The Chobani Food Incubator just took a trip to Twin Falls, ID for a journey from farm to factory to fully explore sourcing, production, manufacturing, food safety, regulation and R&D. We kicked it off with a visit to Si-Ellen Farm, one of Chobani’s key partners and suppliers. CEO Mike Roth and Lindsey Dimond from Dairy Farmers of America led us through 7,000 acres of wheat, alfalfa hay and corn silage, home to 13,000 Holstein and Jersey cows. We were able to witness the cycle of life at Si-Ellen, where more than 50 calves are born every day and a highly efficient process produces large quantities of milk to feed lots of people and make a lots of Chobani products.
The Chobani Food Incubator is all about better food for more people, and the Incubator was able to explore the complex sourcing and operations required to achieve the ‘more people’ part of the equation.
The opportunity for food entrepreneurs (most of us card-carrying city slickers) to engage in dialogue with members of the local farming community about animal welfare, GMOs, demographic shifts in farming, the intricacies of the dairy industry and Chobani’s role in supporting local farms was a unique and educational experience for all of us.
We also had the opportunity to tour Chobani’s one million square foot world class manufacturing facility. In our scrubs, hair nets, booties and goggles, we observed everything from raw milk receiving, High Temperature/Short Time pasteurization, culture/maturation, straining, production, cold storage and sleeving.
The teams were inspired at the significant scale and capacity of the facility as well as the impressive level of automation. Discussion included learnings to be applied at their earlier stages, logistics, communications, employee engagement, and the merits and challenges of owning your own operations. We also toured the Quality Lab, to impress upon the teams the importance of investing the time and effort in establishing SOPs, best practices, and traceability early on.
We wrapped up the visit with an R&D presentation and tasting, developing your company’s palate, discussing smaller scale R&D resources available to the companies with limited capacity, and the creative process of exploring new flavors. The conversation spurred some discussion on segmenting your customers and finding the balance of core and new audiences, especially in terms of nutritional value.
I can’t imagine better companions for exploring where our food comes from and how we produce it at top quality and significant scale. I look forward to connecting the experts within Chobani’s operations team to the Incubator community for support as they continue to take on the challenge of growing their companies and bringing better food to more people.