Chobani takes on the plant-based category by siphoning spend into sampling
After dominating market share in the Greek yogurt category, Chobani is now looking to take the crown in the world of oat products. Reaching those outside of the metropolitan, vegan elite through sampling is critical to its plan to cut through the bustling plant-based space.
Chobani jumps into verticals outside of Greek yogurt for the first time
Chobani, which aims to be seen as a “modern food company”, is in the process of expanding into other verticals outside of Greek yogurt for the first time in its 12-year history. Two new products will launch into the retail space later this December: a dairy creamer, made from the same production cycle as its flagship product, and an oat milk.
More products made from oats will be rolled out in the coming months, including an oat yogurt with a granola crunch.
The market expansion comes as yogurt sales drop and interest in plant-based foods increases. Mintel reported US sales of yogurt and yogurt drinks have dropped by 3.6% between 2018 and 2019, while US retail sales of plant-based foods grew 11.3% in the same period, according to a report commissioned by the Good Food Institute and the Plant Based Foods Association.
Chobani is attempting to stretch its brand across both the dairy and non-dairy worlds by housing them under the notion of “wellness”.
“We're on a mission to be a modern food company focused on universal wellness and this is sort of the first proof point of that, and the entrance into it,” said Eddie Revis, the brand’s vice-president for marketing strategy and media.
“We talk about universal wellness in a few ways: we want you to have healthy, delicious, natural food; we talk a lot about universal wellness through our corporate welfare and through how we treat our employees ... as well as making sure that the animals are taken care of, the worker welfare is being taken care of; and then we look at sustainability too – the wellness of the planet.”
The challenge for Chobani’s team of in-house marketers is twofold. It has to turn consumers on to its new range of oat-based products, and it has to do so without turning them away from dairy – the opposite of Oatly’s ‘It’s like milk but made for humans’ messaging.
“We weren't going to go into market and say, ‘this is better than milk’, because we love dairy and we're a dairy-first company. But we want to bring more options to people, and finding that story led to a beautiful creative idea and what's going to be an amazing campaign.”
A media blitz is planned for February; Revis would not give details on what it will look like. However, he revealed sampling would play a big part as Chobani looks to get oat-based products into the hands of those who may not have thought to try it.
This push began earlier this week when the brand partnered with mattress brand Casper for a New York City pop-up, which gave consumers and influencers the chance to try the new products in a mini breakfast in bed scenario. But the drive to trial extends far beyond the east coast.
“If you're in New York – you see [oat milk] all the time – you see it at coffee shops, you're asking for it, your friends are drinking it,” said Revis. “But when we think about better food for more people, we mean we want to be accessible and something that everybody can eat or drink.
We need to think about making sure that people are educated about what it is. And then from there we need people to try it. So, a lot of our strategy going into this first year of this launch is going to be about getting people trying it.”
Chobani will be travelling “everywhere” on the road in order to garner brand loyalty in places such as the rural south, where the concept of dairy-free milks and yogurts has not caught fire. Revis imagines setting up stalls at coffee events and in grocery stores to demonstrate the taste and versatility of the oat-based products.
As Chobani grows bigger than Greek yogurt, a question mark lingers over its in-house team. The company has been a staunch proponent of keeping creative and strategy inside its own walls, but with more to do and different channels to experiment in, will Revis eventually cave to an agency?
“I'll never say never, but this campaign is being developed [in-house] by Chobani,” he said. “We see an opportunity and we want to figure it out and we want to make it. When you have the best in the business of talent, people adapt very quickly when facing new challenges.
“So, we might have someone who is a great producer who's worked on film shoots and TV shoots and we can say, ‘Hey, we're doing an experiential event – can you do it?’ Everyone at Chobani jumps at those opportunities.”