Specialty Food Magazine

WINTER 2015

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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David Gremmels, Rogue Creamery I n 2002, David Gremmels and his partner Cary Bryant were set to open a wine and cheese bar in southern Oregon—but wound up buying a creamery instead. Within a year they were winning international awards. Inspiration Gremmels and Bryant discovered Rogue Creamery when they were pulling together the menu for their planned restaurant. Operating since the 1930s, the creamery was going under, and the couple felt compelled to save it, even though they knew virtually nothing about making cheese. Gremmels had served as executive vice president of product design and development for Harry & David, and Bryant had an accessories business. But all it took was spending a day with Rogue cheesemaker Ignazio Vella, the son of founder Tom Vella, making a vat of cheese, to find their new passion. "I remember the whole process so clearly and feeling so exhausted but inspired and exhilarated," Gremmels says. "I felt that this was a business we could put our energy toward. It was a historic brand and it was important to preserve it and move it forward." Impact Rogue Creamery grew from two employees in 2002 to a bustling 42 today. "By buying this business we have touched many more lives than if we'd opened the wine and cheese bar," says Gremmels. In its first year, Rogue River blue cheese won the title of Best Blue Cheese in the World at the World Cheese Awards in London. "It changed the landscape for us," Gremmels says. "There was an instant demand for our cheese." Year after year, the awards have kept coming for their Caveman Blue, Crater Lake Blue, Echo Mountain Blue, Oregonzola, and Lavender TouVelle, among others. Gremmels and Bryant bought an 80-acre organic dairy farm four years ago, restored the land, and got a new dairy up and running in 2014. A minimum of 20 percent in kind and profits combined serves the local community, sponsoring independent film programs, Cycle Oregon, and the Oregon Cheese Guild. "There are two things that set me apart in my leadership style: giving individuals room to succeed and express themselves and [col- laborating] with our leadership on our mission," says Gremmels, now in his early 50s. The company is committed to sustainability, service, and the art and tradition of creating handmade cheese using organic, antibiotic-free dairy products from small farms and producers. Gremmels, an avid cyclist, encourages sustainable practices among his employees, giving them a stipend for bus passes and carpools. Free bikes are provided for those who commit to ride to work at least 45 days a year. The Nellie Green Pedal Power Program, named for Gremmels' grandmother, has spun off to other companies, from a local banking institution to Cowgirl Creamery in California. The Future Rogue Creamery is committed to renewable resources and will soon be 50 percent powered by solar energy. "We're analyzing our carbon footprint and have reduced our waste tenfold over the past five years by increasing our recycling and managing the packaging that comes into our facility," Gremmels says. The next step is to convert the creamery's boiler to low-carbon as well as acquire more efficient refrigeration sys- tems. The ultimate goal: to have zero impact by 2021. Gremmels gives employees a stipend for bus passes and carpools and provides free bikes to those who commit to ride to work at least 45 days a year. 2015 LEADERSHIP AWARD: BUSINESS LEADERSHIP 24 ❘ SPECIALTY FOOD MAGAZINE specialtyfood.com

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