December 18, 2013

Whole Foods loses its taste for Chobani

Part of the decision to discontinue selling the popular brand of yogurt might be fueled by the chain’s push to phase out foods that use genetically modified ingredients.

The Associated Press

Whole Foods said Wednesday that it will be phasing Chobani Greek Yogurt out of its stores in early 2014 to make room for other products.

click image to enlarge

Chobani photo Containers of Chobani’s Bite Greek Yogurt. Greek yogurt now accounts for more than a third of the U.S. yogurt market, and Chobani is the top Greek yogurt brand.

Part of the decision might be fueled by the natural and organic grocery chain’s push to phase out foods that use genetically modified ingredients. But it’s also about offering more exclusive and organic products. Chobani is now available in most supermarkets.

Whole Foods Market Inc. said Wednesday in a statement that it is committed to offering shoppers the widest variety of high-quality products possible, including items shoppers can’t find anywhere else. And as the national demand for Greek yogurt has grown, the company says the number of conventional Greek yogurt options has multiplied.

“Whole Foods Market challenged its Greek yogurt suppliers to create unique options for shoppers to enjoy – including exclusive flavors, non-GMO options and organic choices,” the company said in a statement. “At this time, Chobani has chosen a different business model.”

Whole Foods, based in Austin, Texas, but with stores across the country – including Portland, Maine – carries six national brands and a number of regional brands.

Greek yogurt, known for its thick texture, tart taste and high protein content, has surged in popularity in recent years. It now accounts for more than a third of the U.S. yogurt market, up from just 1 percent in 2007, according to a report by Bernstein Research.

Chobani, which is the top Greek yogurt brand in the U.S., says its products are not organic but use only natural ingredients. But some advocacy groups have urged the company to shift to non-GMO sources as food for its dairy cows.

“Though we have limited distribution within Whole Foods, they have been a wonderful partner of ours over the years,” Chobani said in a statement. “We know our fans love buying our products in their stores and we hope to continue our partnership moving forward.”

The setback follows Chobani’s recall earlier this year of some of its Greek yogurt cups because of a mold contamination.

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