Editor Bob Garrison explains whyRefrigerated & Frozen Foodsdid not honor Agro Farma and Chobani as "One to Watch."
True confessions. I’ve watched AgroFarma Inc. for the past few years and I thought this year’s “Ones to Watch” feature might include the Norwich, N.Y., maker of Chobani Greek yogurt. After all, AgroFarma is only six years old and Chobani is just four years old.
Then I readForbes’September interview with AgroFarma founder Hamdi Ulukaya and learned AgroFarma already boasts annual sales of about $700 million. Wow. At that size, the company already is more than one to watch. It’s perfect for my future (fictitious) story: “Ones to Greatly Admire.”
Then again, I realize I’m not the only one awed by such achievement. Heck, it certainly caught the eye of author Christopher Steiner, a formerForbeswriter turned tech entrepreneur.
He observed, “In a scant four years, Hamdi Ulukaya has built something that even Silicon Valley types should covet: a $700 million business that’s profitable, dominant and growing at a furious clip. …Groupon, the fast growing company ever, got to $700 million faster, but, as any snarky tech pundit will tell you, the Chicago deals site isn’t yet operating in the black. Chobani, by most indications and according to Ulukaya, is firmly profitable.”
Steiner included excerpts from his talk with Ulukaya, a former Turkish dairy farmer (cheese and yogurt) who came to the States in 1995 to learn English and study business. Hamdi said he soon followed his dad’s advice (Make better cheese than what’s available) to process and supply feta for New York specialty shops. Then came the opportunity to buy a former Kraft yogurt plant in New Berlin, N.Y.
Steiner asked Hamdi for advice about starting and growing a successful business. Here are Hamdi’s responses inForbes:
No. 1: “Keep your product simple. Know what you do and do it better than anybody.”
No. 2: “Invest in your core. For us, that’s our yogurt plant. We have the biggest, best plant in the United States, maybe the world. We’ve invested $220 million in taking that plant from a capacity of 50,000 cases to 1.4 million. It’s the backbone of what we do and we treat it that way.”
No. 3: “When you market your business, know that you can’t fool anyone. There is too much information available to anybody who wants it. Be real. People can tell – or easily find out – if you’re not (authentic).”
No. 4: “Focus on profit. I run my business like a mom-and-pop store. Cash is everything. Without it, you can’t increase production and it’s hard to be innovative.”
No. 5: “Lead as an example. If you make yogurt, go to the plant. Work with your people; if you want people to work on Sunday, be there next to them.”
Words to grow by
By Bob Garrison
Bob Garrison came in from the cold. A founding editor of BNP Media's Refrigerated & Frozen Foods (R&FF) Bob has profiled industry-leading companies, explored corporate strategies and covered food product development trends at more than 150 leading private and CPG companies since 1989. He has chronicled the histories of leading brands and businesses, including Gorton's, ConAgra Frozen Foods (Banquet) and Swanson's frozen TV dinners. He also has interviewed or profiled such food industry leaders as Mike Harper (ConAgra), Don Tyson and frozen bagel icon Murray Lender.