Specialty Food Magazine

FALL 2018

Specialty Food Magazine is the leading publication for retailers, manufacturers and foodservice professionals in the specialty food trade. It provides news, trends and business-building insights that help readers keep their businesses competitive.

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Page 51 of 91

"I can find inspira- tion anywhere," says Doug Renfro, president of the family-owned Renfro Foods, which manufac- tures 70,000 jars of salsa a day. "I'm constantly looking around at the best restaurants, particularly fusion-oriented, reading the condiment portion of the menu, traveling, judging chili contests, looking at magazines to see what the trends are. I just bought a 50-year-old cookbook with Mexican recipes to see how things have changed over time and how they've stayed the same." What's changed over time at Renfro Foods is the expansion and diversification of Mrs. Renfro's salsas, named for Renfro's grandmother, Arthurine. She and her husband, George, co- founded the company in 1940 in the garage of their Fort Worth home, first distributing packaged spices and pepper sauces, then manufacturing sorghum syrup and relish. Their factory opened in 1948. In the early 1970s, salsa entered the picture and sales soared. Renfro worked at the company every summer from 6th grade on but after college left for a job as a financial analyst and accounting manager in Dallas. "Coat and tie every day, as far away from Renfro's as you could get," he says. "I met good people and made good money but it sucked the soul right out of your body." In 1992, after seven years away, he rejoined the family business. Over the decades, the company has grown from "itty bitty to small," he says, with $23.5 million in revenue expected for 2018. Renfro Foods produces 32 varieties of salsa, including Mango Habanero, Chipotle Corn, Peach, and Ghost Pepper— the hottest, and in fact, too hot for Renfro himself. He oversees new product development, manages the company's co-packing business, and several other responsibilities. "I love juggling a hundred tasks at a time," he says. "I walk the tightrope between joy and panic every day. It helps keep me amused." Doug Renfro Renfro Foods, Inc. Hall of Fame 2018 Julie Besonen writes for The New York Times and is a restaurant columnist for nycgo.com. R ed Hawk, Chimney Rock, and Devil's Gulch sound straight out of an old Western movie, but they happen to be bestsell- ing aged cheeses produced in Northern California. Cowgirl Creamery's co-founders, Sue Conley and Peggy Smith, are pio- neers but not exactly cowgirls. They met at the University of Tennessee and have been integral to the Bay Area farm-to-table food scene for decades. In Berkeley, Conley co-owned and cooked at Bette's Oceanview Diner while Smith was in the kitchen at Chez Panisse for 17 years. From those experiences, they forged bonds with local farmers and dairy suppliers. None has turned out to be more important than Ellen Straus, the matriarch of Marin County's Straus Family Creamery, which led the organic milk movement in the U.S. in the 1970s. It was Straus who one day observed a young woman hitching her horse to a post in front of the bank in tiny Point Reyes Station, an hour north of San Francisco, and told Conley and Smith, "We're living in the Wild West out here." Conley countered, "Then we must be cowgirls! And this must be the Cowgirl Creamery." In the early 1990s, Conley and Smith had launched Tomales Bay Foods, a marketing company designed to help local farms and dairies connect with the Bay Area's top restaurants. Then they started making fresh cheese in their renovated hay barn, sourcing the milk from Straus Family Creamery, of course. Inspiration also came from their travels to France and England and friendly relationships with Neal's Yard Dairy in London and Jean d'Alos in Bordeaux. Cowgirl Creamery cheeses are sold at their shop in San Francisco's Ferry Building and hundreds of outlets across the country, winning dozens of awards. Conley and Smith have also published a cookbook, "Cowgirl Creamery Cooks," that shares their cheese wisdom and favorite 75 recipes for cooking with cheese. Sue Conley and Peggy Smith Cowgirl Creamery FALL 2018 49

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