The Greek Yogurt Recipe War You Never Knew About

Greek yogurt isn't just delicious — it's big business. Of the $7 billion in yogurt sold in 2020, 44% of it was Greek yogurt (via Statista), which is different from regular yogurt in that Greek yogurt is strained more times and is often higher in protein.

And two of the top Greek yogurt companies are likely recognizable names: Chobani and Fage. While Chobani is a relatively new company, their rival Fage has been around since the 1920s and was the first to introduce Greek yogurt to America, per their website. Chobani was founded in the mid-2000s by Hamdi Ulukaya, a Kurdish shepherd who started making yogurt in upstate New York inspired by his Turkish heritage, per Forbes.

After launching a company making feta cheese, Ulukaya bought an out-of-commission yogurt factory in upstate New York and launched Chobani to near-immediate success, per Insider, which helped revitalize the rural area. But after about five years at the top of the yogurt business, Chobani found itself at the heart of a recipe war that spilled over into the courts and leaked some scandalous allegations relating to their rival yogurt producer Fage.

The shocking claim of bribery in the Greek yogurt war

The root of the recipe war that implicated some of the most popular Greek yogurt brands began in 2012 when Chobani founder Hamdi Ulukaya's ex-wife, Ayse Giray, claimed that plans to sell the company would cost her a valuable ownership stake, Daily Mail reported — although Ulukaya argued she didn't have any ownership at all. In response, she fired back with a lawsuit containing a stunning statement.

According to the lawsuit, Ulukaya allegedly paid a former Fage employee €30,000 for the company's secret recipe, which he then used to create Chobani yogurt, per New York Post. She also alleged that Ulukaya stole money from his brother and forged documents. For his part, Ulukaya's lawyers argued that Giray's claims were "completely baseless and without merit" (via Reuters). Ultimately, the war ended in 2015 when the case was settled — but details of the agreement were not made public, per The Business Journals.

In fact, this is not the only time Chobani has defended itself in court recently. As a Muslim immigrant himself, Ulukaya has been outspoken in his support of refugees, per The New York Times. In response to racist and Islamophobic comments from the far-right commentator Alex Jones about the company's hiring practices at their facilities in Idaho and New York, Chobani sued for defamation and won (via Los Angeles Times).