At the beginning of the year, I reported that Whole Foods had stopped selling Chobani yogurt over a spat the grocery store had with the Greek yogurt brand’s use of milk from animals eating genetically modified feed.
The spat went a little like this: Whole Foods only wanted to sell organic or non-GMO Greek yogurt. Chobani produces all of its Greek yogurt with milk from conventionally raised cows. Those cows were eating genetically engineered feed. Whole Foods seems to be under the impression that animal byproducts from an animal that has eaten GMO feed is also GMO. (Yes, under that same logic you and me and anyone that has ever eaten GMO food is now a GMO.) Whole Foods asked Chobani to source its product elsewhere so it was GMO-free. Chobani refused.
Hamdi Ulukaya, the founder of Chobani, stated that he wasn’t interested in sourcing GMO-free milk for his yogurt, because the price would be through the roof. He would rather sell nutritious food to everyone over selling the same product with pricier ingredients to fewer people.
Chobani may be on the brink of becoming a publicly traded company. It turns out the company is expanding its products beyond yogurt cups at the grocery store, including “yogurt bars” where customers can physically go into a Chobani location to purchase and eat their products. The brand wants to look good to potential investors and it wants the sale of shares to go really, really well. After falling out with Whole Foods, Chobani needs to pad its image a little bit. Healthy food is trendy and if the masses have been duped into thinking GMOs are bad, then Chobani wants to get some distance before it starts selling.
That doesn’t make the situation any less disappointing, but taking certain positions on controversial issues is nothing new, especially when money is involved. So, for now, Chobani has to act like it wants to partner with Green America and look for non-GMO dairy products. With any luck, this scheme by Chobani will end as simply a marketing gimmick. Otherwise, your yogurt is going to get a whole lot more expensive.