napa county california news

Coronavirus, sheltered customers just the start of new economy for San Francisco North Bay food, beverage makers

Generally, describe the two key trends occurring your product line or industry within the last two years:

Health and wellness has been an on-going priority for consumers and has now become even more important since the onset of the pandemic. COVID-19 is making personal health more important to consumers and we see this reflected in consumer behaviors as people look for healthier swaps in their food choices, seek foods with positive ingredients (i.e. nutritionally dense or plant based foods), control portions or calories based on health goals or dietary needs and look for foods to help deliver functional health and/or immunity boosting.

We are also seeing an increase in a desire for great-tasting comfort foods that provide consumers with an emotional connection to family and friends. During COVID-19, we’ve seen a resurgence of comfort foods from authentic brands like Amy’s as consumers seek trust, familiarity and convenience amid the pandemic, as well as increases in classic comfort food categories – in particular soups and frozen pizza.

Amanda Parker

Cowgirl Creamery & Tomales Bay Foods

Managing Director

Years at the company: 2

Years in the food business: 13

Type of business: Cheesemaker, distributor, retailer and e-commerce platform

Main products: Organic specialty cheeses and dairy products. Best known for Mt Tam, an organic triple-cream cow’s milk cheese, Red Hawk, a washed-rind triple-cream, and our fresh dairy products, including the recently re-launched and beloved Clabbered Cottage Cheese.

All businesses are dealing with the coronavirus. What’s been the impact on the workforce for your business as the result of the virus and SIP orders?

Like all businesses, Cowgirl Creamery & Tomales Bay Foods have had to navigate the uncertainty and rapidly changing dynamics brought on by coronavirus. We were immediately impacted by SIP orders in all counties in which we operate, both from our own personnel and their ability to work onsite and offsite as well as the dramatic impact on our two retail locations.

Our teams have had to react quickly and become more agile as we have learned to work remotely, set up online stores, fulfill significantly increased e-commerce orders and set up internal crisis management systems to keep all of our employees safe and healthy in the midst of the crisis.

How have the disruptions to the economy specifically affected sales, supply chains and production for your business?

The most significant impact of the crisis on our business has come from a substantial drop in food service customers, including local restaurants and wineries, and the somewhat less but still noticeable impact on our direct retail customers.

As such, our production has dropped anywhere from 20-40% over the past few months, as have our orders upstream to the producers we buy specialty goods from for direct distribution. We are fortunate to have a strong regionalized supply chain, especially for our own raw materials such as milk and cream—the longstanding relationships we have with our two dairy partners, both located in West Marin county, has allowed us to stay secure in our own production during this time.

Any of the impacts on either the workforce or the economics of your business and industry going to be lasting and why so?

I expect that we will see lasting implications of social distancing-related work habits as we navigate the ripple effects of this crisis. Our workforce has already had to create new segmentations in order to minimize contact and mitigate risk, and I believe that those guardrails will remain in place until a vaccine is available. As such, I anticipate more flexible working arrangements for those able to work remotely, more split shifts and scheduling scenarios for those overlapping in our onsite roles, and the need for more digital communication across all channels.