New Wisconsin ice cream plant to be big boost to capacity
PETALUMA — Fast-growing Petaluma-based Three Twins Ice Cream has purchased a production plant in Wisconsin to supplement its local operations and to meet rapidly growing demand.
Meanwhile, the ice-cream maker, fresh off being listed among the fastest-growing companies in the U.S., is generating national media attention around its new marketing venture with baseball star Sergio Romo and has plans for two more scoop shops.
By the end of this year, the Petaluma-based company plans to boost its workforce to 90 from 60 now with the reopening of a scoop shop in San Francisco’s Lower Haight area, a new one in the city’s tourism-oriented Fisherman’s Wharf area and the opening of the Wisconsin production plant with six times the capacity of the factory opened in Petaluma three years ago. The company emphasized it will retain its Petaluma production operations.
Started eight years ago, Three Twins (707-763-8946, threetwinsicecream.com) now sells its organic-ingredients ice cream in four scoop shops — Napa, San Rafael, Larkspur and San Francisco — as well as nationwide to hundreds of markets and grocery plus cafes and restaurants. Last year, the ice cream went international and is now sold in Singapore, Thailand, China and South Korea.
“Last year we had $3.7 million in sales and expect to grow 100 percent this year,” said Three Twins founder Neal Gottlieb. “We hope to more than double that next year.”
Two main drivers for the growth are more sales at existing locations and new products, he said. A key example of the former is the expansion of the product line carried by Whole Foods Market since they first appeared there in 2010.
A key new flavor sensation is Sergio Romo’s Mexican Chocolate. It had been gathering widespread visibility for three months leading up to the Monday launch of the scoop shop favorite in pints for retail sale. National and regional news outlets highlighted the new package would carry the catchphrase “It only tastes illegal.” It’s a takeoff on the immigration policy-oriented slogan “I only look illegal” on a T-shirt the San Francisco Giants pitcher wore last year during the team’s World Series victory parade.
“To us it’s really about fostering the conversation he started when he put on the T-shirt,” Mr. Gottlieb said. “We thought it would be fun and interesting to continue that.”
With growing incremental sales and new, more complicated recipes planned next year, Three Twins was starting to look at expansion options in the past few months. The initial goal was to work with co-packers, but product quality in initial tests was disappointing, according to Mr. Gottlieb.
Then he heard about an asset auction in early August in the northern Milwaukee suburb of Sheboygan and rushed there on July 27. Two days later, he had purchased the equipment of five-years-defunct Zurheide’s Ice Cream and is in contract to buy the plant by the end of October. The plant is a good fit, because Zurheide’s worked with vat pasteurization, as Three Twins does, according to Mr. Gottlieb.
“It just fell in my lap,” he said.
The total cost to acquire and restart the Sheboygan factory by year-end is less than half of what it cost to get the Petaluma plant running. The new plant may make products currently produced in Petaluma and fill containers bound for accounts elsewhere in the country to reduce shipping costs, but Three Twins isn’t moving.
“We’re excited to stay in Petaluma, and the plant there will stay open,” Mr. Gottlieb said.
Three Twins this year debuted at No. 977 on Inc. magazine’s annual list of 5,000 fast-growing U.S. private companies, based on three-year revenue growth of 442 percent revenue growth from $690,000 in 2009. Three Twins ranked No. 17 among food and beverage companies on the list.
To continue this growth, the company hired its first sales director and first in the company’s top management to have significant experience in the ice cream portion of the consumer packaged goods industry, according to Mr. Gottlieb. Coming on board in mid-September, Darryl Davis for the past seven years was in top sales management for New Jersey-based Ciao Bella Gelato, most recently as vice president of retail sales. Previously, was in sales positions for Haagen-Daz, Eskimo Pie and Breyers brands.
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