Artisanal cheese manufacturer Cowgirl Creamery has announced that it is merging with Emmi, a much larger Swiss dairy company.
Since it was founded in 1997 in Point Reyes, California, founders Sue Conley and Peggy Smith have expanded their local dairy business to become a nationally distributed artisan brand, reports The San Francisco Chronicle. The company has approximately 95 employees, nearly a dozen cheeses in its product line, two retail outposts, two cheesemaking facilities, and a Ferry Building restaurant.
With the merger, Conley and Smith will continue to operate their business as vice president and president, respectively. George Geis, faculty director for the mergers and acquisitions executive program at the UCLA Anderson School of Management, says that this kind of merger may benefit a smaller company like Cowgirl Creamery with capital infusions and increased distribution capacity. He says, “When a large company buys a small company that has a loyal customer base, they have to be very careful that the loyal customers don't get scared off.”
On the merger, Smith says, “For us it’s been a little bit of a journey. Getting older, Sue and I are looking at the future. We want Cowgirl Creamery to remain in Sonoma and Marin. This will help provide that platform for the future.” Conley notes that the partnership will give them the capital needed to open a facility in Petaluma to increase production, bring back their fan-favorite cottage cheese, and develop new products.
“We invented the way we make cheese without the benefit of engineers and dairy scientists. These are traditions that started in Europe, and now we will actually have experts who can help us refine some of our processes and help us create new cheeses,” said Conley.