US food maker Chobani has found an enthusiastic market for its yoghurt brand products in Australia. Now the company is expanding in the plant-based category by investing in local manufacturing capabilities for oat-based products, with some help from Austrade.
Chobani first entered the Australian market back in 2011 when it bought Victorian dairy company Bead Foods, the producer of Gippsland Dairy yoghurt. It then proceeded to triple production capacity and increase staff and services at the Dandenong South facility.
“We were making 25,000 cases a week when we first started producing Chobani,” said Lyn Radford, Chobani Australia Managing Director. “Today, we are producing more than 50,000 cases a day across all our ranges.”
Chobani is now expanding its Victorian operations adjacent to its current site. The new facility, which is scheduled to open in mid-2022, will consolidate four production and logistics plants and offices into one.
As Australia’s largest dairy-producing state, Victoria is a good location for Chobani with its Greek yoghurt using a high proportion of milk in the production process, compared to other varieties.
“A great product starts with great ingredients,” Radford said. “Australia has a wealth of riches in food quality. It’s a goldmine of ingredients, especially high-quality milk.
“Food safety standards here are some of the highest in the world. There’s a huge amount of trust in Australian-manufactured food products.”
Expansion into the oat market
Chobani currently exports to Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, the Maldives and China, and plans to expand its footprint with the help of Australia’s network of free trade agreements (FTAs).
“Australia has so many great FTAs with the Asia-Pacific,” Radford said. “The FTAs take away the cost of exporting — removing or reducing barriers, such as tariffs. We don’t want to be an expensively priced niche player. Our aim is to supply better food for all people.”
Chobani is now tapping into the worldwide trend for plant-based alternatives by investing in the manufacture of oat-based products in Victoria.
“Oat is our big player right now,” Radford said. “Plant-based milks will allow us to move into other areas, like ice cream and drinks. There’s big demand for non-dairy-based products in Asia. Local production means we can adapt and innovate quickly.”
The new Dandenong South facility will include a high-tech research and development hub. “This scalability pathway is important for us from an innovation perspective. We feel confident innovating in a market like Australia because of its regulatory environment.
“Austrade is helping our growth aspirations across the region,” Radford said. “The experts on the ground are a great resource. They let us know about government grants or legislative changes happening in the market. They helped us source oat suppliers in Australia.”
Chobani has partnered with Australian property developer Aliro to build its new facility. “We had to get approval from the Foreign Investment Review Board,” she said. “Austrade helped us navigate that. There were a lot of changes as COVID-19 hit.”
Chobani sources locally made ingredients and packaging, where possible, for its all-natural, preservative-free yoghurts. It is passionate about strengthening the communities it calls home and making good food accessible to everyone.