A recent decision by the Whole Foods supermarket chain to phase Chobani yogurt off of its shelves should not have any affect on the New Berlin plant owned by the Greek yogurt producer.
Whole Foods makes up less than half a percent of Chobani's business, said Peter McGuinness, Chief Marketing and Brand Officer of Chobani.
Reasons for dropping the top Greek yogurt brand, a move announced on Dec. 18, have varied, according to different media reports. McGuinness said some reasons thrown about for the drop include:
*The yogurt, though made with natural ingredients, containing genetically modified organisms, known as GMOs. Both sides stated that this was not the main reason for phasing out Chobani.
*Whole Foods requesting specialty flavors sold exclusively in their stores.
Competition is the name of the game in the Greek yogurt, which McGuinness said takes about 50 percent of the yogurt industry, and he estimated that Whole Foods was trying to even the playing field. The store has its own private-label brand Greek yogurt.
"They're going to discontinue us, not the No. 3, 4 or 7 brand. That kind of begs the question: In a highly competitive market you're going to discontinue the number one Greek yogurt brand in the nation?" he said. "I don't know, I'm just adding two and two together."
An email to Whole Foods representatives was not returned, but a statement from the company included in a Washington Post story posted on Dec. 19 stated, "At this time, Chobani has chosen a different business model, so we will be phasing Chobani Greek Yogurt out of our stores in early 2014 to make room for choices that aren't readily available on the market."
With hundreds of store chains supplying Chobani's product, McGuinness said he is not worried about losing Whole Foods. In fact, he said that Dec. 23 was a record day for the company, selling more cups of yogurt than any other day in the history of the Chobani brand.
Chobani also recently released a 100-calorie light version of its yogurt, made with natural ingredients and produced exclusively in the New Berlin plant, McGuinness said.
"We're just growing our base business, and we feel great about 2014 right now," he said.