Chobani CCO, comms staffers out amid 'refocusing'

Chobani CCO Nicki Briggs and several other in-house PR staffers are no longer with the Greek yogurt company after a broad refocusing of its resources.

NORWICH, NY: Chobani CCO Nicki Briggs and several other in-house PR staffers are no longer with the Greek yogurt company after a broad refocusing of its resources.

Briggs, one of PRWeek's 40 Under 40 honorees for 2013, left Chobani last week after working at the company since 2009, she confirmed.

“Working at Chobani was an amazing experience to be able to grow the brand from nothing to over $1 billion and to create such a deep intimacy and advocacy with consumers,” Briggs said.  

Further details on her departure were not disclosed.

Chobani's in-house communications team previously had five staffers. At least three are no longer with the company.

During Briggs' four-year tenure at the brand, she led PR efforts and leveraged social media that helped increase Chobani's awareness among consumers without a national TV effort until the last year. Briggs also worked on Chobani's sponsorship of Team USA for the 2012 Olympic Summer Games, and she helped to build the in-house communications team from one person.

Before Chobani, Briggs served as a program manager for the Mediterranean Food Alliance for two years. She also previously worked at the United Soybean Board and Tufts New England Medical Center.

Peter McGuinness, CMO of Chobani, added that the company will depend more heavily on its agency partners, including PR AOR Weber Shandwick, advertising agency Droga5, and shopper marketing firm Mars Advertising.

“We're going to be very aggressive in marketing, advertising, social, and PR in the next six to 12 months as evidenced in Q1, which will probably be our biggest marketing push thus far in the company's history,” said McGuinness. “We're just doing it a little differently and leaning a little bit more on our external partners.”

In September, Chobani selected Weber Shandwick as its AOR for PR after working with FleishmanHillard for nearly four years.

Weber declined to comment on the situation.

In addition to affecting communications, the reorganization effort has led to several staff departures in the company's innovation and development division.  

McGuinness added that the company is “still very much committed to innovation and we're an innovation leader in our category.”

He added that some resources have been “redirected to research and development, operations, and engineering to make the innovations happen.”

This week, the company appointed Andreas Sokollek as SVP of supply chain and operations, overseeing product launches, production planning, and materials-management initiatives. In October, Chobani named Dr. Alejandro Mazzotta as VP of global quality, food safety, and regulatory affairs.

McGuinness said the company is still “100% committed” to its international efforts in the UK and Australia, and that its US manufacturing plants are “ramped up nicely and in full production" for Q1.

Chobani is also in the process of replacing CFO James McConeghy, who recently left the company. The brand is “very close” to filling the position, said McGuinness.

The Greek yogurt brand has faced recall challenges in recent months. Two months ago, Chobani recalled some of its yogurt flavors due to mold concerns and consumer complaints.

Last month, the brand released a new ad campaign focused on its all-natural ingredients

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