Straus Family Creamery Methane Digester Case
In the 1990s, the Straus Family Creamery was the first organic dairy farm west of the Mississippi and pioneered the organic dairy category. Relying exclusively on PR, education and community involvement, the brand garnered fierce customer loyalty. By the end of the decade, however, the category had grown increasingly competitive, due to an ever-increasing demand for organic products.
In an effort to remain competitive yet stay true to its commitment to the environment, the Straus Family Creamery constantly innovated in the areas of eco-efficiency and conservation. In 2004, they installed a new system that converted methane gas from cow manure into electricity. The method not only reduced harmful greenhouse gases, it generated up to 650,000 kWh of electricity per year and helped save more than $6,000 in monthly energy costs. Not something you hear about everyday – and precisely why the multifaceted story was not an easy one to tell. It required educating the media and consumers about this complex technology while explaining the topic of emissions as an environmental issue. All of this had to be done while getting the media to talk about poop and leveraging the story to sell Straus products.
We set out to create a buzz in regions where Whole Foods’ stores were to start receiving distribution of Straus’ new‚ award-winning European-style butter. The strategy was to capitalize on the timely news of high fuel costs and the quirky nature of poop-power. Also, understanding that farms and farmers don’t usually conduct proactive media outreach, we could safely predict and capitalize on the media’s interest on this feel-good news from America’s “heartland.”
Our program helped make the technology tangible and accessible to the media by conducting an on-site press event at the farm, including attendance and perspectives from the California Undersecretary of Agriculture and stakeholders in multiple agricultural and environmental organizations. We conducted pre-event press tours for targeted regional dailies, and multi-channel news broadcast, including wire services and direct email campaign, all within a miniscule marketing budget.
The Straus Family Creamery received national recognition and attention for pioneering innovative environmental and small business solutions, generating hundred of millions of media impressions. Coverage included reporting by CNBC, MSNBC, BBC International, Fox News, National Geographic, Food & Wine, Gourmet, Martha Stewart, the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, national pundit Dennis Miller, countless other radio and television shows, newspapers, and magazines.
Additional benefits included the goodwill generated amongst wholesale retail customers who like supporting, with retail shelf space, suppliers who do cool things. It also helped bolster relationships with national distributors and was instrumental in a 21% increase in sell-through. This became a key differentiator between Straus Family Creamery and other dairies amongst retail customers and consumers.