Clover Sonoma: Dairy Delights
By Mr. Mohamad Akef
A growing consumer conscience at the sharp end of the food industry has put pressure on food companies to think again where their products are sourced from, and whether their products really do match the image they project. This concern applies to dairy companies as well, chief among them Clover Sonoma, a third generation family-owned and operated dairy company that values transparency and sustainability. Boasting an impressive array of awards, Clover is showing the way forward for dairy companies to achieve a sustainable future.
I spoke to Marcus Benedetti, Clover Sonoma CEO, to find out more:
How did Clover Sonoma originally get started?
Marcus Benedetti: Clover’s history dates back more than 100 years when the Petaluma Cooperative Creamery began distributing Clover brand dairy products to customers in the North Bay. In 1929, the Petaluma Cooperative Creamery started to bottle milk under the Clover name, and in 1969 Clo the Cow, our beloved, pun-loving mascot, made her first appearance. In 1977 my grandfather, Gene Benedetti, former general manager of the co-op, bought the brand name and established Clover Stornetta Farms. Last year, we rebranded to Clover Sonoma to honor our Sonoma County heritage as we expand distribution to more areas of California and the western United States. Through it all, we have remained a family-owned company that works with family farms.
What are the values Clover Sonoma stands for?
MB: Last year we became a B Corp member, which means we use “business as a power to do good.” During the Certified B Corporation process, Clover Sonoma achieved 97 points on our initial certification, which far passed the median of 55 and the 80 needed to qualify. This certification not only serves as recognition of what we have achieved for decades but what we will continue to accomplish as we expand.
Since the beginning, Clover has valued our relationship with our customers. We’ve worked hard to gain their trust and every day we make sure to deliver on our Clover Promise of Excellence, which means we hold ourselves to five commitments: Our cows are not treated with the growth hormone rBST. All of our Non-GMO products follow the high standards of the Non-GMO Project, and all our organic products follow the USDA organic standards. Our cows are cared for under the American Humane Certified Animal Welfare standards, and our milk is tested daily and weekly to ensure bacteria counts are three to six times lower than state and federal standards. And all of our farms strive to make annual environment improvements to their land.
Clover Sonoma also stands for family. As a third-generation, family-owned brand that works closely with family farmers, we have pledged to remain independent. As large corporations continue to acquire small brands, Clover will stay family-owned and operated.
What challenges has Clover Sonoma faced as it has continued to operate?
MB: Like any successful business, we’ve faced our fair share of challenges. Most notably, in 1975 the Petaluma Cooperative Creamery processing and bottling operations burned in a large fire. My grandfather, Gene Benedetti built Clover Stornetta Farms out of the ashes of that disastrous fire. And last year Sonoma County faced devastating wildfires. Fortunately, our business and farms were spared, but several of our employees and their families lost their homes. Our employees demonstrated their strength and support by moving quickly to raise funds for their colleagues and help them recover from the fire – we started a Clover Sonoma Employee Fire Relief Fund with $25K funded by the company along with a commitment to match up to another $25K of donations made by employees and others. Our employees answered this challenge and in total we raised over $80K for our employees that lost their homes.
On your website you mention that Clover Sonoma is the only dairy in the US to be American Humane Association Certified, how did you earn that certification?
MB: Our website notes that in 2000, we became the first dairy in the U.S. to be certified by the American Humane Association for their animal welfare program, American Humane Certified. It was the right thing to do for our animals and the right thing for our customers. Throughout our history, we have at times deviated from convention to ensure we deliver what our consumers want or will be best for them and their families.
For example, in 1994 Monsanto visited my father, Dan Benedetti, to pitch him on using a new growth hormone called rBST with our livestock. Dan quickly realized they were looking to profit at the expense of the consumer, so he said no and sent them packing. Sometimes doing the right thing means doing what others are not willing to do.
What do you see as the future of Clover Sonoma?
MB: Clover Sonoma will continue to elevate dairy. We’re proud to bring clean and delicious dairy products direct from our farms to our customers. We’ll remain independent, family-owned and passionate about our support of animal welfare, sustainable business practices, and our local community. We’ll also deliver new products to delight our customers. For example, this year we will offer the first and only Non-GMO Project Verified Lactose Free Milk on the market. Not only is it lactose free and non-GMO, but it’s the only lactose free milk made with nutritious and delicious Clover milk.