How long can one entrepreneur carry a packaged food company before turning to outside investment? Hamdi Ulukaya, the founder of Greek-yogurt maker Chobani and our cover profile interview in January as he collected Global Entrepreneur of the year, is about to answer that question.
Ulukaya began Chobani with a Small Business Association backed loan that allowed him to buy a dilapidated factory in upstate New York, but the company has never raised equity. Ulukaya was considering an initial public offering for Chobani, but is now said to be considering an institutional investment for 20 percent of the company, according to a Reuters report.
Reuters says that Chobani is valued at about $2.5 billion with suggested annual revenues of more than $1 billion, a figure that, when our managing Editor Richard Alvin spent time with Ulukaya in late 2013 he refused to deny.
Few packaged food companies get to even $3 let alone $30 million in revenues without institutional investment. A statistic Happy Family founder Shazi Visram disclosed in an interview with us late last year. Visram’s company reached more than $60 million in revenues before she sold it to Danone. Up until that point, Visram had funded Happy Family with angel investments from approximately 200 individuals. Chobani is perhaps the largest fully-independent company in its industry.
Despite its remarkable growth–Chobani was founded only eight years ago–the company is now facing competition from more established brands, in the form of Danone’s Oikos yogurt and General Mills’ Yoplait. Greek yogurt, which was hardly known in the U.S. before Chobani began making it, is now about a $7.5 billion industry and is available in the UK at Tesco and selected other stores.