Case Study
Straus Family Creamery

Like small family farms across America, the Straus family faced a bleak future in the early 1990s - already, 90 percent of neighboring dairies in Marin County had gone under in just the past thirty-five years. In 1994, the Strauses made two major leaps in the dairy world: first, they completed a four-year process to become the first organic dairy farm west of the Mississippi; second, they opened their own processing facility, and launched the Straus Family Creamery (SFC) brand.

Undercapitalized, understaffed, and with no marketing experience, the Strauses faced additional challenges: the organic market was still in its infancy and organic milk was virtually unavailable, poorly distributed, and relatively unknown. With SFC milk packaged in old-fashioned reusable glass bottles, the Strauses would need to develop from scratch a distribution system for which the complicated infrastructure had disappeared. Finally, there was only a short time frame before local, national, and private label competition started heating up.

For the brand and the Straus family farm to succeed, we would have to build a comprehensive marketing program, create diversified distribution and sales channels, and solidify the family’s position as organic experts and environmental leaders.

Our program would include overseeing and recommending new product rollout, building diversified distribution, developing strategic alliance with like-minded businesses and nonprofits, gaining chef endorsements, participating in farmers’ markets, speaking on panels, entering awards programs, conducting farm tours and public education, and developing massive media outreach - all with a miniscule annual marketing budget.

SFC received national and international recognition for pioneering and innovative environmental initiatives, superb products, and commitment to purity. Generating hundred of millions of media impressions, coverage included: CNN, PBS, BBC, the New York Times, CBS Osgood Files, Food & Wine, Gourmet, Saveur, Sierra, Veggie Life, Martha Stewart and countless radio and television shows, newspapers, and magazines. Products have been seen in Hollywood productions including Friends, Nash Bridges, and with the 1997 Indy500 winner.

By 1998, sales grew to $4+ million, with a dozen distributors and hundreds of wholesale and retail accounts in 12 states. The SFC brand has become so strong that two additional local dairies now supply SFC, and market position is growing despite the entrée of larger, well-funded competitors.

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