PETALUMA – Three Twins Ice Cream, which started small in 2005 and grew to three retail operations in the Bay Area, has opened an organic production plant in Petaluma.
According to founder Neal Gottlieb, the increased volume has already scored Three Twins a distributorship with United Natural Food Inc., which supplies Whole Foods.
"This is a major step forward for us," said Mr. Gottlieb, who chose opening his own business over attending graduate business school.
Organic and green products are often in niche markets, with buyers limited to believers or the affluent, he said.
"An organic food that tastes good and comes at a reasonable price point can become a national brand. Look at Amy's Kitchen."
Far from national up to now, 35-employee Three Twins has been selling to restaurants and cafes, at farmers markets in the North Bay and from its small retail outlets, where the ice cream was made from an organic mix.
The mix, acquired from a local organic dairy, was costing Three Twins $15 a gallon, compared with $4 a gallon for non-organic mix, so having his own plant was a priority.
"We used to be able to make about 600 gallons per week in the shops and shipped about 50,000 pints per year. We can now make over 400,000 gallons of ice cream – over 2 million pints – per year," said Mr. Gottlieb.
His major customers to date were Whole Foods in Cupertino and Karma Cream in Florida. Of the three retail locations, in the Oxbow Market in Napa, the Terra Linda shopping center in San Rafael and the Haight and Fillmore area in San Francisco, the third does the greatest volume of business, he said.
Last week, Whole Foods began rolling out Three Twins Ice Cream in its Washington, Oregon and California stores. The product was also rolled out in dozens of other independent and chain stores as a result of the agreement with Natural Foods Inc.
"They couldn't handle us before because we didn't have the volume. Also, our ability to produce different flavors was limited."
Now the company is churning out bittersweet chocolate, caffeinated mocha, chocolate peanut butter and cardamom, among other flavors. Pints sell for about $5.
Three Twins, named for Mr. Gottlieb, his twin brother and his brother's wife, also a twin, has lined up local suppliers.
Beretta Dairy in Santa Rosa provides the milk and Wallaby Yogurt in American Canyon the cream.
The 4,200-square-foot plant on First Street in Petaluma is the largest dedicated organic ice cream factory in the U.S., maybe the world, said Mr. Gottlieb.
"We truly believe our ice cream has the potential to find a huge market. It's absolutely delicious," he said.
For more information, call 707-763-8946 or visit www.threetwinsicecream.com.