Petaluma’s Clover Stornetta Farms, the Bay Area’s largest dairy producer, is about to make a change dramatic enough that consumers will notice immediately: It will become Clover Sonoma.
But Clo the Cow will remain the much-loved mascot.
The 40-year-old company is changing its name, rebranding both itself and its milk cartons with a word that “evokes a sense of a positive place,” said President and CEO Marcus Benedetti.
“The rolling hills out here have to be conveyed” to consumers in Southern California and other distant locales, said Benedetti, sitting in an office that looks out across the expansive wetlands of Shollenberger Park to the hills south of Petaluma.
Sonoma County, which increasingly is viewed as a place for premium wines and artisan foods, is also “the best place for milk,” he said. Most of California’s milk is produced by large dairies in the Central Valley and Southern California.
Starting today, the public will get its first chance to buy Clover Sonoma products in the new packaging. They include the company’s first conventional milk certified to be free of genetically modified organisms.
First, all conventional milk sold in Clover’s new half-gallon cartons will be “non GMO.” Within two years the company will make all its liquid milk products, such as cream, half-and-half and buttermilk, GMO free in all its various size containers. Its organic milk has always been GMO free.
Even as it rebrands itself, Clover is also changing its ownership structure into a benefit corporation, a business whose goals will include not only making a profit but having a social conscience, providing social and environmental benefits.
The company recently was certified to qualify as a B Corporation, or “B Corp,” by the nonprofit group B Lab, which created and awards the certification. Clover is now completing the required paperwork for the switch.
Benedetti’s grandfather, Gene Benedetti, and a group of partners formed Clover Stornetta Farms in August 1977. Today the company is owned by Marcus Benedetti and two cousins, Michael Benedetti and Mkulima Britt.
Clover today is the region’s dominant milk company. In Sacramento and the Bay Area, Clover last year sold 59 percent of all the fluid milk purchased among non-store brands, according to results the company released from AC Nielsen data.
The Clover Dairy brand dates back to 1916, which last year prompted Clover Stornetta to make the pun that it was marking “100 Years and Cownting.”
Stornetta became part of the company name at the founding when Gene Benedetti and partners purchased the Stornetta Dairy near Sonoma. Marcus Benedetti said that putting Stornetta in the name was important then because the dairy, established in 1932, was the major milk supplier in the Sonoma and Napa valleys.
But “the Stornetta name was but a chapter” in the Clover story, he said. Adding “Sonoma” to the company’s name “will be enduring.”
Clover’s rebranding received high marks from two local observers with expertise in marketing and the retail food business. Both said the addition of the word “Sonoma” to Clover’s name will help the company expand its reach to consumers beyond the Bay Area.
The word has a powerfully positive association.
“What are we known for here? High-quality food. It makes perfect sense,” said Roy Gattinella, an instructor of marketing and business at Santa Rosa Junior College.