TWIN FALLS, Idaho • Greek yogurt giant Chobani will increase production at its Twin Falls plant and add a new product, a “light” yogurt named Simply 100, company officials announced today.
The $450 million plant is at “optimal production capability,” meaning it is operating as designed for the first time since it began producing yogurt this time a year ago, Chobani officials explained to the Times-News on Monday.
A company official said it was no easy task to get the world’s largest yogurt plant running smoothly in one year as demand for its product grew. Chobani said its sales are up 32 percent year-to-date and are projected to grow even more.
“When you open up a plant, it never runs at 100 percent on day one, because you have to work a plant through and that takes a bit of time,” an official said. “And at the same time, your business continues to grow. So with a dynamic company like Chobani, there is no finish line.”
When the Twin Falls factory opened a year ago it made about 100,000 cases of yogurt a week with three or four production lines, a company spokesperson said. Now the company is running 12 production lines and producing up to 1 million cases of yogurt a week.
That does not mean the Twin Falls plant has reached capacity; the plant was built to accommodate much more growth.
Now that officials are satisfied with the plant’s operations, the company will lean on it for more production to ease pressure on its older, stressed upstate New York facility. The New York plant will remain important to its East Coast manufacturing and distribution, officials wrote in a news release.
Chobani founder and CEO Hamdi Ulukaya called the company’s growth “remarkable” and said the Twin Falls facility will step up to meet the increased national demand.
“This accomplishment allows us to sustainably and efficiently meet rising national demand and is a testament to the hard work of our new leadership, as well as those who have been with us from the beginning,” Ulukaya said in the release.
The past year, however, hasn’t been without headaches. In September, Chobani voluntarily recalled 35 varieties of moldy yogurt across the nation. About 375 people told the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that the yogurt had made them ill.
The FDA claims the Idaho Department of Agriculture found the tainted yogurt during a routine inspection two months before Chobani issued its voluntary recall. The state, however, said it took no note of mold during those inspections and refuted the FDA’s claims.
Since then, Chobani has hired Alejandro Mazzotta as vice president of global quality, food safety and regulatory affairs. Chobani is promoting him as an industry leader in food safety with two decades of experience.
It also recently hired Sherri Chatham as Twin Falls quality assurance manager.
“Chatham is a passionate quality assurance professional with (more than) 20 years in dairy quality management,” a company official wrote. “She brings a proven track record of implementing successful quality assurance and sanitation programs,” and in food training.
Both of those hires were not directly related to the recall, a company spokesman said, but they hope to address concerns brought about during that time.
Officials also hope to start innovating at the plant more – coming up with ideas for new products such as the one it announced Monday, “Simply 100.”
Branded as a light yogurt made without artificial sweeteners – the first of its kind, the company claims – Simply 100 will be produced in Twin Falls. It is made with a blend of three natural sweeteners, monk fruit, stevia leaf extract and evaporated cane juice, and is available in six flavors.
“Our food philosophy is essential to our brand and evident in everything we make, say and do. Anything with the Chobani name has to be delicious, nutritious, made with only natural ingredients and accessible to everyone,” Ulukaya said in a release.