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Local News

December 19, 2013

Chobani cuts temp workers, shuffles shifts

Chobani, the producer of Greek-style yogurt, will no longer rely on temporary workers at its Chenango County plant and is switching its regular workers from 12-hour daily shifts to 8 hours per day, a company representative confirmed.

The plant in Columbus, on the west bank of the Unadilla River, will operate with three eight-hour shifts from Monday through Friday, after reaching what the representative called its optimum production capability.

While Chobani opened an even larger new plant in Idaho last year, the Columbus plant remains its hub, and is considered vital to the company’s East Coast operations, said the representative, speaking on background.

The Chobani representative said the elimination of temporary workers should not be viewed as a layoff because they are employed by a third party placement agency, Staffworks, the representative said. The company did not release the number of workers it is letting go.

Chobani, which has enjoyed rapid success over the past seven years, is facing heightened competition from major rivals in the dairy industry. However, the company’s output continues to grow, the Chobani representative said.

On Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Whole Foods, a national supermarket chain, will stop selling Chobani yogurt by early 2014. Whole Foods has signaled that it wants to sell more organic products that are free of genetically modified organisms (GMO). Chobani has said it doesn’t require that its dairy suppliers send only GMO-free milk to the company’s production facilities.

There are no Whole Food stores in Otsego, Delaware, Schoharie or Chenango counties.

Chobani’s founder and chief executive officer, Hamdi Ulukaya, said in a statement that his company has “very limited distribution within Whole Foods.” though he called the chain “an important partner of ours over the years.”

“As the number one Greek Yogurt brand in America using only natural ingredients, we share an affinity with Whole Foods and its shoppers,” Ulukaya said. “We know our fans love buying our products in their stores and we hope to continue our partnership moving forward.”

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