Chobani Showcases Inaugural Class of the Chobani Food Incubator at 'Expo West'

Chobani's founder and CEO, Hamdi Ulukaya, launched the program to mentor and support food entrepreneurs to challenge the food industry — and to build a community of people who want to improve broken systems and make a difference.

NORWICH, N.Y., March 16, 2017 (PRNewswire) — Chobani, LLC, a leading natural food company and maker of America's #1 Greek Yogurt brand, announced the conclusion of the inaugural class of the Chobani Food Incubator at the Natural Products Expo ("Expo West"), the country's largest natural foods show, in Anaheim, California.

Chobani's founder and CEO, Hamdi Ulukaya, launched the program to mentor and support food entrepreneurs to challenge the food industry — and to build a community of people who want to improve broken systems and make a difference. For its first class, the company received more than 450 applications for six spots.

With a focus on challenging the food industry through innovation and making better food for more people, Chobani graduated its first Food Incubator class by hosting a "demo day" for the six industry innovators that joined the program in October 2016 – Banza, CHOPS Snacks, Cissé Cocoa Co, JAR Goods, Kettle & Fire, and MISFIT Juicery. The demo day offer participants the opportunity to present to potential investors, distributors and customers.

"I've dreamed about starting the Chobani Food Incubator for a long time and I've loved having these start-ups here the past six months," said Ulukaya. "They're part of the Chobani family. We've tried to give them some of the lessons we learned along the way and and they've brought us back to our early days when we were just getting going. I believe so much in these six companies and our only interest is their success and helping them make a difference. In their ways, they're shaping the future of food." 

Chobani Food Incubator demonstrates great success

During the six months of the Chobani Food Incubator program, the companies:

  • Expanded their product portfolio and distribution
  • Secured relationships with national retailers and increased employee headcount.
  • Registered a combined total revenue of $3 million in 2017 alone (YTD) and an increase of 60% in distribution
  • Engaged with more than 75 internal mentors in areas including sales, marketing, finance and manufacturing operations, as well as Chobani's leadership team.

A closer look at the inaugural class and their key achievements over the past 6-months

  • Banza makes nutritious pasta and foods that are affordable, convenient, and easy to prepare. "I started this business at 23. Our team is small and we have no prior experience in food," said Brian Rudolph, Co-Founder of Banza.  "Chobani was integral in helping us to not only avoid mistakes but also to think proactively about how we can be better as a business."

    Key Achievements
    • Secured national distribution with leading retailer
    • Hired new head of field marketing through a referral from fellow Incubator company CissĂ© Cocoa Co
  • CHOPS Snacks make a range of jerky snacks, using all-natural premium beef brisket and 100% natural spices. "The Chobani Food Incubator has not only been immensely helpful for our company's growth but has given our team something that I think many companies take years to find: vision and brand mission," said Luke Sellers, Co-Founder of CHOPS Snacks. "Everyone at Chobani has inspired our brand vision to not only offer the highest quality snacks possible, but to also ensure they're accessible to as many consumers as possible. "

    Key Achievements
    • Product launch requested from 4 national grocery chain through conversations at Expo West
    • Became the top-rated beef jerky on several of the largest e-commerce platforms in the U.S.
  • CissĂ© Cocoa Co is a USDA approved and Fair Trade organic chocolate company. "The Chobani Food Incubator inspired us to dream bigger – that our company is not just a suite of products, it is a lever for social good," said Diana Lovett, Founder o f CissĂ© Cocoa Co. "The program, and Hamdi especially, inspired me to do more to invest in our people – from maximize how we partner with farmers, to how we can be great partners in manufacturing to really taking care of our HQ staff."

    Key Achievements
    • Significant increase in store count from 2,000 to 4,500 doors
    • Launched in Hudson News retail stores
  • JAR Goods creates and offers delicious, simple specialty foods in jars. "Not only has the Incubator provided us with irreplaceable validation, mentorship and fostering, it has changed the very way we think," said Melissa Vitelli, Co-Founder of JAR Goods.  "It has opened our minds up to how we can and should innovate to better the business of food."

    Key Achievements
    • Grown number of doors by 50%
    • Began interviews for the company's first hire
  • Kettle & Fire is America's first and only USDA grass-fed bone broth made with fresh, organic ingredients. "The Chobani Food Incubator has inspired us to think bigger and helped us develop and execute on our mission of better food for more people," said Justin Mares, Co-Founder of Kettle & Fire. "Since joining the program, they've helped us grow same-store sales more than 150% and guided us as we've added hundreds of new distribution points."

    Key Achievements
    • Registered a 4x increase in distribution
    • Improved same-store sales by 150%+
  • MISFIT Juicery makes delicious, nutritious cold-pressed juices with 70-80% recovered fruits and veggies that would otherwise go into the thousands of pounds of trimming and scrap waste when companies make fresh cut products like carrot sticks and watermelon cubes. "We've launched in Dig Inn, doubled our shelf-life, and are well on our way to hiring a key salesperson thanks to the guidance of the Chobani team and the other companies in the Incubator," said Phil Wong, Co-Founder of MISFIT Juicery. "Beyond those distinct and easily identifiable wins, we have a clearer vision of how we scale our mission, our culture and our business."

    Key Achievements
    • Named Nexty Editor's Choice: Best New Beverage at Expo West
    • Launched a partnership with fast casual chain Dig Inn to make a better orange juice

The next Chobani Food Incubator class is scheduled to start in Fall 2017, with submission for applicants opening in May. Incubator participants receive equity-free grants, mentorship and access to Chobani's leadership team to help them grow. For more details, please visit

*According to the FDA, no significant difference has been found between milk derived from rBST-treated and non-rBST-treated cows.

About Chobani

Maker of America's No. 1–selling Greek Yogurt brand, Chobani, LLC, was founded on the belief that people have great taste—they just need great options. Chobani produces high-quality authentic strained Greek Yogurt products made using only natural, non-GMO ingredients from its plants in New Berlin, N.Y., Twin Falls, Idaho and South Victoria, Australia. Chobani is committed to using milk from regional farms and strengthening its surrounding local economies. Chobani gives a portion of its annual profits to charities worldwide through the company's charitable foundation. In 2017, Chobani was recognized by Fast Company as one of the top 10 most innovative companies in the world. All Chobani products—including Chobani® Greek Yogurt, Chobani "Flip"™, Chobani Mezé® Dips, Drink Chobani™, Chobani Tots®, Chobani Kids® and Chobani Simply 100®—are kosher certified, contain five live and active cultures and are made with milk from cows not treated with rBST.* Chobani products are available nationwide in the U.S., Mexico and Australia, and in countries in Asia and Latin America. For more information, please visit and