Yogurt isn't complicated. A little milk, some good bacteria, and a little time left at the right temperature. (Seriously, that's it.) So when companies are out there producing AI-based cars, bioprinted human tissue and the like, Chobani might not immediately come to mind as an innovator. But there's no mistake about it--the business is outdoing competitors and setting impressive standards, earning itself the #9 spot on Fast Company's 2017 list of the world's most innovative companies.

One product, tons of options

Sure, you can get a basic, plain yogurt from Chobani. But you also can choose your fat content, what's mixed in and whether the flavor is earthy or downright indulgent. And don't forget the yogurt drinks launched in 2016. No need to spend precious time whipping up your own smoothies when Chobani is catering to your hectic lifestyle and doing it for you.

Expanding outside the container

Chobani also is pushing boundaries by opening concept cafes. Whereas other food products have a fairly limited use (there's only so many things you can do with a cracker, for example), yogurt can be used in a huge range of recipes from loaded baked potatoes to cornbread. The cafes thus are brilliant because they address a basic need (meals) while getting consumers thinking about different ways to use Chobani's products.

Aggressive but out for good

Chobani is willing to play hardball with campaigns and counterproducts to get out in front of competitors. But CEO Hamdi Ulukaya sees the role of his (and every) business as finding solutions to real social problems. For example, Chobani gives to charities, supports struggling communities with new jobs and includes resettled refugees as a steady part of its workforce.

Chobani might have a product that's been commercially made for almost a century, but its approach to variety, willingness to show product versatility, cutthroat attitude and mission for community building make it stand out. No matter what product or service you offer, that's a recipe to model.