Ulukaya, who was described by judges as the “personification of every immigrant’s American dream”, pipped 48 entrepreneurs to the prize, including Lance Uggla, founder of British financial information firm Markit.
Chobani, now America’s biggest yoghurt business, began with just five employees after Ulukaya bought a closed factory from US food giant Kraft using a government loan.
Speaking about his award Ulukaya said: “I am deeply honoured to receive this award from Ernst & Young and in the company of such amazing fellow business leaders from around the world. What began as just my personal commitment to make delicious and nutritious and yoghurt 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.”
Ulukaya has said that his biggest fear is that he or his employees could forget what made the company succeed in the first place. He once gathered key staff to tell them that if they detected “unwelcome changes” in his leadership, they had his “serious” permission to punch him in the face.
He added that his award victory shows that “anything is possible”. “A boy can start his journey from a small village in eastern Turkey and come to America and build his dream.”