Did you know Chobani only came to be because CEO Hamdi Ulukaya happened upon an ad for a recently-closed Kraft yogurt plant in upstate New York? It's true! They went from selling their yogurt to just a few local NY grocery stores with a team of five employees to 2,000 employees and making $1 billion in sales per year.
From Winnie the Pooh-themed yogurt for kids, indulgent salted-caramel-crunch-flavored mixes for curbing our sweet tooth cravings, and light low-cal tubs for those looking to lose 10 pounds, Chobani has the answer to almost all of your good-for-you snack needs. But even though Chobani is America's top-selling Greek yogurt brand, about 60 percent of the country has never even heard of Chobani—and the same percentage has never even tried Greek yogurt!
So, before you grab another container off the shelf, make sure you read up on these must-know facts about the yogurt company. And after you do, try the Eat This!-approved picks in our report: 25 Best Yogurts for Weight Loss.
Each Container Is Made With Probiotics
Contrary to what you might think, not all yogurts will provide you with gut-healthy probiotics—the live bacteria that scientists believe may play a role in lowering your incidence of obesity and levels of inflammation. That's because some products are heat-treated after fermentation, which will kill most of the beneficial active cultures. As you'll see on Chobani's label, their Greek yogurt is made with five "live and active cultures." Three of them have been found to be probiotic strains: L. Bulgaricus, L. Acidophilus, and Bifidus; the other two strains listed, S. Thermophilus and L. Casei, are known as active cultures.
Their Plain Flavors Have No Added Sugars
For those of us who adhere to a low-sugar diet, this is music to our ears! When you're picking out a container of greek yogurt, you want to read just two ingredients: milk and live active cultures. Unfortunately, that's not always the case among every product on the dairy aisle shelves; in fact, some brands have plain vanilla flavors that climb up to 21 grams of sugar per serving! Whether you're grabbing their whole milk flavor or non-fat, both will fill you up with not much more than gut-friendly probiotics, healthy fats, and muscle-building protein.
Beware of the Butter
Here's a hint: steer clear of anything with the words "peanut butter" in it. The sugar content of the PB&J flavor tops off at 18 grams, the Peanut Caramel Satisfaction rings in at 19 grams of the sweet stuff, and scooping into the Peanut Butter Dream means you'll be putting down the second highest amount of sugar you'll find in a Chobani: a whopping 23 grams (or more blood-glucose-raising stuff than what's in three Oreo Creme Filled Chips Ahoy! cookies, one of the worst supermarket cookies).
The Fruit 'Flips' Aren't Flops
Be wary of blended flavors or those with fruit on the bottom. Both of these options have little wiggle room when it comes to the amount of sugar in your yogurt. For instance, both the Mixed Berry Blended and the Fruit on the Bottom Raspberry have 16 grams of sugar per 5.3 oz. Rather, by purchasing Chobani "Flip," you put the sugar- and calorie-cutting power in your own hands by being able to pour in as much fruit puree as you like. Take a look at the Chobani "Flip" Pure Raspberry, which will have 11 grams of sugar in 5.3 oz if you choose to put all the puree in.
Their Ingredients Are [Basically] Non-GMO
Remember the debacle in 2013 when Whole Foods announced it was dropping Chobani from its stores because the yogurt maker uses milk from cows who eat genetically engineered crops (GMOs) like corn and soy? Chobani was bummed, but they argued the company was more interested in selling nutritious yogurt to everyone rather than source GMO-free milk and have to jack up the price so only a few people could buy it.
Besides helping us keep money in our wallets, apparently dairy cows fed GMOs still count as non-GMO "according to criteria applied by the United States Department of Agriculture, the European Union, and specific state criteria, such as the State of Vermont." The company also argues that switching over to non-GMO feed is pretty implausible as standard feed blends often contain corn and soy, and over 90 percent of those crops are grown in the U.S. from genetically engineered seeds—there is simply not enough non-GMO grain for farmers to feed the 78,000 dairy cows Chobani needs.
Instead, Chobani remains committed to sourcing the freshest, rBST-free milk possible from the nearly 900 farmers in their local communities—from Chenango County, New York, to Twin Falls, Idaho. And while the milk might have modifications, the company claims "we require our suppliers certify that every ingredient we use is non-GMO."
They Don't Offer a Low-Fat Plain Option
Fat content is often a deciding factor when it comes to purchasing a yogurt container. We always recommend having at least 1% fat in your dairy products. That's because the healthy fats will not only help your body absorb fat-soluble nutrients like vitamin A, D, E, and K but will also help keep you satiated longer. Ilyse Schapiro, MS, RD, CDN, and founder of Ilyse Schapiro Nutrition tells ETNT "I typically recommend 2% because it's a happy medium [between whole milk and non-fat dairy products]." Unfortunately, Chobani's only plain yogurt options are non-fat (0%) and whole milk (4%). IF you're looking for low-fat (2%) options, you'll have to go for a higher-sugar variety from the "Blended" or "Fruit on the Bottom" line.
Greek Yogurt Is High In Protein
Regular yogurt you grew up eating is unstrained. Greek yogurt is strained, meaning the manufacturer removes the excess liquid whey, which results in a thicker, creamier yogurt. It also means you get a cream with an average of 12 grams of protein per 5.3 oz. cup, whereas regular yogurt has a mere 6 grams. Eating a high-protein snack won't only keep your hunger pangs at bay, it'll also help you build lean muscle mass, which will then burn more calories at rest than fat—helping you lose belly fat.
They Never Use Artificial Preservatives
Chobani Greek yogurt is free of ingredients like milk protein concentrate, artificial flavors, colors or sweeteners, and animal-based thickeners, which some manufacturers add to make "Greek-style" yogurts. Instead of caramel color and coal-derived dyes, Chobani uses fruit juice concentrates or real fruit to color their containers. And while blended yogurts from all companies have to add stabilizers to stop the product from separating when watery fruits are added, Chobani chooses to use all-natural ingredients like pectin, locust bean gum, and guar gum rather than the pro-inflammatory potassium sorbate, cellulose gum, and modified corn starch that brands like Dannon and Yoplait use.
They Do Use Some Non-Nutritive Sweeteners
Although Simply 100 is the only 100-calorie Greek yogurt made without artificial sweeteners or preservatives, traditional sugar isn't the only sweetener used. The yogurt company uses a combination of monk fruit extract and stevia to bolster the sweetness (along with chicory root fiber, which is not digested but tastes sweet). While Amy Shapiro MS, RD, CDN solved one of our eating dilemmas by explaining that "Your best best is to use an alternative sweetener like stevia or coconut nectar," but not everyone likes the taste. Chobani argues that the lingering bitter aftertaste of stevia is covered up by the addition of a small amount of cane sugar, but you'll have to try one to decide for yourself!
They May Offer An Organic Option Soon!
Chobani teamed up with non-profit group Green America in 2014 to explore alternatives to GMO feed and organic options. Although some news outlets reported the yogurt-maker would be releasing four varieties of organic yogurt in 2015, none made it to shelves. But that just means we still have something to look forward to! That's because a review published in The British Journal of Nutrition found that organic milk has an average of 50 percent more anti-inflammatory omega-3s than its conventional counterpart.
They've Got Options For Kids
The Chobani Kids line has 25 percent less sugar and twice the protein compared to the leading kids' yogurt. That equates to about 2 grams less sugar and 3 grams more protein if you look at Chobani Strawberry Banana compared to the same flavor from Yoplait's GoGurt. Not to mention, Chobani maintains a source of live and active cultures whereas Yoplait's yogurt is pasteurized. These yogurts will please both parents and kids.
The Kiddie Options Aren't Super Low in Sugar
Although their yogurt tubes average 6 grams of sugar per serving, their pouch-style products don't fare as well. In fact, the Chobani KIDS Strawberry has 10 grams of sugar, which is around 40 percent of a child's recommended intake of added sugars, according to recommendations from the American Heart Association. We'd say your little one is better off with a serving of fresh fruit and one of Chobani's plain options instead.
You Can Dip It!
Chobani Meze Dip
Per 2 tbsp: 25 calories, 1 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 120 mg sodium, 2 g carbs (0 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 3 g protein
Per 2 tbsp: 60 calories, 4 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 110 mg sodium, 5 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 2 g protein
Chobani has developed two new and creative ways to appease your 24/7 yogurt obsession—the first is a line of yogurt-based savory dips. Featuring savory flavors like herbed tzatziki, roasted red pepper, smoked onion and parmesan, and three-pepper salsa rojo, their new Chobani Meze dips are supposedly the next hummus for health-minded foodies. Touted as having 80 percent less fat and 65 percent fewer calories than the leading hummus, Chobani Meze isn't significantly more healthy than your average hummus, but does offer a slightly more protein- and probiotic-packed snack for you yogurt-lovers and can help dieters cut calories.
And Now Drink It
The next new product is a line of Drink Chobani, which is sure to offer a hunger-quelling alternative to your 3 p.m. soda—a drink that only revs your hunger pangs and provides zero nourishment. Drink Chobani is made with a blend of protein-packed yogurt (a whopping 14 grams!) and mixed berries, which are packed with antioxidants that fend off disease.
They Use Functional Fiber
Wondering why there are 3 grams of fiber in your Chobani Simply 100? It's because of the addition of "Chicory Root Fiber" or "inulin." This prebiotic fiber has been shown to act as a food source for those probiotics, which can boost their effectiveness in improving good gut health. Manufacturers add inulin to make their product taste mildly sweeter and it reduces the amount of net carbs present in a product. Want to get more inulin in your diet naturally? Check out these prebiotic foods.
They Give Back
Thanks to the fact that Chobani's CEO, Hamdi Ulukaya, believes in measuring Chobani's success through its impact on the community, the yogurt company has made a commitment to giving back. For starters, 10 percent of all Chobani profits go to community charities, the company hires refugees, they offer their yogurt products to schools at significantly reduced prices, and they're a proud official sponsor of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic team. In April of 2016, Ulukaya made headlines when he announced he was awarding full-time employees a total of a 10 percent ownership stake in the privately held company when (or if) the company were to go public.
In October 2016, Chobani not only announced it was starting a program—known as the Chobani Food Incubator—to mentor and support food entrepreneurs like Banza, but they also announced they would be offering 6 weeks paid parental leave to all of its employees starting in 2017. (Currently, the International Labor Organization (ILO) found that the United States is the only country besides Papua New Guinea that doesn't guarantee paid leave for new mothers.) Now if your yogurt isn't something to feel good about, this sure is!
They Turned Down PepsiCo's Stake Bid
They may be the #1 yogurt in America, but Chobani is always looking to expand. That's why in 2015, they looked for a larger company that would act as a strategic partner to help them expand production and distribution facilities. Although two infamous food (and sugar) giants, PepsiCo and Coca-Cola Co., sought stakes in the company, Chobani, who has taglines like "#NoBadStuff" and "You can only be great if you're full of goodness" didn't go through with either offer, citing that they wanted to maintain control of their company and the partnership would have given a controlling, majority stake to the greedy investors.
Their Yogurt Is Used in McDonald's Items
We get that Chobani is trying to "healthify" America, but maybe they should try to stick with their own yogurts. Chobani teamed up with Southern California McDonald's restaurants to be the yogurt of choice in McCafe Smoothies and Fruit 'N Yogurt Parfaits starting in Spring 2016. While we applaud McDonald's and Chobani for wanting to provide healthier choices, we're not really sure why Chobani would want to associate themselves with a Yogurt Parfait that has 23 grams of sugar or a smoothie that has a minimum of 40 grams of sugar—and a maximum of 70 grams.
Their Containers Are A Reasonable Size
Although the FDA initially listed an 8-ounce standard serving size for yogurt, they announced they would be changing this standard to 6-ounces in concert with the updated nutrition label. Chobani has spearheaded the trend in downsizing since 2014, which was when they switched from a 6-ounce container to a 5.3-ounce container. ETNT thinks this is a responsible change, as packaging informs the consumer how much they should be eating. So whereas Noosa Yoghurts are packaged in 8-ounce containers—and can have as much as 35 grams of sugar per serving—Chobani guides you into eating a reasonable amount, and thus you'll eat an average of 12 grams of sugar per serving.
They Have A Chobani Cafe!
The company opened a café in 2012 where it could test out new recipe ideas and flavor combinations on curious customers.
But… It's Only In New York
Unfortunately, you'll have to go to New York to try their creative creations: the main location is in SoHo and another opened in October 2016 in a Target in the TriBeCa neighborhood. If you're looking to enjoy Chobani yogurts straight away, check out our top picks on our list of 25 Best Yogurts for Weight Loss.