A food marketing executive with 30 years of experience at the Sterling-Rice Group plus a CEO whose family’s rice-growing company continues to develop markets for its products headline the North Coast Specialty Food & Ag Conference on Tuesday at the Hyatt Vineyard Creek Hotel & Spa in Santa Rosa.
Keynote speakers for the event, co-hosted by the North Bay Business Journal and Bank of America Merrill Lynch, are John Grubb, managing director of the Sterling-Rice Group, and Grant Lundberg, CEO, Lundberg Family Farms, which pioneered rice growing in the Sacramento area.
Presenters will also speak on how to grow a specialty food business, how to keep it sustainable and meet food safety requirements, as well as how to navigate working with new corporate owners.
“This is a foundational industry to our area. It is a part of who we are,” said Business Journal Publisher Brad Bollinger.
Each speaker will offer their company’s story and their personal insights in a presentation format like that of the popular “Ted Talks.”
With a 30-year career — half of which has been spent in as a consultant and half as a senior marketing executive — Grubb has led the marketing and strategy functions in retail, manufacturing, and food processing companies. At the Sterling-Rice Group, the Yale graduate focuses primarily on identifying strategies clients can extend their brands.
Lundberg Family Farms can trace its roots back three generations to Albert and Frances Lundberg who pioneered rice growing in the region. That tradition was carried on by their children who in the 1960’s sold their own rice brand instead of combining their product with other suppliers. Today, under grandson Lundberg, the group keeps looking forward, tapping the ability to raise the increasingly popular quinoa locally.
Renaud des Rosiers has been in charge of making sure food production also supports the community and the environment at Amy's Kitchen since May. Sonoma County residents Rachel and Andy Berliner started the natural foods company in 1987, the year their daughter Amy was born. Still independently owned, the company offers 250 different organic products.
Located in Sebastopol, Redwood Hill Farm & Creamery produces specialty dairy products under the Redwood Hill Farm goat milk dairy and Green Valley Organics, offering lactose-free cow milk dairy. In 2015, Redwood Hill was acquired by Swiss dairy cooperative Emmi.
Jennifer Bice will address what has happened since the acquisition, how the company has maintained its culture while planning for succession in the business begun by her parents.
As the first outside CEO of a 90-year-old firm in more than 20 years, Melanie Dulbecco had lead the company to 20 percent growth on average per year. The company refers to itself as a “90-year-old startup.” She will describe the impact of the 2008 recession and “how we navigated to come through to the other side.”
As human safety and food safety manager, Michelle Zimmerman is responsible for human and food safety and wellness programs at Alvarado Street Bakery in Petaluma. The Co-Op with 116 employees features certified organic breads which are also non-GMO. Alvarado has been in business for more than 35 years. Zimmerman has worked for the company for 29 years.
Underwriters for the event are BPM and Pisenti & Brinker, with corporate sponsorship by Manzana Products.
Registration for the event starts at 7:30 a.m. The program runs 8–11:30 a.m. Tickets are $65 per person or $675 for table of 10. Register at nbbj.news/food16.
Specialty Food & Ag Conference
Nov. 8, 8–11:30 a.m.
Hyatt Vineyard Creek Hotel & Spa, 170 Railroad St., Santa Rosa
- John Grubb, managing director, Sterling-Rice Group
- Grant Lundberg, CEO, Lundberg Family Farms
- Sustainability: Renaud des Rosiers, sustainability manager, Amy’s Kitchen Inc.
- Preparing for sale: Jennifer Bice, founder and managing director, Redwood Hill Farm & Creamery
- Managing growth: Melanie Dulbecco, CEO, Torani Syrups & Flavors
- Food safety: Michelle Zimmerman, human safety and food safety manager, Alvarado Street Bakery