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Peter McGuinness, chief marketing and brand officer for Chobani, Inc., spoke at the Kellogg Marketing Conference Jan. 25.

Chobani Chief Marketing and Brand Officer Peter McGuinness

Yogurt wars

Chobani's Peter McGuinness shared insights and a Super Bowl sneak peek at the Kellogg Marketing Conference

By Paul Dailing

1/27/2014 - If you think Greek yogurt came out of nowhere, Chobani Chief Marketing and Brand Officer Peter McGuinness agrees.

Speaking to a packed house at the Kellogg Marketing Conference on Saturday, McGuinness talked about the rising stakes in the Greek yogurt market just weeks ahead of a Super Bowl poised to have more yogurt commercials than snack ones.

Not bad for a product that was just 2 percent of the yogurt category when Chobani started rolling off the line in 2007.

It’s now 49.2 percent of the category, McGuinness said, with even outside agencies like ABC News crediting Chobani for popularizing the thicker strained variety of yogurt.

“We’ve leveled the playing field,” McGuinness said. “Peacetime is over.”

During the event, McGuinness shared his marketing insights and even gave Kellogg students a sneak peek at the company’s Super Bowl ad campaign.

Don’t blame consumers

When Chobani debuted, their competition wasn’t other Greek yogurt brands, but junk food. Conventional wisdom said consumers would never reach for a healthy, natural snack with chips and candy available, but Chobani didn’t believe that.

“It’s not the consumers’ fault they eat bad food,” McGuinness said. “They didn’t have a lot of options. Never blame the consumer.”

Chobani prides itself on using natural ingredients, which makes the final product more expensive than the sugar-laden yogurt familiar to consumers. Chobani had to show the market that better was worth it.

“We joke around—the last thing you want to be exclusive is yogurt,” he said.

Leadership has perils

McGuinness doesn’t mince words about the competitors who jumped in the Greek yogurt game after Chobani.

“Everybody’s Greek-washing their portfolio,” he said.

But Chobani isn’t resting on its laurels. Watching market trends, Chobani recently introduced its first 100-calorie yogurt.

“Just like we did with Greek, we’re going to enter the market and then explode it through innovation and excitement,” he said.

McGuinness described to students a yogurt war that’s going to be a long, tough fight. But he predicts a clear winner.

As for that new ad campaign, well, you’ll just have to watch the Super Bowl.

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