- Chobani is launching a PB&J flavor this week, the first time it's selling the popular combination, with all of the profits being donated to Feeding America. The yogurt giant came up with the idea for PB&J in late April after working with food banks and seeing how much demand they had for their services from consumers.
- The limited-time offering will be sold nationally. The PB&J flavor is the third charity SKU item from Chobani, with prior offerings in 2018 and 2019 supporting Operation Homefront and American Farmland Trust.
- "We don't think we're going to cure the pandemic, fix the pandemic, the world's issues are larger than we are, but we can help do our part, and that's what we're trying to do," Peter McGuinness, president of Chobani, told Food Dive.
As consumers look to the foods they purchase to stand for more than what's inside the package, charitable projects that draw attention to causes important to shoppers are one way to stand out and connect in an increasingly crowded marketplace.
To be sure, Chobani and other food and beverage manufacturers have been tugging at heart strings and tapping into issues important to shoppers for years, so a new product that does that is far from unique.
Companies of all sizes have latched on to various causes in recent years. Budweiser debuted a special Freedom Reserve Red Lager in 2017 to honor veterans. Steeped Coffee created a brewing method that is certified fully compostable, including the packaging, the filter and the brewing process that uses renewable plant-based materials. And Cape Cod Potato Chips came out with a special Pink Himalayan Salt & Red Wine Vinegar product in October 2018 for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Over time, the link to certain causes or messaging has proven to be an effective way to boost sales.
A 2019 report from Kerry found half of respondents indicated they would switch products to buy from a company that supports a cause they believe in. And earlier in the year, a survey conducted by Crestline Custom Promotional Products showed 68% of American consumers want to support companies that promote similar social, political and environmental values as them.
With millions of Americans out of work or struggling to get enough food on their plates for themselves and their families because of the coronavirus' impact on the U.S. economy, few causes are as top-of-mind right now as hunger. The money raised from Chobani's PB&J yogurt will go to food banks in South Dakota, Mississippi, New Mexico and Kentucky. If the product resonates with consumers, Chobani could decide to keep it on the market like it did with its Operation Homefront offering two years ago.
In an interview, McGuinness said Chobani has donated yogurt to Feeding America and other food banks, and turned its Chobani Cafe in New York into a food pantry during the pandemic. Then in fewer than two-and-a-half months, Chobani created the PB&J product, procured the raw materials, tested the flavor and designed and printed the label.
"I think we surprised ourselves," he said. "To develop food and commercialize it and produce it and ship in under two-and-a-half months is pretty much unheard of. It's a testimony that you can get a lot done if you're scrappy and versatile."
McGuinness said companies, especially businesses like food and beverage that have been deemed essential, have a responsibility under the current environment to help consumers rather than just profit financially from the increased demand for their products.
"I've been very clear how brands and businesses will be judged on how they behaved during this pandemic," he said. "This is not a year to go out and make a ton of money. ... People are hurting, sectors are closed down, so many people are unemployed and underemployed. We're a for-profit company but how much is too much and how much do you really need?"