Forget that law degree, it turns out the real money is in yogurt. Chobani founder Hamdi Ulukaya just popped up on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, having cleared 10 figures since he started producing his Greek-style yogurt five years ago.
In 2005, Ulukaya purchased a closed yogurt factory from Kraft with the help of a Small Business Administration loan. According to The Huffington Post, it took Ulukaya and his master yogurt maker 18 months to perfect their recipe. It was mostly a regional product sold in smaller New York stores until 2009, when BJ’s and Costco started carrying it. Since then, according to Bloomberg, Chobani’s sales have increased nearly 400 percent as the Greek yogurt boom really took off.
“At a consumer level, the Greek yogurt trend is the biggest innovation in the dairy industry since individual packaging of things like yogurt and mozzarella sticks,” Cornell University’s Robert Ralyea said.
As the sole owner of the company, Ulukaya is now worth $1.1 billion, according to Bloomberg. Not everything is honey for the new billionaire, however, as his ex-wife filed suit against him last month, seeking 53 percent of the company.
A company spokesperson said the suit is “without merit.” And Ulukaya issued a statement saying, "The real story here is the collective success of Chobani and how we as a company, through our fans and community, have left an indelible mark on the yogurt industry."