CHOBANI YOGURT CEO UNDER SCRUTINY FOR AIDING IMMIGRANTS AND REFUGEES

Written by: Joe Stu

The Chobani Yogurt brand has come under intense scrutiny from a growing number of alt-right groups. Chobani's CEO/founder/chairman Turkish-born Muslim Hamdi Ulukaya has been charged with flooding immigrants to middle America through his Refugee employment program. World Net Daily, a Christian-based news website, has claimed Ulukaya is going to drown the United States in Muslims and is importing them to Idaho 300 at a time to work in his Twin Falls, Idaho factory.

Idaho, in spite of its notoriety for being a mostly white Republican state, has become a well-known stop for refugees. According to idahorefugees.org, refugees are heavily screened with strict background checks before entering the program. Over 85,000 refugees from countries such as Iraq, Congo, Bhutan, Burma, and Somalia, will be placed in 200 cities across the United States. Approximately 1,000 of those refugees are destined for Idaho by the end of 2016.

Ulukaya’s Twin Falls factory employs a third of the refugees, who enter Idaho, along with a significant amount of Twin Falls residents. By utilizing employees through the refugee resettlement center in a nearby town, Chobani was able to reach US net worth of $2 billion by March 2016. Employees are given transportation to work, and interpreters for translation purposes. The refugee workers salaries are all above minimum wage, along with other workers at the factory.

Outside of the benefits that the Chobani factory brings, the reality of Iraqi settlers reconstructing their lives from war-torn environments scares white middle America. The national security concern over Chobani’s refugee program is based in islamophobia connected to memories of 9/11, which shifts the narrative depending on which side tells the story.

When alt-right website WND published the story in January, entitled “American Yogurt Tycoon Vows to Choke U.S. With Muslims.” The headline continued to spread through many other right wing sites such as of Breitbart.com, whose former executive chairman, Stephen K. Bannon, coincidently managed the Trump campaign. Retaliation against has what has been mistakenly marketed as a hostile migrant takeover, came in the form of a widespread call to boycotting the Chobani brand.

The original article still exists but the title has been changed to “U.S. Yogurt billionaire asks businesses to hire more foreign refugees” since Chobani’s litigation intervened, yet even with an amended headline, the content is caustic to the public perception of Chobani. The relationship between Ulukaya and the Obama administration has also come under scrutiny since being named Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship in April 2014. False claims of Obama spearheading Ulukaya's initiative were discounted once it was discovered Idaho entered the refugee resettlement arena in 1975, when Governor John Evans established the Indochinese Refugee Assistance Program. 

With all of the negative press aimed toward the company, Ulukaya remains undeterred. Ultimately, consumer specialist realized the general population who were denouncing Chobani weren't purchasing the yogurt brand to begin with. Chobani’s target market, are mainly liberal women whose views clash with Chobani’s detractors. The yogurt brand still outsells its main competitors Yoplait and Dannon proving the smear campaign an ineffective attempt to tarnish a name. The frightening part is how far some will go to prove a point.