Healthy Food Marketing: Why Chobani Created a Food Startup Incubator

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What are the benefits of creating an Incubator?

So why would a successful yogurt brand like Chobani create an incubator for small brands instead of just acquiring? There are several reasons, but for Chobani, it seems to start with their mission. Chobani believes that “Every food maker has a responsibility to provide people with better options. And that’s just what they are attempting to do by using their power to lift up other health conscious brands. Chobani’s famous CEO, Hamdi Ulukaya, wants to pass on their incredible knowledge about effective brand building to young food companies with similar values. They define these as “DNNA values”which stands for delicious, nutritious, natural and affordable. That is the actual criteria Chobani uses to choose brands for their incubator. Hamdi Ulukaya’s number one tip on great branding: “Just be real.” This tip can be seen that in the brands that have been chosen for the incubator.

Incubating gives small brands a chance to get some incredible support and gives brands like Chobani the chance to see how they will actually do without having to acquire them. To some degreethey are following in the footsteps of bigger companies like General Mills when it comes to incubation vs. acquisition. Their company 301 INC, believes “it’s more effective to team with external partners on business incubation, rather than try to build our own.”

However Chobani isn’t taking equity stakes in the companies. Instead, startups get the benefit of insights and mentorship from 130 mentors and experts from the Chobani staff. They also receive $25,000 to help get them going.

The Chosen Brands

Of the 550 applicants, the chosen brands, Chloe’s Fruit, Farmer Willie’s, Grainful, LoveTheWild, Pique Tea Crystals, Rumi Spice, and Snow Monkey are all “purpose driven entrepreneurs.”. Ulukaya happily welcomed these winners to the Chobani family. He said “These seven companies each have something special and unique.” Jackie Miller, Chobani Food’s incubator director said, “This was born out of our founder’s vision to pay it forward… He wanted to help the little guys, like Chobani once was, to grow in scale and take on the big guys.” Miller and Ulukaya believe it to be a smart investment that is all about supportive relationships.

The success of the program has already been proven with previous incubator brands of which my personal favorite is Banza Pasta.  The winners see this as an incredible opportunity to take their individual mission to a bigger audience and prove out their ideas.

Here are two of my favorites from this group of winners:

Snow Monkey has worked hard to create frozen “ice cream”  that is nutritious and delicious. Crafted from all-natural, plant-based ingredients. These superfood ice treats are vegan, paleo, made with 21g of protein per pint, and free from eight major allergens. Co-founders Rachel Geicke and Mariana Ferreira, have said they’re on “cloud nine” after being selected, citing Chobani as their role model. They took the homemade plant-based ice cream recipe they created in college to 200 stores in 12 states, including Whole Foods, Wegmans, and small natural grocery chains. They plan to use the money from Chobani to increase production.

Rumi Spice: Co-founded by Army veterans who spent time in Afghanistan, Rumi Spice works directly with Afghan farmers to import high quality saffron products to restaurants and retail stores across the U.S. Rumi has hired 384 Afghan women and has over 90 farmers in his network.

Get on Ulukaya’s Level

Ulukaya has said, “I can’t wait to have these companies at Chobani to see how we can help them on their journey and welcome them to our family.”

Getting Start ups off the ground is very different than marketing more established brands. Although it’s easier than ever before, it certainly isn’t easy. There’s design, distribution, marketing and so much more to think about. So where does a startup who doesn’t have the benefit of the Chobani or General Mills incubators start?  Let’s talk. I can help.

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