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Chobani founder predicts the return of the milkman

Hamdi Ulukaya, the founder of Chobani yogurt, says

Hamdi Ulukaya, the founder of Chobani yogurt, says consumers want freshness. Credit: Newsday / James T. Madore

Home delivery of milk and fresh food will make a comeback, the founder of Chobani yogurt said Friday.

Hamdi Ulukaya, who started his company in upstate New Berlin, predicted a return of the milkman in the next 10 years because of consumer demand for convenience and freshness.

“I see the milkman coming back, I really do for fresh food,” he told a conference of journalists in midtown Manhattan. “You wake up and go to the door and there’s your milk and cheese — some form of that is going to come back in my opinion.”

He also said producers of fresh food have been the “slowest” to embrace selling online.

A kosher grocer on Long Island was the first seller of Chobani yogurt in 2007. Today, the company has annual sales of about $2 billion and operates factories in upstate New York, Idaho and Australia.

Ulukaya, who started Chobani in 2005, credited the work ethic of his hundreds of employees in upstate for Chobani’s success.

“I love upstate New York . . . I think that it will come back,” Ulukaya said, praising the economic development efforts of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. New York “is a more complex state and the governor is doing his best,” the executive told the Society of American Business Editors and Writers.

Ulukaya said companies are moving to upstate after decades of exodus and many of them were started and are run by immigrants.

Asked about President Donald Trump’s push to limit legal immigration, Ulukaya, a Kurd from Turkey, said the United States risks losing its creative edge. He lauded the contributions of immigrants in creating businesses and jobs.

“You need new blood, fresh blood,” Ulukaya said. But “I think this is a very, very healthy conversation to have . . . I’m not worried at all” about potential limits to legal U.S. immigration.

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