In previous posts, I've written about the Turkish-born founder of Chobani, America's leading purveyor of Greek-style (or should we call it "crypto Turkish"?) yogurt. Chobani's dazzling success -- it has grown into a $700 million business over the course of just a few years -- has led to a scramble among other yogurt makers to get into the Greek yogurt trade. But, as an article in the New York Times explains, Chobani's success has also led to something of an economic revival in upstate New York, where the firm is based. From the article:
Greek yogurt has certainly been healthy for the economy in New York. Two of the leading brands, Chobani and Fage, have their main production plants in upstate New York and are expanding their operations.
Alpina Foods, the United States arm of a major South American dairy company, is building a $20 million plant in Batavia to make Greek yogurt topped with granola. And state economic development officials are said to be negotiating with another major food maker to set up a dairy products plant in the same area, creating the possibility for what one executive called a “yogurt cluster....”
....Data compiled by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets shows that the state produced 368 million pounds of yogurt in 2010, nearly 40 percent more than the previous year. Over five years, production rose almost 60 percent. Much of that increase is for Greek yogurt production.
And the growth is continuing. Through a combination of new plants and expansions, within a few years, the state could produce twice as much yogurt as it made in 2010.
“We’re literally building as we speak to keep up with demand,” said Russell B. Evans, Fage’s director of United States marketing.
Fage, based in Greece, is credited with introducing many Americans to Greek yogurt and thereby starting the boom. The company chose to open its plant in Johnstown, N.Y., in 2008 partly because it was close to New York City, where a large community of people of Greek descent made a ready market familiar with their product. But the appeal turned out to be much broader.
The Johnstown plant had an initial capacity of 26 million pounds a year and last year produced 123 million pounds. Its planned expansion, which is expected to take about two years, would allow the company to make up to 352 million pounds a year.
AgroFarma, founded by a Turkish immigrant, began making Greek-style yogurt under the Chobani brand name four years ago at a former Kraft Foods plant in South Edmeston, N.Y. Now the leading American maker of Greek yogurt, the company currently takes in about three million pounds of milk a day, from which it makes a million pounds of yogurt. When the current phase of expansion is done in the spring, the plant’s capacity will increase by about a third, said Mikael B. Pedersen, the chief operating officer of AgroFarma. (Chobani also recently announced plans to build a $128 million plant in Idaho, to better supply markets across the country.)
The Greek yogurt boom has translated into jobs in rural areas of New York that badly need them. Chobani said it currently employed about 900 people in New York and expected to add about 100 more. Fage said it had about 240 full-time employees and expected to add about 150. The new Alpina plant in Batavia will employ about 50 people.