Business of the Olympics

Yogurt intended for Olympians will be donated, Chobani says

Thomas Kaplan
Chobani Inc. greek yogurt at a supermarket in Princeton, Illinois.
Daniel Acker | Bloomberg | Getty Images

In the cold war over yogurt, America blinked.

The yogurt maker Chobani conceded defeat on Thursday in its standoff with the Russian government, which has refused to allow a shipment of Greek yogurt intended for the United States Olympic team at the Winter Olympics in Sochi to enter the country.

No amount of dairy diplomacy was able to break the impasse. Chobani said the yogurt, which has been held in refrigerated storage near Newark Liberty International Airport, would be donated to food banks in New York and New Jersey.

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Hamdi Ulukaya, the founder and chief executive officer of Chobani, said in a statement, "We're disappointed our athletes won't be able to enjoy Chobani while they compete in the games as we all hoped, and are deeply appreciative to everyone who tried to help get it there."

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Russian authorities would not allow the yogurt to be delivered because they said it lacked the proper customs certification, which American officials said would be impossible to attain. The two countries have been squabbling over the export of American dairy products to Russia for several years.

(Read more: Live-culture wars: US, Russia wrangle over Chobani)

The yogurt blockade outraged yogurt-friendly American politicians, including Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, who appealed to the Russian ambassador to intervene. The production of Greek yogurt is a prospering industry in upstate New York, where Chobani was founded.

"Chobani and I fought hard to deliver their yogurt to our Olympic athletes in Sochi," Mr. Schumer said in a statement on Thursday.

(Read more: The money woes of blue-collar Sochi Olympians)

The senator added that not all was lost.

"While we did not prevail," he said, "there is a silver – or gold – lining in the news that the yogurt will be donated to hungry men, women and children in New York and New Jersey."

By Thomas Kaplan of The New York Times'