TWIN FALLS — Chobani’s yogurt scientists were feeling a bit cramped. They were working out of a trailer — albeit an unusually nice trailer — which wasn’t ideal for developing new dairy products.
“We were just running, physically, out of space,” Chobani Chief Research and Development Officer Kai Sacher said.
Space won’t be a problem anymore for Chobani’s scientists. The company announces Monday the opening of a new 71,000-square-foot Innovation and Community Center in Twin Falls. The project broke ground in late 2017.
Sacher explained that the research and development portion of the expansion will greatly benefit his team. Chobani’s Twin Falls R&D staff taste a lot of yogurt while developing new flavors and products. Having a comfortable place for tasting and discussion is critical, Sacher said, and the trailer wasn’t quite up to the task.
“If you don’t have the physical space, you do (tastings) on your desk, by your computer,” Sacher said. “People are walking by; it’s noisy.”
Chobani’s Twin Falls plant was already the largest yogurt plant in the world before the $21 million addition. Adding to the plants was always in the company’s plans.
“This was our vision from the very beginning,” Chobani CEO Hamdi Ulukaya said in a statement. “I am so thrilled this center will serve as a bridge to Chobani’s exciting and bold future.”
The plant addition won’t only improve the company’s research and development capabilities. The new space includes a fitness center, lactation rooms for new mothers and a faith center for all religious denominations, among other features. Chobani says the building will also be water and energy efficient.
Along with providing his team with much-needed work space, Sacher said the research and development center will help Chobani retain scientists, and attract new ones to the Magic Valley. The addition demonstrates a thorough commitment to R&D, he said.
Chobani’s Twin Falls R&D has grown in the past seven years. Initially the company had about 10 scientists working in Twin Falls. Now the R&D department has 45 employees, many of whom are scientists.
“It’s now a need to have a facility that invests in people,” he said.