Chobani long-ago made a name for itself as a top yogurt company holding the title of No. 1 Greek yogurt brand capturing 52% of total US Greek yogurt sales in 2021, according to Statista.
Now the pioneering company has turned its attention to extend its reach and consumer following for its oatmilk offerings, which also includes extensions into coffee creamers and yogurt.
"To say that journey has been the same as Greek yogurt wouldn’t be fair to oatmilk because oatmilk was such a new and emerging segment when we entered," Meredith Madden, Chobani chief marketing & category officer told FoodNavigator-USA.
Chobani first entered into the oatmilk category in 2019 when oatmilk was just beginning to take off in popularity after Swedish brand Oatly launched in the US in 2016. Since launching into the oatmilk set, Chobani has climbed into the No. 3 spot by retail sales behind competitors Planet Oat and Oatly, Statista retail data revealed.
Three years later, oatmilk is still a fast-growing category increasing 50.3% YOY, according to Nielsen data provided by Chobani. In that same time, Chobani has reported 56.4% YOY net sales growth, but according to Madden the company still has a long way to go in reaching new consumer audiences noting that Middle America is the biggest untapped market for Chobani Oatmilk.
"We know that oat milk hits a very flexitarian consumer," said Madden.
"More people have heard of oatmilk but haven’t had a reason to try it, so we're really playing into that and making sure people understand that the taste and texture being very similar to dairy. That’s where we see the next iteration of growth coming for the segment," she said.
Leaning into the metaverse
No stranger to national advertising and marketing campaigns -- the company has a current national TV advertising spot for Chobani Oatmilk -- Madden said the next strategic audience play for the Chobani brand was entering the 'metaverse' with the launch of its own Chobani Oatmilk-themed game called Chobani Oatmilk Cosmic Race on the online gaming platform Roblox.
"With this campaign we went a different route, and we really wanted to be audience-first in some of our activations. One thing we focused on was not only having Chobani oatmilk show up everywhere, but we wanted it to be fun," said Madden.
Through Roblox, which enables users to create and play games for free, Chobani has the potential to reach millions of people using the platform. Largely spurred by the pandemic and the universal need for indoor at-home activities, Roblox monthly active user base has grown from 35 million to 150 million over the past three years, according to media outlet BusinessofApps.
"We really chose to lean into the metaverse and into the Roblox community because we know that an existing consumer base for oatmilk is the Gen Z and Gen Y demographic. I keep saying, ‘We need to be where the people are’ and if the people are going in droves to Roblox, that’s where we need to be to show up to find them," said Madden.
And true to Chobani's mission and values of giving back, points scored by racers in the game will be totaled in a charity chart and once the target goal is hit, Chobani will donate $75,000 to Hunger Free America.
"We didn’t want to casually show up without having a purpose," noted Madden.
Oatmilk portfolio at large
Outside of oatmilk, Chobani has several other product innovations within the oat space including oat yogurts and oatmilk creamers, the latter of which has proved an exciting opportunity for the company as consumers embrace the plant-based creamer set more broadly.
"We’re constantly looking at the differences between the oatmilk itself and the oat creamer, and the one thing we’re seeing is that our extra creamy SKU is our top performing SKU, and we know that a lot of people are using at as a creamer as well," she said.
"When we entered into the coffee creamer category that was a more similar entrance as yogurt. We know that with coffee creamer, people are seeking flavor variety and there are fewer clean food options, so we entered there with a very clean dairy product as well as our oat product."
The association between its creamer and coffee has propelled the performance of Chobani's oat creamer as well, noted Madden.
"Two years ago when you’re thinking about creamer you were either thinking about hot coffee or you’re thinking about the morning. Now we’re seeing coffee extend much further into the consumer's day," said Madden, which has opened up new daypart occasions for the product.
National marketing push
For its overall marketing strategy for the next one to two years, Madden said the company has a lot of work and opportunity in front of it to communicate Chobani's emerging identity as a broader food company.
"Our strategy for next year is continuing to be out there as a brand on a national level," said Madden.
"We still have such a huge opportunity to talk to new audiences and more people. Now that we’ve been in these categories for a couple of years, it’s time to tie everything together in the cohesive Chobani brand equity."