TWIN FALLS — Not too long ago, Chobani just made yogurt out of milk.
Yogurt is still the company’s bread and butter, but in recent years Chobani has been branching out into other categories. Now you can drink Chobani or pour Chobani creamers into your coffee.
Chobani started selling oat drinks in November. Now the company is the second-largest American oat drink company by sales, behind Planet Oat and ahead of Oatly. Chobani says it already has a fifth of the oat drink market.
“We’re exceeding our plan for the year and we’re now the number two oat manufacturer in the country,” Chobani President Peter McGuinness said. “We’re super pleased.”
Oat drinks are especially popular among vegans and lactose-intolerant individuals. A lot of people like to use oat drinks with coffee, and many say they taste better than other milk substitutes.
Chobani made a significant investment in oat and other products last year. According to Twin Falls building permit reports, the company spent at least $3.1 million on additions in the fall. Those additions enabled the Twin Falls plant to process and package new product lines. McGuinness said there were 350 workers on-site daily building the additions.
So far oats appear to have been a wise investment. According to Nielsen data, oat milk sales are up 250% in the past year. McGuinness said oat is growing far more rapidly than almond milk, while soy milk is declining.
“The big bet seems to be paying off,” he said. “Oat is definitely the darling of plant-based.”
Chobani will be ramping up distribution of its existing oat products this month and in August, as well as introducing new oat products this summer and winter.
According to Nielsen data, oat milk saw a dramatic spike in demand in March when consumers stocked their cupboards and refrigerators in anticipation of the pandemic — depending on the week, oat milk sales were as much as quadruple what they’d been the year before. Oat drinks are more shelf-stable than traditional dairy products.
McGuiness said he thinks there are a few reasons oat drinks are doing so well. For one, they’re more environmentally friendly than almond drinks — almond production requires huge amounts of water.
On top of that, oat tastes better than almond and cashew, McGuinness said.
Chobani’s quick success with oat beverages is partly due to the Twin Falls factory. A lot of oat beverage companies are co-manufacturing their products, McGuinness explained, while Chobani is making its foods in-house. Brand recognition is playing a role, too. There are a lot of oat drink companies that no one’s ever heard of, he said, so when they see Chobani on the label, they trust it.
Another role? Taste, McGuiness said, noting that “his kids are addicted” to the drink. Because it’s tasty, people tend to buy it again after they try it.