in our portfolio beyond our single-serve oat blend yogurt."
Chobani’s paper cup is 80% paperboard, made from responsibly sourced and renewable material, the New York-based company said. The cup has a thin plastic lining to maintain product quality.
Food and beverage makers as a whole have struggled to find inexpensive alternatives to plastic that can handle temperature changes, moisture and keep products fresh.
But as consumers push for more environmentally friendly packaging, manufacturers have had little choice but to find alternative options. Kraft Heinz announced in January it is testing a recyclable paperboard cup for its microwaveable Kraft Macaroni & Cheese product, and two years ago Danish brewing giant Carlsberg debuted a sustainable paper bottle prototype. Many water brands also have embraced paper and even aluminum.
McGuinness underscored many of the challenges Chobani had to overcome in developing the new packaging. Paper can leak, which creates food quality and safety issues. It also can break apart on machines, wreaking havoc on expensive technology used to fill the yogurt containers. In addition, paper is more costly to use than plastic, McGuinness said, but that gap should narrow for Chobani as it builds scale by transitioning away from plastic across its other products.
Chobani's new packaging across its portfolio could pay big dividends as consumers place increasing importance on not only what they consume but also the material it comes in. Chobani claimed it will be the only major U.S. food maker with a paper cup in the yogurt aisle, a factor that could help the brand going forward. According to a study done during the pandemic by Schorr Packaging, 58% of consumers said they were likely or very likely to purchase food products in packaging that clearly states it is reusable or recyclable.
In a separate study, Kearney found the number of consumers who take the environment into consideration when buying food has been on the rise, especially during the pandemic. Last April, 83% of consumers said they felt that way, up 12 points from 2019.
McGuinness said along with new flavor ideas, one of the most common things consumers ask Chobani is what the company is doing to use more environmentally friendly paper in its packaging instead of plastic.
"Just staying where you are doesn't work. It doesn't work for the industry. It doesn't work for the company. It's not who we are as a brand," McGuinness said. "We're just trying to lead a little bit, inspire a little bit."