Chobani Hopes to Squeeze More From Sundance Film Fest Than Super Bowl


Chobani new products January 2015

Fighting through a plateauing of its growth as rival brands chip away at its pioneering position in Greek-style yogurt, Chobani keeps attempting to innovate through the slump with new products aimed at new day parts, and new marketing—now including a sprinkling of pixie dust.

The New York-based originator of the Greek-yogurt phenomenon has announced what it calls “a major portfolio expansion” with new products including Kids and Tots yogurt pouches, and a line of oatmeals and yogurt blending ancient grains.

The children’s products feature Disney and Marvel characters ranging from Winnie the Pooh to Spider-Man on packaging.

Chobani yogurt Spider-Man Marvel

Chobani also is adding flavors to its Flip Creations line of yogurt with mix-ins. “Flavor innovation is a big part of the specialness of our brand,’ Peter McGuinness, Chobani CMO, stated in a press release, including industry firsts such as pomegranate, passion fruit, watermelon and grapefruit.

Mixing into the zeitgeist, Chobani is expanding its influencer marketing with a Chobani Creation pop-up bar at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, the annual indie film gathering founded by Robert Redford that gets underway on Thursday.

The brand estimates it will distribute more than 4,800 sample creations each day, both sweet and savory, as well as a number of other Chobani-related foods such as soups, pastries and even Greek Yogurt Truffle & Parma Popcorn.

“It gives us a chance to introduce our product to a new fan base and experiment with ways to really push the boundary of Greek yogurt beyond the cup,” McGuinness said.

Smart move, because the previous “boundaries” of Greek-style yogurt have started to impinge on Chobani. After a several-year head start over established yogurt brands, Chobani dominated the Greek-style market until a couple of years ago, when Dannon and Yoplait got more serious about the biggest wrinkle in the US yogurt business in decades.

Chobani’s share of the overall US yogurt business began falling last July despite the introduction of new products such as Chobani Oats and the initial Chobani Kids rollout, according to the New York Post.

Unfortunately, the narrative of stalled growth began to be supplemented by other tales, including layoffs at the company’s new plant in Twin Falls, Idaho, the world’s largest yogurt factory; and a Post report which claimed that Chobani founder Hamdi Ulukaya was on his way out as CEO in part because of a 2013 recall of Chobani yogurt which hit the company hard financially.

But the company firmly denied that report earlier this month, calling it “irresponsible reporting” and noting that Ulukaya had been in the midst of formulating a succession plan for some time.

Many will forget that Chobani was a Super Bowl advertiser last year, along with rival Dannon. This year, both brands have left the Big Game.

“Our Super Bowl ROI did exactly what we intended,” McGuinness told Sports Business Daily in a Q&A. “Our retailers loved it, and we grew February sales—it was our biggest month [last] year and awareness went up five points. [But] when you look at Super Bowl advertising, it’s a huge investment and we could probably get more continuity. What I’m looking for now is something with more continuity to match consumption habits. We want to create demand all year long.”

With the yogurt battle increasingly being fought in the trenches—the aisles of the supermarket—McGuinness added that Chobani’s “marketing in the coming year will focus on driving trial and raising awareness,” including event marketing and sampling programs, including to the glitterati in Park City, Utah.