Founder & CEO
Hamdi Ulukaya founded Chobani in upstate New York in 2005 and launched Chobani Greek Yogurt in 2007. Less than six years later, it has become the No.1-selling Greek Yogurt brand in the U.S. with more than a billion dollars in annual sales – making Chobani one of the fastest-growing companies in history. Led by his passion to democratize better food for more people, Hamdi’s vision for Chobani has effectively transformed an entire food category. For his impact, Hamdi was named the 2013 Ernst & Young World Entrepreneur of the Year, selected from among 49 country finalists for the title across 47 countries. Hamdi’s success is rooted in humble beginnings. A Kurdish immigrant, Hamdi grew up in eastern Turkey, helping with his family’s dairy business. In 1994, he moved to the U.S. to learn English and study business. While a student, Hamdi was struck by the difference in quality between American dairy product offerings and the dairy foods he had grown up eating, and thus decided to start a small cheese company. It was during this time that Hamdi came across a flier for a recently closed Kraft plant. Though he initially threw the ad away, instinct led him to retrieve the ad and with the help of a Small Business Administration loan, he purchased the plant and officially started Chobani in 2005. Hamdi spent 18 months perfecting his yogurt recipe, and Chobani hit shelves in 2007. Despite strong interest from specialty stores, Hamdi remained committed to making his product – a simple cup of good yogurt – accessible to all. His belief was that everyone deserves access to quality yogurt. In 2009, Hamdi’s conviction paid off: New England’s largest retailer agreed to shelve Chobani. Six years later, Chobani has become the No. 1–selling yogurt brand in America. Chobani has also built the largest yogurt factory in the world in Twin Falls, Idaho, and remains 100% independent. Beyond his business acumen, Hamdi is also a passionate philanthropist. The word “Chobani” means shepherd in Turkish, and Hamdi has embraced the spirit of the shepherd since Chobani’s earliest days. He has pledged to give 10% of profits to charity, and the Chobani Foundation has distributed grants to grassroots organizations all over the world. From helping to build a state-of-the-art little league stadium for the youth of New Berlin, to making a gift of a million dollars to support famine relief in Somalia, Hamdi has been dedicated to empowering individuals to reach their full potential. He is committed to making good food accessible to more people, and to strengthening U.S. manufacturing in small towns across the country. Hamdi resides in New Berlin, NY, with his two German Shepherds.