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Harry Smith speaks with NEWSChannel 2 about Chobani profile

By ANDREW DONOVAN

(WKTV) - Chobani Greek Yogurt, based in New Berlin, was the focus of a piece on Rock Center with Brian Williams. Correspondent Harry Smith made a visit to Chobani's headquarters in Chenango County to sit down with founder and CEO Hamdi Ulukaya.

NEWSChannel 2 had the chance to speak with Harry Smith from NBC News World Headquarters in New York about his trip to Central New York.

 

TRANSCRIPT:

Kristen Copeland: Later tonight on Rock Center on WKTV, Chobani will be the focus of a piece by Harry Smith and Harry recently visited headquarters in Chenango County. Joining us now from NBC News World Headquarters in New York is Harry Smith. Harry, thank you so much for joining us.

Harry Smith: Kristen, good to be with you.

Kristen: You know, living as close as I do to Chobani, it's normal for me to see it in the grocery stores and see it at every single local event, but you tell me, how far reaching is this brand and having been to the factory surrounded only by farmland, are you surprised by this?

Harry: Right, yea, well let me tell you first: the second part of the question. So, I drive up there however many weeks ago it was. The way I end up going up, you go up Route 17 and you make a right on whatever that is and it's just a two-lane black top. You're going through this rolling countryside through these beautiful dairies and everything else and then the Chobani factory appears. It looks like the Emerald City. Oh my goodness. It's gigantic and beautiful and new and gleaming. And I was blown away by that. And the other part of course, ever since they started making the product five years ago, they've barely been able to keep up with demand. So it's spreading like wildfire, if yogurt can spread like wildfire.

Kristen:  That's just it. It's a cup of yogurt. It's not some high-tech, state of the art computer chip many business people were expecting to bring America back. It is one of the few companies to pick up speed in a recession. You're talking with the CEO about projected sales in the coming year. What kind of figures were you getting?

Harry:  They're thinking they'll do a billion dollars in sales worth of yogurt. Which is just stunning, going from zero to a billion in five years is no small task. One of the things as we were doing our research, the amount of greek yogurt that was sold in the United States five years ago was less than 5%. Now it's more than a third of the market and growing by leaps and bounds. The vast majority of that is Chobani. I think Chobani has lifted the whole market cause you have all of these other brands that are doing equally as well throughout New York Stat, so it's a huge business.

Kristen:  What do you find to be the secret of their success? Keeping it simple perhaps?

Harry: We met Mustafa, the Yogurt guru, who really helped Hamdi kind of make the formula for making it so good. This guy walks around with a pocket full of spoons and all he does is tastes yogurt all day. And there's a lot of care that goes into make it just right. And it's one of those things that you know it was the right idea and exactly the right time. Cause we look at the stuff we used to eat all the time and we thought this is good for you, and it was filled with sugar and it was kind of gooey and we thought we were doing the right thing. And these guys came along and said you know, we're really going to do this right. People are going to appreciate it. The other great part of the story is so much of the success of the company comes from word of mouth on social media. You go on the Chobani website, it's a love fest.

Kristen: I agree with you there. Being in NYC, have you been to the Chobai Yogurt Bar?

Harry: I have indeed. It's great. They serve a plain yogurt and then they put different kinds of toppings on it. And it's knock-out city. Everything from a little bit of olive oil, and this and that and the other thing, to a kind of almost a peanut butter and jelly. And each one more delicious than the next. Go on the Chobani website, they'll show you the recipes.

Kristen:  Exactly, just like you were saying, social media. And I want to wait for your report tonight, because I know it will be spectacular. But you refer to the head of Chobani as a new kind of CEO. Real quick, what do you mean by that?

Harry: Well, when you meet him, when you meet Hamdi, here's a guy who quotes Rumi, the Persian poet from 800 years ago. He is, in many ways, very low key. Part of this business plan from the beginning was to give 10 percent of the profits to charity. That's a new kind of business plan.

Kristen: And it's certainly working. Harry Smith from NBC World Headquarters in New York. Thank you for joining us, and again, looking forward to your report tonight.

Harry: Thank you. Good to be with you.

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