Chobani food scientist tries to add flavor to yogurt without adding calories.
Porter Z. Long, 25, is a research and development scientist for Chobani at its yogurt factory in Twin Falls, Idaho.
Q: What does your job entail?
A: I create flavors for yogurt, taking an idea, such as mint chocolate, and developing it into a commercial product. Right now, I’m working on Flip products, which have mix-ins like nuts or seeds to add to the yogurt cup.
Q: How did you get into this line of work?
A: I graduated from Brigham Young University in 2016 with a bachelor’s in food science. After Chobani gave a presentation on campus, I decided to apply. After the second interview, they invited me to Twin Falls and asked me to create some yogurt products. I offered up a sesame-miso-flavored Greek yogurt dressing and an avocado-lime-cilantro yogurt dip. Those ideas haven’t turned into a Chobani yogurt, but I did get a job offer.
Q: What did you work on first?
A: I started as an intern, working three days a week until I graduated, and first worked on what Chobani calls its core platform, which includes the fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt. I later transferred to the Flip platform.
Q: What was your first flavor at Chobani?
A: We wanted to make a s’mores-flavored yogurt, so our team experimented — we try to use only natural ingredients and sweeteners — to create the taste of campfire s’mores. S’more S’mores Flip consists of vanilla yogurt with a side compartment of graham crackers, milk chocolate and caramelized toffee to combine for a toasted-marshmallow taste.
Q: How much science is there in deciding on a flavor?
A: We select the ingredients for the flavor we’re preparing, then the science comes in so the product can be tested for safety and to make sure it can be reproduced on a large scale.
Q: When you settle on a flavor, do you worry whether it’s adding calories, sugar or fat?
A: Sugar is a topic of daily discussion, sometimes even 10 times a day. Yogurt needs some sugar for taste, but our goal is to make the sugar content as low as possible. That has been the company’s approach since it was founded, and we are always aiming to use less. The fat content varies by the percentage of milk, so 2 percent products like Flip will have fewer calories than whole-milk yogurt. We list the nutritional information and calorie count on each cup’s label.
Q: You’re surrounded by yogurt. Do you eat it?
A: I do — several times a day. My favorite snack is whole-milk plain yogurt, and I mix in olive oil, cracked black pepper and pita chips.
Q: What Chobani flavors have you been involved with?
A: I’ve helped create Mint Chocolate Chip Flip as well as other Flip products, including Coffee Brownie Bliss, Buttercrunch Blast, Honey Crunch Bunch and Blueberry B-Fast.