Chobani CEO Hamdi Ulukaya coalition helps Afghan refugees


poster Chobani CEO Hamdi Ulukaya

Since August, tens of hundreds of Afghan refugees have arrived in America, and final week, Ulukaya—arguably the enterprise world’s most outspoken refugee advocate—launched a brand-new initiative, the Tent Coalition for Afghan Refugees, to assist resettle them, simply as their arrival is turning into extra politically fraught.

“When the Afghan state of affairs arrived, we stated, ‘That is lovely that these individuals who helped the American navy and risked their lives and have become their allies are going to be rescued,’” Ulukaya tells Quick Firm. “However we instantly knew there was a set of issues.”

A few of these issues baffle Ulukaya. The company world “is totally absent from this humanitarian disaster,” he says, and in the meantime, policy-wise, “nothing has modified for the reason that Forties, after World Warfare II.” In America, therapy of refugees really bought worse: President Trump spent 4 years rolling back protections, halting asylum, and lowering the variety of refugees allowed in by 80%, to the lowest-ever degree.


The Biden administration has re-prioritized serving to refugees, however can solely achieve this a lot. Ulukaya’s Tent Coalition has lent a hand by cobbling collectively a powerful array of firms inside weeks of the U.S. withdrawal. Amazon, Uber, Fb, Hilton, UPS, the Hole, Pfizer, Tyson Meals, and two dozen different firms have agreed to affix Chobani in hiring refugees, coaching them, and offering different sources.

The coalition is one arm of the bigger Tent Partnership for Refugees, a nonprofit Ulukaya has run since 2016. (“As soon as a refugee will get a job, that’s the second they cease being a refugee” has been his long-running mantra.) Tent is at present cooperating with the State Division, and likewise working with U.S. resettlement businesses to match people’ job expertise with firms’ wants. As soon as it finishes assessing the place to put refugees, associate firms will embark on particular motion plans to assist the brand new arrivals, together with Chobani at its factories in upstate New York and Twin Falls, Idaho.

In all probability it’s not coincidence that the Biden administration selected Twin Falls—the place Chobani opened the world’s largest yogurt plant in 2012—as one of many 139 U.S. cities that may settle for Afghan refugees, though this transfer hasn’t sat nicely with everyone: High Idaho Republicans, led by Gov. Brad Little, have already written President Biden a letter warning that the federal authorities ought to anticipate Idaho State Police to use “extra vetting measures” to incoming refugees. Fortunately, Chobani discovered to navigate this kind of chilly welcome way back: The Twin Falls plant has employed lots of of refugees since opening, which has even made Ulukaya and plant employees the targets of death threats and other racist attacks.’

A ‘scrumptious’ resolution to starvation

Final week, Chobani additionally launched a brand new product: its first peanut butter. Like the remainder of the model’s rising product line, it’s made with healthful substances (and Ulukaya assures Quick Firm it “tastes scrumptious”), however the kicker is its partnership with Edesia, a nonprofit devoted to ending baby starvation and malnutrition. Its secret ingredient is one thing referred to as Plumpy’Nut, a French peanut paste impressed by Nutella however full of vitamins that assist deal with extreme acute malnutrition. After Edesia began manufacturing pouches of it in 2005, the product was credited with reducing baby mortality charges in Africa. It’s since fed greater than 15 million kids in 60 international locations.

And now, you’ll discover it in American grocery aisles. Chobani is donating 100% of income, and Ulukaya hopes its conspicuous presence reminds Individuals that baby starvation and malnutrition are points in their very own backyards, too.

Edesia was the primary nonprofit to undergo the favored Chobani Food Incubator. Founder Navyn Salem is a Rhode Island mom of 4 who devoted herself to the trigger after catching a 60 Minutes story on the subject. “She’s delivered thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of those peanut butter pouches across the globe—you realize, Africa, the Center East, South America,” says Ulukaya. “However she thought there was equally a necessity for nutritious peanut butter merchandise within the U.S.”


“I’ve discovered so much throughout this course of,” he provides about working with Edesia. “Little one vitamin is not only a worldwide downside—it’s a U.S. downside. And this pandemic accelerated that in a really dramatic manner.” Unsurprisingly, he isn’t very optimistic that America’s main meals producers are geared up to resolve this downside: “You’re perhaps a dozen firms that personal 70% of meals that’s being produced on this nation at a mass scale … I don’t like what I see relating to these massive meals manufacturers and their method to creating meals for youngsters. It’s an space the place as you go deeper inside, you discover increasingly not-so-nice footage.”

By now, Chobani is an O.G. member of company America’s new mission-driven period. Alongside the way in which, the yogurt model has grown right into a full-fledged meals firm, cranking out espresso creamers, chilly brew, pet food in Australia, and now peanut butter. And within the coming months, Chobani might blaze one other path for firms that try to place mission above income. Again in 2016, Ulukaya shocked staff by pledging to give them a ten% stake in Chobani if and when it goes public. Properly, Chobani has now filed paperwork for an IPO that would occur later this 12 months. Whereas Chobani stated Ulukaya was unable to debate the IPO itself, analysts estimate the corporate could possibly be value over $10 billion. At that valuation, the common payout to Chobani’s 2,000 full-time staff can be practically $500,000, and a few would change into in a single day millionaires.

This infusion of wealth may be very a lot nonetheless the plan, Ulukaya confirms to Quick Firm, arguing the fairness is solely the spoils of their onerous work.

He says it goes again to Chobani’s first dairy plant in upstate New York, about 5 miles from his dwelling. Ulukaya ignored his lawyer’s recommendation and acquired the ability from Kraft Meals, which was closing it. “I noticed one other company abandoning individuals who had contributed for the longest time,” he explains now. “I used to be acutely aware sufficient to appreciate that if I’m going to have an opportunity at this, then I’m by no means going to repeat what the opposite guys did. They fired them, so I stated, ‘I’m going to make them my companions.’”