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How Chobani is a business using food as a force for good

Member spotlight: Lyn Radford, Managing Director at Chobani Australia

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Yoghurt surely tastes more delicious when you know its purpose is “To make a difference using food as a force for good.”

 

Business can be a force for good. That’s always been what Hamdi Ulukaya, founder and global CEO of Chobani, has believed in.


From humble beginnings in an old yoghurt plant in upstate New York, Chobani yoghurts, oat milks and oat yoghurts, as well as yoghurts made under the Gippsland Dairy brand, are widely available across Australia, as well as New Zealand, China, Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Maldives.


Managing Director at Chobani Australia Lyn Radford is a lifelong learner and a Growth Faculty member. In our interview she shares how Growth Faculty speakers help and inspire her work, Chobani's 5 key values, and how Chobani’s purpose of making a difference using food as a force for good unifies their 250-strong team.


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GF: What is news at Chobani?


Lyn: We recently launched one of our best ever innovations – Chobani No Sugar Added Greek Yogurt*. We’re super proud of this new range, which went from concept to launch in only eight months.


GF: What are factors that lead to such innovation from the Australian team?


Lyn: When Hamdi Ulukaya, founder and global CEO of Chobani, started the Australian business, he challenged us to be as disciplined as the big guys and as entrepreneurial as the small guys. So, innovation has always been super important for us.


We’re really big on the fact that good ideas can come from anywhere in the business, so we encourage our teams to be curious and courageous.


In fact, one of my favourite innovations came from someone who had only been in the business for two weeks. They pitched an idea to make a yoghurt where 100 per cent of the profits would be donated to our friends at Foodbank.


 We were so thrilled when suppliers and retail partners decided to chip in and donate some of their profits from the Fruit for Good yoghurt. So, it’s important that we create a culture and environment where our people at all levels feel confident to share great ideas and also challenge the way we do things – there are no ‘sacred cows’!





GF: Yoghurt relies on a successful culture for its appeal. Businesses are much the same! What can you tell me about the culture at Chobani?


Lyn: We love a good yoghurt pun here at Chobani – well done! You are correct, cultures are a super important part of our yoghurts, but we think our people are our magic ingredient.


We have five key values that sit at the heart of how we think, feel and act. Essentially, this is how we want to show up each day:


·       Make it happen: We decide and deliver

·       The right way: Not the easy way

·       Together, it’s magic: We play as a team

·       Do more good: Make a difference

·       Break from the herd: We’re curious and courageous


We actually refreshed our values last year and, while we knew a cookie-cutter approach wasn’t right for us, the language and ideals we settled on were already organically ingrained and embedded across our business.


GF: You’ve said that Chobani values continuous learning – how does that play out at Chobani?


Lyn: Spend a day at Chobani and I guarantee you will hear someone ask what’s the other way? It’s a question Hamdi often asks me and that we all use to challenge each other to think differently to find unique ways to solve problems or make an even bigger impact.


We also measure our people on key competencies that drive continuous learning, such as being curious and courageous. These are a combination of skills and behaviours that help our people to focus on their development.


Measuring ourselves against these competencies regularly ensures that we’re cultivating an environment that values the growth and development of our people.


GF: You’re a premium member of Growth Faculty and have seen some of our Global Headliners such as Simon Sinek, Brené Brown, and Jim Collins. What was the impact for you of seeing these global speakers?


Lyn: My favourite speaker so far has been Jim Collins. I have been really inspired by his books Good to Great and BE2.0, so the opportunity to continue learning from him via the live virtual event was amazing.


I regularly refer to his concept of the Flywheel Effect, which essentially states that transitioning a company from good to great requires consistent small wins which gain enough momentum over time to power sustained periods of growth, rather than relying on a single defining action or killer innovation.


At Chobani, everything we do is underpinned by our purpose to make a difference using food as a force for good, so I also really resonated with his insights about Level 5 leaders inspiring people to follow a cause. When you consider this in relation to the flywheel effect, it’s easy to understand why companies without a true ‘north star’ or set of clear committed objectives aren’t able to achieve the flywheel effect.


GF: What are 3 benefits of being a Growth Faculty Pass holder?

 

Lyn:

·       Curation of content: The pandemic accelerated change in the workplace at a phenomenal rate, so keeping up with the changing landscape and dynamics of our people and how they think, feel and act is incredibly challenging. Being able to tap into Growth Faculty to access external stimuli that’s been purposefully curated is a great advantage.

·       Access to incredible thought leaders: Hearing from world-renowned speakers so regularly is such a luxury. In years gone by, you would have to fly to all parts of the world to access such high calibre thought leaders!

·       Ease of access: It’s super convenient to access content online, particularly the live sessions.


GF: If you could describe Growth Faculty to someone else in one sentence, what would it say?


Lyn: A network of leaders who share an appetite to inspire, learn and develop themselves and their teams.


GF: What else do you do for your professional development?


Lyn: I am a voracious reader - I always have a stack of books I’m working my way through! I think this comes from my curiosity and insatiable desire to learn new ideas and skills constantly. 


GF: What is next for yourself, and for Chobani?


Lyn: Our purpose to make a difference using food as a force for good is at the forefront of everything we do and has been embedded across our entire business. With everything we do, we remember why Hamdi started this business – to make a difference in the lives of our people and the communities in which we live and operate.


Now in our second decade of business, we have increased our focus on Environment, Sustainability and Governance (ESG), with a dedicated ESG team born out of our renewed corporate strategy.


Underpinned by our purpose, our strategy strives to achieve the best outcome for all our stakeholders.


So, for me, I want to ensure that we continue to focus on moving the needle and making a tangible difference for our communities and our planet so that Chobani’s legacy in Australia is about the impact we have, rather than just the delicious food and drinks we make.


About Chobani

 

In 2005, Hamdi Ulukaya, founder and global CEO of Chobani, took out a loan to buy an old yoghurt plant in upstate New York. He brought together a small group of passionate people to make the authentic, wholesome yoghurt he remembered from his childhood.


He called the company Chobani. A name inspired by the Turkish word for ‘shepherd’. Infused with the hard-working, care-giving spirit of the mountain farmer, and enriched by the quality of the yoghurt he made – yoghurt that was Delicious, Nutritious, Natural and Accessible (the same DNNA philosophy Chobani crafts all its products with today).


Quickly becoming the #1 yoghurt brand in the US, it was time for Chobani to expand globally. In 2011 Hamdi made the decision to bring Chobani to Australia. 


*Note: While Chobani uses the U.S. spelling 'yogurt' in its products we have used the British/Australian spelling 'yoghurt' in this article.

The interview has been edited in length.


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