The man who built the country’s bestselling Greek yogurt brand, Chobani, has made a point of hiring refugees in his U.S. plants.  

In an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes,” Chobani founder Hamdi Ulukaya discussed the practice, which drew him into election-year politics and debate over the U.S. refugee policy. 

Chobani operates two plants, one in upstate New York and another in Twin Falls, Idaho. Both are staffed in part by refugees resettled locally. 

“The minute they get a job, that’s the minute they stop being a refugee,” Ulukaya told Steve Kroft. “They are the most loyal, hard-working people right now in our plant here [in New York]. We have 19 different nationalities, 16 different translators.”


The 5-year-old plant in deep-red Idaho sparked a firestorm, particularly from the far-right media. Breitbart News claimed that the plant brought refugees, crime and tuberculosis to the town. Ulukaya said he and the Twin Falls mayor received death threats.  

“It was an emotional time. People ... hate you for doing something right,” Ulukaya said. “There’s not much you can do.”

The businessman said tensions have cooled and that he is supported by Idaho’s Republican governor, Butch Otter. 

“I think his care about his employees, whether they be refugees or they be folks that were born 10 miles from where they’re working — I believe his advocacy for that person is no different. And there’s nothing wrong with that,” Otter said. 

Ulukaya emigrated from Turkey to the U.S. in 1994 and has used the success of Chobani to help fund philanthropic efforts centered on refugees. 

“They got here legally. They’ve gone through a most dangerous journey. They lost their family members. They lost everything they have. And here they are. They are either going to be a part of society or they are going to lose it again,” he said of two sisters he employs.  

“The No. 1 thing that you can do is provide them jobs. The minute they get a job, that’s the minute they stop being a refugee.”