Booming sales bring big yogurt plant to US

Chobani is opening one of the world’s biggest yogurt plants in Twin Falls, Idaho. Greek yogurt sales are rising.
Heather Ainsworth/The New York Times
Chobani is opening one of the world’s biggest yogurt plants in Twin Falls, Idaho. Greek yogurt sales are rising.

NEW YORK — Chobani, the yogurt company that grew from nothing five years ago into a roughly $1 billion powerhouse today, on Monday will formally open one of the world’s largest yogurt-processing plants in Twin Falls, Idaho.

‘‘I’m so excited,’’ said Hamdi Ulukaya, founder and chief executive. ‘‘I’ve been waiting for this moment for so long.’’

The $450 million, 1 million-square-foot plant is the company’s second. It will employ 300 people, and Ulukaya said that for every 10 jobs it creates directly, it is expected to create about 66 additional jobs in ancillary businesses.


“The state expects the total economic impact of our business there to be $1.3 billion,’’ he said.

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In exchange, Chobani qualified for a variety of state tax incentives, including a property tax exemption and credit off tax liabilities. Idaho’s position as one of the country’s largest milk producers and the transportation network around Twin Falls also were attractions, Ulukaya said.

The plant is yet another sign of the United States’ growing appetite for yogurt and its willingness to embrace new brands, as evidenced by Chobani’s explosive growth as well as that of Fage and now, Muller Quaker Dairy, a joint venture of PepsiCo and ­Unternehmensgruppe Theo Muller, a privately held ­German dairy company.

The Muller Quaker Dairy products are currently sold only­ between Boston and Washington and in the Great Lakes region.

That has led some to worry about oversaturation, but ­Ulukaya said there is plenty of room for growth. ‘‘Americans still eat far less yogurt than people in other parts of the world,’’ he said.


He said some retailers are even increasing the amount of refrigerated shelf space they allot to yogurt to accommodate all the new brands and varieties that are popping up.

‘‘I can still remember packing the first 300 cases in the fall of 2007,’’ Ulukaya said. ‘‘It took us all night to do it because the filler didn’t work very well, just me and Kyle, who’s now the executive vice president of sales,’’ he said, ­referring to Kyle O’Brien. ‘‘It’s been an amazing journey.’’