The new product is known as the Chobani Oat, and was first launched in the United States earlier this year. Production is also still being carried out there and the product imported into Australia for now, but the firm has plans to bring manufacturing over as well.
“We’re working on bringing the manufacturing of this over to Australia, upon which we will have so many more options for expansion,” Chobani Australia Managing Director Lyn Radford told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“At the moment we’re only bringing in the Chobani Oat Plain Barista Edition, so our focus will be very much B2B and working with cafes, but once we get this produced here we will be expanding beyond B2B into B2C.
“It’s currently used as an ingredient to make lattes and cappuccinos and other drinks, but soon it won’t be just that - Currently we’re importing this into Australia as a finished product, a milk, but when produced locally we’ll have an oat base which we can look to turn into various other products like plant-based yoghurts, ice-cream, beverages and more.
“It’s a whole new channel for us, the first that is a plant-based option and vegan-friendly too, and oat really is what we’ve found to be the perfect ingredient to launch us out of dairy due to its taste and texture.”
Importantly, oat milk has a longer shelf life than dairy so Chobani Australia also has major plans to expand its export range into Asia once local manufacturing is set up.
“We do send our dairy yoghurts to places like Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and the Maldives now, but these are in really small batches as the shelf life is short, the supply chain is really not ideal and it makes the product so expensive,” said Radford.
“Oat milk has a much longer shelf life, so once we start producing here, exporting to the Asian market will be a major part of our business strategy. Our first targets will be the existing markets of course, as an extension of the range currently available there and they will get the product in the first instance.
“We do also intend to expand further to places like Taiwan and Hong Kong once it is feasible, and ultimately China is a huge market that we definitely want to get into.”
Radford’s hopes are that local oat product manufacturing will be able to commence in 2021.
Back in Chobani’s traditional dairy yoghurt category, the firm is gearing up for the upcoming Halloween season as a part of its long-running series of ‘Limited Batch’ offerings that have proved to be extremely popular locally.
“Our Limited Batches are usually based on some sort of celebration – we’ve done Chinese New Year (Mandarin flavour), we do Halloween yearly, and this year we’re looking to do Easter and Christmas too,” said Radford.
“The idea is to bring some excitement and celebration to the stable yoghurt category and boost interest – so we tend to change the product each time too. So for Halloween for example, we’ve done things like pumpkin pie previously, so this year we’re switching it up and doing something with fruit."
The Halloween Limited Batch for this year is termed Zomberry, and is a blended yoghurt in a blackberries sour flavour with fruit on the bottom.
“It’s not always about a particular celebration though – we recently also launched the Chobani Unicorn Flip, which was basically supposed to be a mythical, surprising ‘unicorn’ flavour that we wanted to try out after seeing how popular the unicorn theme was getting here, especially with kids," Radford added.
“It’s just really colourful and comes in six different designs for kids to collect, but we had to make a flavour that was not really definable – this took months to create.”
Some of the Limited Batches have proven to be so popular that they have been turned into part of the permanent Chobani range, such as the Tropical flavour and Caramel Sunshine Flip – but not all of these have made the cut for one reason or another.
“We had the Chinese New Year mandarin flavour only once even though it was really popular, as we ran into an issue with using such a specific fruit – when the fruit cost escalated, it became really prohibitory and our supplier couldn’t manage to secure enough supply,” said Radford.
The Limited Batches are aimed at fulfilling a consumer’s afternoon snack craving by being indulgent yet still healthy at under 200 calories per serving.
Because Chobani has such a diverse range of yogurts, the firm also saw challenges producing some of the ingredients for these at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak.
“We source most of our ingredients locally, but some are imported from overseas, and from a supply chain perspective the lead times went up tremendously,” said Radford.
“Some of our packaging lead times took a hit due to shipping and air freight issues as well, and on the other end the cost to get our products back into Asian markets also took an enormous leap due to air freight costs.”
Chobani has committed to donating 530,000 pots of Chobani to Foodbank by the end of 2020 to be distributed to those in need across Australia, in addition to running a Pay It Forward campaign which received nominations for various individuals, mostly frontline healthcare workers, to receive surpise Chobani special deliveries.