Commentary: Chobani discounts science, scientists fight back

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click image to zoom In a new marketing tagline that almost screams irony, Chobani, the New York-based yogurt company, managed to anger many of the people that are responsible for the company’s existence: scientists.

Chobani paired their new “Simply 100” (to promote 100-calorie yogurt cups) slogan with wording under their foil lids (note: foil is not found in nature) with the saying “Nature got us to 100 calories, not scientists.”

It should not be a surprise that a yogurt (note: the bacteria Chobani uses in its yogurt was most likely isolated by scientists) company is touting its nutritional values. After all, dairy products provide 9 essential nutrients and minerals per serving. However, its “not scientists” marketing approach is much different than the approach taken by Chipotle and Panera that angered agriculturalists.

Instead of infuriating just the 50,000 or so U.S. dairy farmers and their families (many of whom hold 2- and 4-year science degrees and use science to grow and produce our food every day) , Chobani decided to take on the 6.2 million scientists and engineers in the U.S., world leaders in technology and advancement.

Like a page from the Revenge of the Nerds script, the evil and mad scientists of the world fought back. Popular Science, the magazine for those wicked beings, profiled the hypocrisy in Chobani’s approach and noted that the yogurt cup’s ingredients for the black cherry version are:

Nonfat Yogurt (Cultured Pasteurized Nonfat Milk), Live and Active Cultures: S. Thermophilus, L. Bulgaricus, L. Acidophilus, Bifidus and L. Casei, Chicory Root Fiber, Black Cherries, Water, Cherry Juice Concentrate, Evaporated Cane Juice, Pectin, Natural Flavors, Locust Bean Gum, Monkfruit Extract, Stevia Leaf Extract.

By our standards, it would appear that every ingredient on the list has been improved or created with the help of science.

Using Chobani’s own Twitter hashtag #howmatters, (note: hashtags were invented by Twitter, which is on the internet, a platform invented by scientists) scientists said, in creative ways, that “how” does matter, and that “how” is science.


Granted, on its website, Chobani shows that their real point is that the sweeteners used in its yogurt aren’t artificial, unlike their competitors. That’s similar, but less direct, to the approach the dairy industry makes with our product being all-natural.

It should be noted that Chobani founder, Turkish-born Hamdi Ulukaya, first went to school for political science, though he didn’t graduate with that degree. You could argue that political science isn’t really science at all; or that Ulukaya needed more study. Either way, by 4:45 p.m. last night the company apologized though its Twitter feed and discontinued the wording on the lid. The nerds prevail again.

UPDATE: Chobani's PR team emailed a statement at about 1:30 on June 5, 2014.

“We were being tongue in cheek and perhaps a bit too clever for our own good. The under lid messaging campaign ended last week and was not intended as an indictment of science or scientists. Words matter and your feedback counts. We're inviting all scientists to enjoy a Chobani on us:”

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About the Author

Lucas Sjostrom
| Lucas Sjostrom is assistant editor of Dairy Herd Management, and writes from above a working milking parlor. Sjostrom grew up on a south-central Minnesota dairy and crop farm that is still in operation by his grandparents, parents, and younger brother. After completing an animal science degree at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, he took a government relations and communications position with Holstein Association USA in Brattleboro, Vt. Two years later, he became associate editor at Hoard’s Dairyman magazine. Currently, Sjostrom concurrently serves on Dairy Herd Management staff and is finishing graduate work in animal science focusing on precision dairy technology. Lucas and his wife, Alise, live on her home farm with their daughter. Alise’s parents milk 180-cows and the family operates a farmstead cheese plant called Redhead Creamery.

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