Whole Foods Market (Nasdaq: WFM) says it will stop selling Chobani yogurt in order to make more room for organic products without genetically-modified organisms. The move, according to the reports, is part of Whole Foods' strategy to remove all items containing genetically-modified organisms, or GMOs, among its ingredients without disclosing the fact on labels.
Some consumers have complained that Chobani produces Greek yogurt with milk from cows fed with GMO animal feed. As a result, Whole Foods, which operates about 370 grocery stores, says it will phase out Chobani by early 2014.
"Whole Foods Market challenged its Greek yogurt suppliers to create unique options for shoppers to enjoy – including exclusive flavors, non-GMO options and organic choices," a spokesperson for Whole Foods told The Wall Street Journal. "At this time, Chobani has chosen a different business model."
Chobani, which is the top Greek yogurt brand in America, says its products are not organic but use only natural ingredients. This is not the first time that Chobani has come under the microscope regarding GMOs. Chobani has faced some pressure from advocacy groups to shift to non-GMO sources as food for its dairy cows, but the company stood by its product, claiming it is bringing natural products to many consumers.
As the national demand for Greek yogurt has grown, Whole Foods says the number of conventional Greek yogurt options has multiplied. Furthermore, Whole Foods carries other yogurts that aren't GMO free. It said its own brand of yogurt may contain GMOs, but that by 2018 it plans for these products to either be organic, GMO-free or labeled if they still contain GMOs.
While New Berlin, N.Y-based Chobani is losing Whole Foods as a partner, the company seems to be confident that the breakup won't do much damage in the long run. Chobani founder and CEO Hamdi Ulukaya said Whole Foods accounts for a small part of its sales.
"Of course I would love to be available everywhere, but it won't hurt our business," Ulukaya told The Wall Street Journal.
For more see:
-This Wall Street Journal article
-This ABC News article
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