In 2005, Hamdi Ulukaya received the most influential piece of junk mail ever deposited in someone’s mailbox. It was an advertisement to promote the sale of an abandoned yogurt factory located in upstate New York, which had been closed down by Kraft Foods. Hamdi purchased the factory after a tour the following day and launched a daring business pursuit which would forever change the way Americans thought about and tasted yogurt.
Hamdi launched Chobani to offer a more authentic take on greek yogurt. He had become tired of the American approach to yogurt, which was often loaded with sugar or simply too artificial when compared with what he had grown up with in Turkey. Fifteen years and many sales later, Chobani has become a household name known for its incredible disruption and innovation within yogurt.
We recently spoke with Viktoriya Konstantinov, a recruiter within Chobani’s Human Resources division, to learn more about Chobani’s incredible success over the past decade and how members of the Emerson community can get connected with the brand.
How do you describe Chobani to someone unfamiliar with what you do?
Viktoriya: “Our mission from day one has been to provide better food for more people. We started with Greek yogurt because our CEO… when looking at the options that were on the shelf at that time, he really thought that they were lacking. He really thought that, you know, everyone deserved better options and an option that is good for you. Something that is delicious, accessible, and nutritious.
Greek yogurt is certainly not invented by Chobani, but it’s something that wasn’t available to the mass market and, if it was, then it was found in specialty stores or it was really expensive or all of these different things. We launched on Greek yogurt in the mass scale that we sell in and we became the number one selling Greek yogurt in the US.
Now we’re also, for the future, looking into getting into some more food categories where we can essentially do the same thing that we’ve done with the yogurt category of entering a space where we feel like we’re needed. Where we feel like there is no good option and providing a better one for people.”
How do Chobani’s roles support the company’s mission?
Viktoriya: “It honestly varies because every role is so different. We have opportunities across the organization in different areas ranging from sales to marketing to engineering and manufacturing and it’s one of those things where every single role can look different.
At the end of the day, there’s the one aspect where you’re contributing to a company that is then providing good out into the world. So there’s one aspect, but in terms of the other things that I’ve said, we give opportunities to employees to volunteer with us, to volunteer on their own.”
Viktoriya mentioned that Chobani encourages all employees to volunteer with community partners. The company actually allots volunteer time to hourly employees so they may use regularly scheduled work hours to commit to a cause or organization.
Chobani has also partnered with Rubicon to offer volunteers for crisis response. While the company has not been officially deployed yet, they are currently on-call to assist in crisis or disaster relief.
How would you describe the culture at Chobani?
Viktoriya: “I would say a big aspect of our culture is collaboration. It’s a big thing for us at Chobani. We have a combination of diverse backgrounds and cultures across our entire organization and the thing that really binds us together is the mutual belief in our mission and how we’re delivering on that. You end up having a group of people who are all super passionate and super happy to step in and get involved…
The other thing I’ll say about our culture is that we are very fast-paced. We’re no longer a startup, but we, in many ways, continue to function like one in the sense that we do have a fast pace and we do have a big focus on innovation. Again, whether that’s through our products or just how we do business. We do have processes and procedures in place, obviously. But those are flexible and malleable if needed. If somebody has an idea on how we can do this certain thing better, how one of our processes can be improved by doing this, we’re definitely not afraid to try something new. If it doesn’t work we go back to the drawing board, see how we can improve it and if it still doesn’t work, maybe move on to the next idea.”
What are some of the opportunities for growth at Chobani?
Viktoriya: “Growth here is really unlimited. If you start here in sales but, in a year or two decide you want to be in marketing, that’s something that we’ve done. If you want to be in recruiting, whatever it is, we will support your growth within the organization.
Something I’ll also say that I think is really important for college students is that we recruit for our retail execution team a lot. We do tend to, you know, bring people in who aren’t recent grads, too. It’s not just recent grads for those roles, by any means. But a big part of those roles are recent grads and something that is important to them specifically but also just anyone that’s applying to Chobani is that, to your point about caring about our people, internal promotions and internal growth is actually something that is very, very important to us.
We will always consider internal applicants for roles before moving externally.”
Are there any skills or skill sets you look for in potential applicants?
Viktoriya: “Communication is a big part of our operation. We understand that people aren’t coming in with the level of experience that seasoned professionals are coming in with. Our retail execution sales roles you don’t even necessarily even need to have sales experience. We just want to see a passion for what we’re doing and an interest in sales.”
Applicants who are interested in Chobani’s opportunities are encouraged to visit their website to learn more about current opportunities and Chobani’s overall mission statement.