Whole Foods will no longer sell Chobani

The natural and organic grocery chain said Wednesday that it will be phasing Chobani Greek Yogurt out of its stores in early 2014 to make room for other products.

While part of the decision might be fueled by Whole Foods' push to phase out foods that use genetically modified ingredients, it's also about offering more exclusive and organic products. Chobani is now available in most supermarkets.

Whole Foods Market Inc. said Wednesday in a statement that it is committed to offering shoppers the widest variety of high-quality products possible, including items shoppers can't find anywhere else. And as the national demand for Greek yogurt has grown, the company says the number of conventional Greek yogurt options has multiplied.

"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," the company said in a statement. "At this time, Chobani has chosen a different business model."

Chobani, which is the top Greek yogurt brand in the U.S., says its products are not organic but use only natural ingredients. The company 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, saying it is bringing natural products to many consumers.

"We're mass and we're proud of it," Peter McGuinness, chief marketing and brand officer at Chobani said.

Whole Foods, based in Austin, Texas but with stores across the country, carries six national brands and a number of regional brands. Some of those remaining brands sold in stores are not organic and use ingredients from dairy cows fed with GMO-feed. But the company said verification of non-GMO-fed dairy ingredients is a fairly new capability, and it is working to get that on all of its own products.

Greek yogurt, known for its thick texture, tart taste and high protein content, has surged in popularity in recent years. It now accounts for more than a third of the U.S. yogurt market, up from just 1 percent in 2007, according to a report by Bernstein Research.

"Though we have limited distribution within Whole Foods, they have been a wonderful partner of ours over the years," Chobani said in a statement. "We know our fans love buying our products in their stores and we hope to continue our partnership moving forward."

This setback follows Chobani's recall earlier this year of some of its Greek yogurt cups due to a mold contamination.

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