Cissé Cocoa Co. among first participants in Chobani "incubator"

Cissé Cocoa Co. among first participants in Chobani "incubator"

A maker of jerky snacks, a supplier of organic chocolate and a company behind grass-fed bone broth are among the six businesses set to join the "food incubator" set up by US yogurt giant Chobani.

The clutch of start-ups was announced today (20 September), with Chobani founder and CEO Hamdi Ulukaya claiming: "I don't think there's ever been a better time for food start-ups to make a difference in this country."

Ulukaya, who set up Chobani in 2007 and has grown the business to become one of the leading yogurt brands in the US by sales, said: "We've learned a lot in the past nine years about what it takes to shake things up and give people better options. Our incubator is all about sharing what we've learned and the first six start-ups are very passionate, innovative and really want to help fuel the food revolution."

The incubator programme will see the fledgling companies work with Chobani staff to develop their business and receive a US$25,000 grant. The culmination of the programme will be a chance for participants to showcase their products to natural food industry peers at the Expo West Natural Food Conference in Anaheim, California, next year.

The group of six companies to be chosen for what Chobani called the "inaugural class" of the incubator are: pasta firm Banza, jerky snacks purveyor Chops Snacks, organic chocolate maker Cissé Cocoa Co., sauces company Jar Foods, broth business Kettle & Fire and juice outfit Misfit Juicery. Chobani said the companies were chosen "based on their business ideas, shared values and commitment to provide better food for more people".

When Chobani announced its plan for the incubator earlier this summer, the company said it was open to investing in the companies it planned to help through the programme.

Speaking to just-food, a spokesperson for Chobani said the company is ready to consider taking a stake in businesses that emerge from the incubator. "We would absolutely not close the door on anything," he said.

However, the spokesperson insisted the company would welcome any of the firms it helps going on to become a competitor, he said.

He said: "We are looking for like-minded companies – and companies that might also go on to help others in the same way that Chobani is doing."