Columbus yogurt maker exhibits entrepreneurial spirit

COLUMBUS – Not only did entrepreneur Hamdi Ulukaya begin his own business, he also saved a vital manufacturing plant – and its employees – from going under.

Agro-Farma Inc., a Greek-style yogurt manufacturer, set up shop in the former Kraft Foods plant in Columbus in 2005. With loans from both New York State and Chenango County, the businessman applied his own knowledge of yogurt making as well as input from Kraft’s former employees to develop a business plan. Three years later, that plan has resulted in making Agro-Farma’s “Chobani Greek Yogurt” one of the fastest-growing food products nationwide.

The company and its 80 employees marked $30 million in sales last year, and is today averaging $3.5 million per month. Ulukaya said he hopes to double that amount in the not so distant future.

“We always believed Greek yogurt was a very special yogurt. It was imported before. But we knew the milk quality here was the best in the world, so why not try to make it here?” the company president and chief executive officer said. Ulukaya also owns a Greek cheese manufacturer in Johnstown, called Euphrates Inc.

“We had knowledge, and we used the ingenuity of our employees because we knew they were the most important assets of the business. When we started up, everybody get together and everybody worked hard, making decisions from the cups to distribution to marketing,” he said.

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