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Yogurt Maker Chobani Files for IPO Showing Sales Gain, Risks

(Bloomberg) — Chobani Inc. filed for an initial public offering, disclosing steady growth as it continues to build on sales of its namesake yogurt brand and add newer products such as oat milk.

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The 16-year old company listed the size of the offering as $100 million, according to a filing Wednesday with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. That’s a placeholder that will change when it sets terms for the share sale.

Calling itself an “anti-traditional consumer packaged goods company,” Chobani said its products are now sold at about 95,000 retail locations in North America, which accounts for 91% of its sales. The company also makes products in Australia.

The New Berlin, New York-based maker of Greek yogurt, oat milk and other products has been riding a wave of demand that grew during the coronavirus pandemic, with restaurant lockdowns and restrictions forcing consumers to turn to their own refrigerators.

Its net loss increased slightly to $24 million on net sales of $1.2 billion for the nine months ended Sept. 26. That compares with a loss of $21 million on $1.06 billion in sales during the same period a year earlier, Wednesday’s filing shows.

“We are still a young, energetic, entrepreneurial company,” founder and Chief Executive Officer Hamdi Ulukaya wrote in a letter included in the filing.

Ulukaya, who came to the U.S. from Turkey in 1994 and founded Chobani in 2005, also detailed the origins of the company — from his buying an abandoned yogurt factory on a whim, to sleeping on the facility floor while developing recipes.

The filing comes on the same day as the expected pricing of Sweetgreen Inc.’s IPO. The salad chain is seeking to raise as much as $312.5 million in its share sale, followed by a trading debut Thursday.

Eleven food and beverage IPOs have already listed this year in New York. That’s the most since 1997, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Nearly all of these firms are trading below their offering price after listing at valuations that proved optimistic amid labor shortages, rising prices and a rocky earnings season for the sector.

Chobani’s expected valuation in the IPO will become more clear when it discloses details of the stakes held by its investors and employees, including Ulukaya. The company could be worth as much as $10 billion, the Wall Street Journal reported in February.

Among potential risk factors for prospective investors in the the IPO, Chobani detailed supply chain and liability risks associated with dairy products, as well as labor shortages and higher costs associated with the pandemic.

Chobani also cautioned investors that it’s dependent on the unique expertise of Ulukaya, and could suffer if his reputation is damaged. Ululkaya’s holdings in La Colombe Torrefaction LLC, a U.S. based coffee company, and feta cheese maker Euphrates Inc. might also conflict with Chobani’s interests, according to the filing.

The offering is being led by Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Bank of America Corp. Chobani plans to list its shares on the Nasdaq Global Select Market under the symbol CHO.

(Updates with more details from IPO filing from third paragraph.)

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