Chobani grows in 'Silicon Valley of food' despite turmoil

Published: Thursday, November 09, 2017 @ 1:13 PM
Updated: Thursday, November 09, 2017 @ 1:12 PM

The founder and CEO of Chobani has no regrets about moving his Greek yogurt company to south-central Idaho, a region embroiled in the national debate over refugee resettlement that spread to company boycotts by far-right bloggers and conspiracy theorists.

"I hear the conversations here and there, but it's a peaceful community that we all love," said Hamdi Ulukaya, a Turkish immigrant. "It's the home of Chobani."

Ulukaya spoke to The Associated Press before a Thursday announcement of a $20 million expansion of the company's facility in the city of Twin Falls — the world's largest yogurt plant — to serve as its global research and development center tackling how yogurt is made and consumed.

It's a project Ulukaya says he's been planning for several years. As to what innovations the company plans for the 70,000-square-foot facility, Ulukaya isn't sharing yet. He said the focus will be on offering natural and non-synthetic products.

The project follows a series of expansion efforts by Chobani since opening its Idaho plant in 2012. The $450 million, 1 million-square-foot plant is the company's second after Ulukaya started Chobani in New York. The company employs 2,000 workers, including 300 refugees.

However, Chobani's time in Idaho also has taken a darker turn as anti-immigrant advocates have seized on the company's open stance on refugees. Fringe websites have falsely claimed that Ulukaya wanted to "drown the United States in Muslims." Other websites, like Breitbart News, falsely attempted to link Chobani's hiring of refugees to an uptick in tuberculosis cases in Idaho.

To counteract the hateful rhetoric, Chobani sued right-wing radio host Alex Jones earlier this year, saying that Jones and his InfoWars website posted fabricated stories linking Ulukaya and the company to a sexual assault case involving refugee children in Twin Falls. Jones originally promised to never back down in his fight against the yogurt giant but eventually retracted his statements in a settlement.

Ulukaya declined to comment on the Jones lawsuit but said the rise in anti-refugee sentiment has never delayed a project he wanted to pursue. And he says he is committed to being a welcoming company.

"Don't leave anyone out," he said. "At Chobani, we believe in second chances."

During Thursday's expansion launch, Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter praised Chobani's impact on the community.

"This new investment in Twin Falls reflects Chobani's commitment to Idaho and to the people who have responded so positively to its corporate citizenship," Otter said in a prepared statement. "Congratulations to all those who are contributing to Chobani's growth, just as Chobani is contributing to ours."

Strong economic growth in south-central Idaho — an agriculture-dominant area dubbed the Magic Valley — led Ulukaya to describe the region as the "Silicon Valley of food," pointing to the wide range of food manufacturing plants that have invested in food science since Chobani moved to the state.

"It's an ecosystem generated for food making," he said. "There's now a general knowledge around food science that wasn't there 10 years ago."

The boon extends to Chobani's Idaho workers, who earn an average of $15 an hour, more than twice the minimum wage of $7.25.

The company's new facility will be open for employees to enjoy, featuring sweeping windows to overlook the rural farm landscape and Sawtooth Mountains, complete with an exercise room, kitchen and visitors center.

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John Legend is one of six new Google Assistant voices

Published: Tuesday, May 08, 2018 @ 5:14 PM

What You Need To Know About John Legend

Google announced that singer John Legend will be one of the new voices of Google Assistant.

The musician and songwriter, who has appeared in multiple Google ads, one with his model and cookbook author wife Chrissy Teigen, is one of six new voices for the digital device.

>> Read more trending news 

CNET reported that Google made the announcement Tuesday at its annual I/O developer conference in Mountain View, California.

The technology used for the voices on the Assistant was WaveNet, which allowed Legend’s voice to be used for different user responses in less recording time.

According to The Verge, Legend’s voice will be on the Assistant for Google Home and other Google devices, like phones and home speakers, later in the year.

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Instagram quietly rolls out in-app payment feature for faster shopping

Published: Friday, May 04, 2018 @ 1:47 PM

Instagram has begun rolling out a native payments feature in its app to some users. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
Carl Court/Getty Images
Instagram has begun rolling out a native payments feature in its app to some users. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)(Carl Court/Getty Images)

Shopping on Instagram is about to become a lot easier with the launch of its new native payments feature.

Instagram quietly began rolling out the feature this week for some users, giving them the option to register a debit or credit card, set up a security PIN and begin buying products without leaving the app at all.

>> Read more trending news 

Before the native payment option, users could tap the app’s Shoppable Tag to purchase products they are interested in, but they would be sent directly to the brand’s website.

TechCrunch first reported on the feature after a reader tipped the site off. An Instagram spokesperson confirmed native payments for booking restaurant reservations or salon appointments are now live for a limited set of business partners.

Related: Instagram is the worst social media network for your mental health, study says

In March 2017, Instagram announced it would “roll out the ability to book a service with a business directly from their profile,” but there was no mention of native payments. 

With the new option, brands popular on Instagram may find a new, successful business venue in the app’s native commerce feature. For users, this would also make the transaction more convenient. With payment details already stored, users can make quick purchases without leaving the app.

Related: Instagram is finally fixing its algorithm to show newer posts first

According to Instagram’s terms of service, the app is backed by Facebook Payments’ rules. But while Facebook has peer-to-peer payments via Messenger, it’s unclear whether the same would become available for Instagram. The option of adding a credit or debit card on file, however, is a “critical building block to that feature,” according to TechCrunch.

Related: What is a ‘Finsta?’ Teens and their secret Instagram accounts

“Instagram Payments could make impulse buys much quicker, enticing more businesses to get on board,” TechCrunch reported. “Even if Instagram takes no cut of the revenue, brands are likely to boost ad spend to get their shoppable posts seen by more people if the native payments mean more of them actually complete a purchase.”

The new feature is available for some but not all users in the U.S. It should start rolling out for all users over the next few weeks.

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Newest cellphone is only that -- a phone

Published: Friday, March 09, 2018 @ 9:54 AM

FILE PHOTO (DTL/Morguefile.com license https://morguefile.com/license)
DTL/Morguefile.com
FILE PHOTO (DTL/Morguefile.com license https://morguefile.com/license)(DTL/Morguefile.com)

Your kids are begging for the latest and greatest cellphones to hit the market.

They may not like a new one that’s being introduced, but you sure will like them to have it.

It is called  Light Phone 2 and it has only a few functions. First and foremost is a phone, ABC News reported.

It can call and it can text. But it cannot use Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram or any other social media.

>> Read more trending news 

Light Phone 2 can also message, use maps and call for an Uber, the Telegraph reported.

Basically, it’s an old-fashioned flip phone without the flip phone look.

It also uses E-Ink for the display and operates on a modified version of the Android operating system, the Telegraph reported.

“Unlike a flip phone, however, to children the Light Phone is seen as ‘cool’ amongst their peers,” Joe Hollier, co--founder of Light told “Good Morning America.” “We have been working with parents on the idea of a parental app to support their child’s Light Phone 2 as well.”

Light launched it’s first phone in 2016. It could only make calls and store nine numbers, the Telegraph reported. The company sold 10,000 devices, but they were too simple for many and were not practical for some, the Telegraph reported.

Light Phone 2 are expected to ship next year and will cost about $250, the Telegraph reported.

If you want to get in on the new technology, the company launched an IndieGoGo campaign to raise $250,000. So far it has exceeded that amount by 335 percent and has more than $836,000 pledged from supporters.

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This man bit into an iPhone battery and it exploded in his face

Published: Thursday, January 25, 2018 @ 5:13 AM

Apple Admits To Slowing Phones Down As Their Batteries Age

If you needed a reason not to bite your iPhone battery, here it is.

>> On AJC.com: How to tell if Apple is slowing down your iPhone — and how to fix it

According to Taiwan News, a man entered an electronics store in China hoping to purchase a replacement battery for his iPhone.

>> Read more trending news 

In an attempt to test its authenticity, the customer reportedly bit into the battery and as he removed it from his mouth, the product ruptured, exploding in his face.

Luckily, no one was injured.

>> Apple admits to throttling iPhone CPU speed as battery ages

CCTV posted footage of the bizarre incident to Miaopai.com, and the video eventually made its way to YouTube.

The episode came soon after outrage over Apple’s admittance to slowing down older iPhone models with aging batteries led to big discounts on replacement batteries around the globe, including in China.

>> Apple faces multiple lawsuits over iPhone battery speed

“However,” Taiwan News reported, “Chinese electronics stores are notoriously replete with fake goods, thus the man was in his own – but obviously wrong – way trying to test its authenticity.”

Lesson of the story: Don’t bite into your iPhone battery

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