Greek yogurt giant Chobani is on the hunt for a new marketing VP after parting ways with Doron Stern, who joined the company nearly four years ago.
"Doron has moved on to pursue other opportunities," Nicki Briggs, Chobani's VP of corporate communications, told Ad Age in an email. "We wish him well as he has been instrumental in building our business and creating world-class ad work for the Chobani brand."
Ms. Briggs noted that John Heath, formerly Chobani's VP for new ventures and innovation, has been appointed as the interim CMO. It remains to be seen if a permanent marketing head will be recruited from the outside.
Founded in 2007 as a scrappy upstart, Chobani was an early pioneer of the Greek-yogurt style in the U.S., finding early success with barely any traditional marketing. But as established yogurt brands Dannon and General Mills' Yoplait have invested further in getting the Greek-style product on shelves, Chobani has maintained its share of market by taking a page from the big packaged-goods firms' ad playbooks.
Under Mr. Stern's leadership the brandlate last year hired Leo Burnett, New York as agency of record. The shop this summer created a TV ad that ran during the summer Olympics, touting the yogurt's sponsorship of Team USA. In the first eight months of 2012, Chobani spent $41.4 million on measured media, which is more than four times the amount spent in all of 2011, according to Kantar Media. In 2010, Chobani did not spend anything on measured media, according to Kantar.
Chobani's contract with Leo Burnett expires in December, but Ms. Briggs said the brand "will not be conducting an agency review." She added: "We have greatly enjoyed working with Leo Burnett New York over the past 15 months" and that "we look forward to the possibility of working together on a project basis going forward."
Said a Leo Burnett representative in an email: "We had a contract from October 2011 - December 2012 and certainly hope to work with them beyond the end of that contract. We are very proud of the work we did for them, particularly for the Olympics, and hope to continue our productive relationship with this growing company."
Greek yogurt, which was barely a blip on the U.S. radar when Chobani first launched, now accounts for some 35% of all yogurt sales, according to a report published in June by BernsteinResearch. Chobani controls about 47% of the Greek market, leading all brands, according to the report, which noted that Chobani had lost some share to Dannon, which had about 19.7% as of May.
As of June, Yoplait still held the lead for the entire yogurt category, with 26.2% share, followed by Dannon with 25.5% and Chobani parent company Agro Farma with 16%, according to the latest data available from SymphonyIRI.
Contributing: Rupal Parekh