Chobani Brings Greek Yogurt Facility To Idaho

In December 2012, the New York-based Greek yogurt company began making yogurt at it’s new manufacturing facility in Twin Falls, Idaho.

The company announced in 2011 plans to build it’s second U.S. manufacturing plant. Chobani chose Twin Falls. The company has said it plans to hire up to 500 people once the facility starts operating at full capacity.

Hamdi Ulukaya founded the Chobani Greek Yogurt company in 2005.  According to Chobani’s website, Ulukaya threw himself into the yogurt business after he saw an ad for a recently shuttered Kraft yogurt plant in his local newspaper.  He purchased that facility.

By 2007, Chobani Greek Yogurt could be found in New York grocery stores.  By 2010, it became the number one selling Greek yogurt in the country.

Chobani, Greek Yogurt
Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

The founder and CEO of Chobani has no regrets about moving his Greek yogurt company to south-central Idaho, a region embroiled in the national debate over refugee resettlement that spread to company boycotts by far-right bloggers and conspiracy theorists.

Emilie Ritter Saunders / StateImpact Idaho

A second former employee of Chobani has accused the yogurt company of age discrimination.

The Times-News reports Virginia Tucker, who worked as a maintenance technician at the Twin Falls yogurt plant from January 2013 until she was fired in June 2015, filed a suit Monday in federal court.

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Alex Jones has both a radio show and a website by the name of InfoWars. The Chobani company has a large greek yogurt processing complex in Twin Falls. The plant has more than 1,000 employees, including hundreds of refugees.

City of Twin Falls

In a 5-to-2 vote Monday, the Twin Falls City Council decided to label the community a “Neighborly City.”

In the run-up to the decision, the city council heard more than three hours of public comment at meetings over the last month.

The “Neighborly City” label is a tamer version of declarations other cities have made calling themselves either “Welcoming” or “Sanctuary Cities” where federal immigration law is either downplayed or outright flouted.

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Alex Jones, the creator of the right-wing radio and online program InfoWars, vows he’s coming to Idaho to validate claims he’s made against Greek yogurt manufacturer Chobani.

Jones is being sued for defamation by Chobani. In posts made on his InfoWars website and Youtube channel earlier this month, Jones claims the yogurt company is “importing migrant rapists” to Twin Falls where the company has its manufacturing plant. The false claim stems from a 2016 incident involving three refugee minors who recently pleaded guilty to assaulting a 5-year-old girl.

Greek yogurt titan Chobani is suing Alex Jones and his InfoWars website for defamation. The yogurt maker claims a video and Tweets from Jones falsely links the company to a sexual assault case involving three young refugees in Twin Falls.

CompassioninWorldFarming / Flickr

Idaho’s dairy industry will be watching the new Trump administration’s trade policy, as one of the state’s biggest sectors is bracing for a flat year.

The president of the Idaho Dairymen’s Association told an agriculture conference last month that any increase in Idaho’s milk production would be exported abroad.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture forecasts that by November of this year, dairy exports will be 8.9 billion pounds – that’s slightly higher than last November’s 8.7 billion pounds.

Chobani, Greek Yogurt
Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

Chobani says it is giving its employees an ownership stake in the privately held company.

The Greek yogurt maker says the shares being distributed would amount to 10 percent of the company's future value in the event of a sale or initial public offering. It says each of its approximately 2,000 full-time employees will receive shares based on their role and time spent with the company.

 

Chobani says CEO and founder Hamdi Ulukaya is meeting with employees this week to talk about the plan in person.

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Greek yogurt maker Chobani says a newly installed reverse-osmosis filtration system at its south-central Idaho plant will reduce the company's consumption of water by 20 percent.

The Times-News reports that the company is installing the new machine to help reduce complaints from its residential neighbors.

Last year, Hollister residents complained about increased truck traffic and odors coming from a local farm that recycled the company's acid whey, which is a waste product of the yogurt plant.

yogurt, chobani
Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

A fungus found in Chobani yogurt produced at its Twin Falls facility last year that led to a voluntary recall was more virulent than first thought.

In August and September 2013 more than 200 people were made sick by the Greek yogurt after a strain of fungus called Mucor circinelloides was detected in the product.

Chobani, Greek Yogurt
Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

Twin Falls officials in south-central Idaho have approved a $3.5 million expansion of a Greek yogurt plant operated by Chobani.

The Times-News reports in a story on Wednesday that the addition to the $450 million plant will add to its packaging and filling rooms on the east side.

Company officials say the plant reached full production in December, producing 1 million cases of yogurt a week.

Chobani, Greek Yogurt
Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer of New York is calling on the Russian government to allow Chobani Greek yogurt to be delivered to Sochi for U.S. Olympic athletes and NBC Studios employees.

Schumer said Tuesday that a shipment of Chobani yogurt is being held up at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey because of "unattainable" Russian Customs certifications. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has requested that Russia approve a USDA safety certificate for the yogurt, but Schumer said Russia still won't allow the shipment.

TBiley / Flickr Creative Commons

Greek yogurt company Chobani says it is increasing production at its Twin Falls plant and adding production of a new "light" yogurt called Simply 100.

Chobani officials tell The Times-News the $450 million plant is running at optimal production capability for the first time since it opened a year ago. When the plant opened, it made about 100,000 cases of yogurt per week running three or four production lines. It is now running 12 production lines and producing up to a million cases of yogurt a week.

Chobani, Greek Yogurt
Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

A U.S. Food and Drug Administration report says the Idaho State Department of Agriculture detected abnormalities in yogurt at a Chobani facility two months before the company issued a recall, but state officials say that's not true.

Chobani told grocery stores in late August to destroy 35 varieties of yogurt reported to have been contaminated by a mold associated with dairy products. More than 300 people reported getting sick after eating Greek yogurt produced in Twin Falls.

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