Hamdi Ulukaya, founder and CEO of America’s No. 1 selling Greek Yogurt brand, Chobani, was named the Ernst & Young World Entrepreneur Of The Year 2013 Award winner on Saturday at a ceremony in Monte Carlo. Selected from a group of more than 50 country-winners from across the globe for this honor, Ulukaya was recognized for his disruptive innovation to bring wholesome food to the masses; regeneration of a long-stagnant category; financial success; and personal commitment to building a world-class brand.
“I am deeply honored to receive this award from Ernst & Young and in the company of such amazing fellow business leaders from around the world,” Ulukaya says. “What began as just my personal commitment to make delicious and nutritious Greek Yogurt accessible to everyone has turned into a 3,000-person-strong company serving three markets around the world. I look forward to our next 3,000 employees and sharing our food philosophy with even more consumers as we expand into new markets.”
Ernst & Young named Ulukaya the U.S. Entrepreneur Of The Year 2012 Overall Award winner in November 2012 at its Entrepreneur Of The Year gala, the culminating event of the annual Ernst & Young Strategic Growth Forum in Palm Springs, California. Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur Of The Year is one of the world’s most prestigious business award for entrepreneurs. Ernst & Young started the Entrepreneur Of The Year Award program 27 years ago to recognize the world’s most successful and innovative entrepreneurs. By identifying and recognizing the achievements of outstanding entrepreneurs within successful, growing, dynamic businesses, Ernst & Young aims to encourage entrepreneurial activity around the world.
“We work with great entrepreneurs at every level of society: fresh thinkers at global corporations, visionaries at pre-IPO firms, and social entrepreneurs working on the world’s most pressing issues and unmet needs,” says Bryan Pearce, Americas director, Entrepreneur Of The Year, Ernst & Young LLP. “These high-growth companies are thinking differently and disrupting the norm to create entirely new industries and categories. We are particularly excited to see this year’s World Entrepreneur of the Year winner from the U.S. – innovating an entire product category and propelling economic and job growth here in the states as well as abroad.”
After leaving his family’s dairy business in Turkey to learn English in the United States, Ulukaya recognized a gap in America’s dairy offering and saw opportunity in an untapped market of Greek Yogurt. Chobani was founded in 2005, and it took two years to perfect the recipe, with the first order shipping in 2007. Since then, Chobani has experienced a meteoric rise with annual sales rocketing to $1 billion in 2012.
To meet growing sales demands in the United States, Chobani updated and expanded an almost 100-year-old plant in Central New York, which uses nearly four million pounds of milk each day to produce two million cases of Chobani Greek Yogurt products a week. In December of 2012, Chobani opened the doors on its second U.S. plant to expand capacity and support new product innovations. Built in Twin Falls, Idaho, this state-of-the-art plant — at nearly one million square feet — is the largest yogurt plant in the world.
In addition to a dominating presence in the United States, Chobani is also available in Australia and the UK.
Ulukaya’s inspirational story is redefining the historic mold of entrepreneurship and success. Chobani is 100 percent independent, with Ulukaya remaining the sole owner. This model supports his vision to create a company that is people-centered rather than profit-centered. The company he's creating is lasting – in name and purpose; and is creating tangible value, in the forms of employee livelihood, community revival, and an industry-transforming product.