Full-Throttle Bottlers

June 5, 2015 05:00 AM
Full-Throttle Bottlers

Two California dairies brave the challenges of launching glass-bottled milk ventures. 

Only a handful of U.S. dairies have branched into glass-bottled milk operations in recent years. Pioneers Barb and Leroy Shatto launched their successful Shatto Milk Co. in 2003 near their Osbourne, Mo., dairy.

More recently, two California dairies have braved similar ventures:

Rosa Brothers Milk Co. - Since Noel and Rolland Rosa expanded into their own glass-bottled milk operation in Tulare, Calif., in September 2012, the brothers have doubled their daily dairy-to-retail output. They now sell 25,000 bottles a week, and have increased flavors and product lines.

The undertaking, says Noel, has allowed the Rosas to make longer-term decisions for their 1,000-cow dairy, located 15 miles from their bottling plant. “We’re committed and confident we’re going to stay in the dairy industry,” he says.

Without their vertically-integrated move, Noel says the Rosas might have exited the dairy business and moved into nut-tree production. Instead, they just made a major, long-term investment in solar power on their dairy.

“This is not an easy business,” he adds. “The processing side has as many challenges as the farm side. But we would do it over again. We know how it works now.”

California producer Noel Rosa and his family expanded into their glass-bottled milk venture as a way to remain in the dairy business.
(Photo: Catherine Merlo)

Top O’ The Morn Farms – Dairy producer Ron Locke launched his Top O’ The Morn glass-bottled milk operation in October 2012 with a focus on home deliveries. But he quickly realized he couldn’t sustain that business model in his mostly rural Tulare, Calif., customer base.

He then expanded into retail sales. Since then, his volume has skyrocketed from 400 gln. per week to 5,000. “We’re in 27 Albertsons and a dozen independent stores in Southern California,” Locke says. Most recently, he contracted with the Haggen grocery chain in Southern California.

Top O’ The Morn’s creamery sits beside Locke’s 1,950-cow dairy near Tulare. Financially, the milk-bottling operation hasn’t helped the dairy yet. “But we believe it will,” says Locke. “It’s definitely helped with a sense of pride for us and our employees.”

Locke advises would-be milk-bottling dairy producers not to be blinded by their passion. “It’s a lot of work, and it can take your focus off of your cows,” he says. “Do a good business plan and feasibility study. Those numbers really do matter.”

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