The Turkish king of Greek yogurt
It is not without irony that a Turkish immigrant is the king of Greek yogurt. Hamdi Ulukaya is living the American dream making Greek Yogurt in a small upstate New York factory.
The 40-year-old founder of Chobani yogurt saw his business grow 200 percent last year. It is now the third biggest selling yogurt brand in America, after Yoplait and Dannon and at the top of the Greek yogurt niche.
It’s been four years since the first case of yogurt rolled off the production line. Today, his company is worth more than $700 million.
Ulukaya, according to a story on CNN grew up in eastern Turkey. “I was not really involved with the family business - sheep and cow farming, yogurt and cheese making. But I think I learned from my father the unspoken business language or instincts that go back thousands of years. We call it Anatolian business practice - your reputation is your asset.”
He arrived to the United States in 1994 to learn English and go to business school. “My father had come to visit. He said, ‘They don't have very good cheese here. You should make cheese.’ I said, ‘What? I didn't come all the way here to make cheese!’ But I did. I started a feta cheese company, Euphrates, in upstate New York in 2002. It was two years of the most challenging days of my life.”
When asked why a Turk is making Greek yogurt, he replies: “In Greece it is not called ‘Greek yogurt’. Everywhere in the world it is called ‘strained yogurt’. But because it was introduced in this country by a Greek company, they called it ‘Greek yogurt’. It doesn't matter whether it's Greek yogurt or Turkish yogurt, as long as it's a good yogurt.”
Success started with Ulukaya winning over upstate New York shops, according to a story in Forbes. Then came regional chains, then New England, then national coverage. Sometimes he couldn’t keep up with demand.