Straus Family Creamery Methane Digester Case
In the 1990s, the Straus Family Creamery was the first organic dairy farm west of the Mississippi, pioneering the organic dairy category and strengthening the entire organic movement. Relying exclusively on media relations, consumer education and community involvement, the brand garnered fierce customer loyalty for its artisanal delicacies. By the end of the decade, however, the organic dairy 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 ecological 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, well, cow poop -- and ultimately 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 confidently capitalize on the media’s interest on this feel-good, quirky news.
Our approach focused on making the technology of methane conversion tangible and accessible to the media. We did this by conducting a press event at the farm, with real live experts, featuring the California Undersecretary of Agriculture, and stakeholders in multiple agricultural and environmental organizations. And the Straus cows, of course. Leaving no dung pile unturned, we also conducted pre-event press tours for targeted regional daily newspapers, and a robust multi-channel media advisory, including wire services and direct email campaigns -- all within a conservative marketing budget.
The Straus Family Creamery received national recognition and attention for pioneering an innovative eco-solution for small business. Our media outreach generated 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. Media coverage bolstered relationships with national distributors and retailers, and drove a 21% increase in sales.