Specialty Food Magazine

JUL-AUG 2012

Specialty Food Magazine is the leading publication for retailers, manufacturers and foodservice professionals in the specialty food trade. It provides news, trends and business-building insights that help readers keep their businesses competitive.

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Page 159 of 207

PROFESSIONAL ASSESSMENT: WHAT YOU CAN LEARN FROM COWGIRL CREAMERY Food and beverage brand-marketing expert Tammy Katz of Katz Marketing Solutions in Columbus, Ohio, evaluates some of Cowgirl Creamery's strategies and discusses ways other companies can strengthen their own brands. Developing and Reinforcing Brand Positioning: The Cowgirl Creamery brand capitalized on an unmet and growing consumer need for artisanal organic cheese. That brand positioning drives everything Cowgirl does in all aspects of its marketing: product strategy (new product development, ingredient sourcing), pricing strategy, distribution strategy (premier restaurants, company- owned retail storefronts, retail accounts) and marketing strategy (local events, sampling, strategic alliances). What You Should Do: Make sure your brand's positioning is clear and compelling. Clarify your brand positioning statement and widely circulate it internally. Ensure that everything you do is consistent with, and reinforces, the brand positioning. Most important, use it as a tool to determine what you won't do to maintain consistency in your brand strategy. Prioritizing Marketing Efforts: Cowgirl Creamery wisely focuses its marketing efforts on exceptional and consistent product quality, strategic distribution (prestigious foodservice and retail accounts) and wowing the consumer with product sampling. It has prioritized goals—distribution, brand awareness and product trial—and handles them well. What You Should Do: Clarify your measurable business objectives and aim for 3 to 5 marketing strategies to accomplish those goals. Then rigorously develop programs that achieve those marketing strategies. Do only what you can do well, monitor and measure for effectiveness. Don't overreact to opportunities (e.g., unrelated event sponsorships) or new tactics (e.g., overemphasis on social media). Developing or Acquiring Needed Expertise: Like most growing companies, Cowgirl Creamery began to need expertise in new areas, such as manufacturing, product development and engineering. The business wisely recognized those temporary gaps and sought out classes, experienced colleagues and other functional experts to help them with these new challenges. This accelerated and expanded their company capabilities, growth rate and quality of execution. What You Should Do: Don't let success blind you. Anticipate that new growth stages bring challenges that may be outside your current experience and strengths, such as: sales management, brand marketing, operations management, product development and engineering. Hire, educate and train, and/or seek counsel from people who have significant experience in these areas. Food and beverage brand marketing expert, Tammy Katz, CEO of Katz Marketing Solutions, is a food and beverage marketing consultant who has led numerous Fortune 500 and specialty food brands from concept through global expansion. She has launched more than 100 new products with cumulative sales of $2 billion. Katz serves on the board of directors for several food companies and is adjunct professor of brand management at the Fisher College of Business MBA Program at The Ohio State University. invigorating that we were able to create these accounts." Best sellers at the time included creme fraiche and cottage cheese. But Cowgirl wanted to reach retail customers. To offer direct customer sales, in 1998 the business opened a tiny, 400-square-foot shop in San Francisco with a 200-square-foot showroom. "We brought these cheeses to the city so people could try them," Smith says, adding that other artisanal cheeses were on offer in the store as well, mostly from other regional cheesemakers. "We wanted to show what other people were doing with cheese as well as what we were doing. Sue and I believe that there's much more to be gained by working with others and showcasing others, not just what we do." Big Awards and Expansion Difficulties Five years into their cheesemaking, Cowgirl Creamery's Red Hawk, a triple-cream, washed-rind cheese, beat out 616 other cheeses to win Best in Show at the 2003 American Cheese Society conference. Fresh off that victory, Cowgirl relocated to a larger retail space in San Francisco's Ferry Building in 2004. At that time, half of the business was retail cheese sales while the other half was wholesale (with three- fourths of the wholesale business going to restaurants). The Best in Show title wasn't their only award. Between 1997 and 2006, all of the company's fresh cheeses garnered top prizes at American Cheese Society's annual competition. In 2006, the D.C. natives returned to their roots by opening a store in a historic building in the capitol's Penn Quarter. Like their San Francisco store, the D.C. outpost would offer both Cowgirl's cheeses and selections from other producers as well as charcuterie, breads and wine and a tasting bar where customers could sample the specialties. In 2010 they opened Sidekick, a cheese and dairy bar offering counter service, adjacent to their shop in the San Francisco Ferry Building. To keep up with growing demand, Cowgirl needed to expand its cheesemaking facilities as well. For the first decade, all Cowgirl cheeses were crafted in the same Point Reyes Station facility where they started in 1997. In 2007 Smith and Conley invested in a (continued on p. 179) JULY/AUGUST 2012 137

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