TWIN FALLS — Getting into the mindset of a kid can be challenging. So when Chobani’s global research and development team got to work on a brand-new line of children’s products, they consulted the experts.
“We thought we might as well have kids taste it,” said R&D Manager Jared Maughan.
Scientists brought the product home to their children. As anyone who’s worked with children knows, kids will give you an honest opinion — and some fathers admitted they had to check their ego at the door.
“They are definitely harsher critics than we are,” said Erik Oberg, a senior scientist at Chobani’s Twin Falls Plant. “If it’s not good, they’ll let you know.”
The Gimmies were Chobani’s first real launch into the children’s market, and were developed here in Twin Falls with the help of children locally and across the U.S. The yogurt products began hitting the shelves nationwide this month.
Maughan and Oberg were two of the yogurt maker’s research scientists who brought the Gimmies products home for their children to try before their public release. They used some of that honest feedback to make the product better.
For Maughan, producing Gimmies was all about getting kids to think, “I can’t believe Mom and Dad let me eat this.” But Chobani’s research scientists also enjoyed the rare opportunity of letting their children be involved in their work.
“Kids know where you work and what you do,” said Rajneesh Hora, who brought the product home to his 8-year-old daughter, Ameya. “This time, you actually got to engage with your kids. This is the product she’s been waiting for.”
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The R&D team also had some fun in making the product.
“This is the first time we got to do whatever,” said Amanda Tuck, the lead R&D scientist behind the Gimmies Crunch flavors.
But she also learned that developing snacks for kids can be a struggle because they are picky — and adults and kids don’t always appreciate the same things. Scientist Varun Khanna said many of the adult researchers were fond of a “peanut butter and jelly” flavor — but the kids gave mixed reviews.
“The things that are nostalgic to us may not be for them,” said Khanna, who has a 6-year-old daughter, Riya. “One of the biggest challenges was to get all-natural colors.”
Chobani wanted the new yogurts and toppings to be attractive to kids, with pinks, blues and yellows — while still steering away from artificial colors or flavorings. The company also chose to make all the flavors without nuts so more kids could enjoy them, Khanna said.
Chobani took its consumer feedback seriously, and also hired a third-party to help survey about 200 children nationwide. Each kid received a ballot with smiley and frowny faces, and was asked to rank the flavors in the order they liked them.
As for local 11-year-old Jackson Maughan, the best part of helping out was putting the ingredients in and “Just to eat it.”
And his dad, Jared Maughan, approved of the youngster’s work: “It was just kind of fun to see it all come together.”