Chobani’s culture of innovation

ChobaniFor the team at Chobani, exciting and delighting customers is at the heart of what they do, and it’s a philosophy that’s proving worthwhile. The company has recently been named Australia’s most loved yogurt brand.

A prime example of Chobani’s innovative approach to delighting consumers is its limited batch strategy. As one of the only brands in the category experimenting with limited campaign batches, Chobani is stepping outside the safety net to inject some excitement into the category beyond your regular expected flavours and experiences.

Each campaign is centred around a seasonal holiday or celebration and includes a unique flavour that is only available for a very short period of time.

The yogurt company launched its first limited batch for three weeks in October 2016 with a Halloween-themed Pumpkin Pie flavour and has since featured a Mandarin Chinese New Year batch, Spooky Vanilla pouch and a Christmas Pavlova Flip.

Managing director Peter Meek tells Inside FMCG that the reasoning behind the limited batch strategy all comes back to purpose.

“Our mission is ‘better food for more people’, so bringing exciting and different food options and flavours to consumers to surprise and delight them is part of that,” Meek says.

“The idea of doing short-term batches just brought a lot of energy to all of our stakeholders and consumers. Similarly, retailers got really excited that we were prepared to go to a huge amount of effort to bring excitement to the category.”

“We started with a Pumpkin Pie flavour, and that was that was quite an unusual product because it isn’t normally a flavour you would expect to have in yogurt. It was an opportunity to challenge and excite consumers. Two years on we’re still getting people writing to us about it.”

But Chobani goes much further than simply adding a new flavour. Each campaign includes a themed activation launch at our retailers, an elaborate personalised influencer pack as well as a huge social media push.

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The first Halloween campaign launch featured glow in the dark yoga, spooky rides at Luna Park and a zombie walk among the memorable influencer events.

“There are definitely lots of consumers who want to be the first to try things and tell other people about it. We really tap into those guys. They are also people who invariably have a high reach and influence with lots of other consumers. But it’s also about the people who just love Chobani. We reward, surprise and delight these fans by sending them a gift to build the excitement and hype for the launch and to say thank you!”

This high-energy tailored approach is being lapped up by influencers and consumers alike. The Chinese New Year campaign alone reached over 230,000 people, with 96,000 engaging with social content. Meek says the level of engagement on these campaigns is “remarkable”.

While all this sounds like immense fun, there’s no doubt that each campaign would require a mammoth effort from team members, so is it worth it?

“There’s a lot of work that goes into it, and if we only measured it on one dimension of how much we sell then we’d literally never do it,” Meek says.

“But we get a lot from this. It builds the love of our brand. We’ve only been going six years and we’re now Australia’s favourite yogurt brand, so I’d say that it’s worked really well for us.”

Meek also says that the campaigns give them a chance to bring new ideas to market.

“It gives us the opportunity to test new flavours with a relatively low risk. You can have a very long NPD process that takes a lot of time and increases the risk, or you can test something in market relatively quickly and refine it as you go, and that’s our preferred approach.”

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Above all, Meek says it’s about getting stakeholders, consumers and the team at Chobani excited. The yogurt company doesn’t restrict the ideal pool and even uses social media as a tool for product inspiration.

“Innovation doesn’t just sit with the R&D team; good ideas can come from anywhere.

“We do a lot of social media around asking for products ideas and flavour polls and those posts are massively engaged. Consumers are genuinely really interested in the flavour and it often generates new ideas.

“We never forget that while we might own the trademark, what the brands means to them, they own that, and we just try to stimulate it through our products, communication and by including them as much as possible.”

And while Meek admits that consumers might not buy a lot of Pumpkin Pie or Chinese Mandarin yogurt, they still build an affinity with the brand. This in turn means that they are more likely to buy the Strawberry Chobani, the Almond Coco Loco Flip or one of the other staples in the brand’s portfolio.

Looking ahead to 2019 and beyond, Meek is eager to build on the success of the limited batch campaigns alongside the introduction of new products and filling lines.

“Our mission at Chobani is to bring better food to more people, so we will continue to innovate so that there is a Chobani product in the market for everyone.

“It’s just about keeping the relationship fresh and exciting. As long as we can keep finding ways to surprise and delight people and push the boundaries, we will continue to grow and maintain our brand love.”

This interview originally featured in the January 2019 issue of Inside FMCG. Subscribe to our quarterly magazine here

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