Food, beverage branding experts to headline Feb. 28 North Coast business conference

North Coast Specialty Food & Beverage Industry Conference

Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019, 7:30–11:30 a.m.

Hyatt Regency Sonoma Wine Country, 170 Railroad St., Santa Rosa, CA

Register by Feb. 26:

Food business expert insight on branding innovation and the stories of two companies uniquely positioned in the market today will be highlights of the North Coast Specialty Food & Beverage Industry Conference on Feb. 28.

The conference is set for 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at Hyatt Regency Sonoma Wine Country hotel in Santa Rosa. It is being presented by Bank of America Merrill Lynch and North Bay Business Journal.

The keynote speaker will be William Rosenzweig, social impact fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, Hass School of Business as well as the co-chairman and faculty director of the Sustainable Food Initiative at the school's Center for Responsible Business.

Rosenzweig is the founding CEO of Novato's The Republic of Tea and co-authored the book “The Republic of Tea: How an Idea Becomes a Business.” Serving on the professional faculty at the Haas School of Business, Rosenzweig currently leads graduate course Food Innovation Studio and with famed restauranteur Alice Walker teaches Edible Education 101.

Providing a look at the branding and financing of food industry innovators will be conference speaker Jonathan Marshall, vice president of VMG Partners, a consumer-products consulting firm. He was raised in Marin County and worked as an investment banker.

VMG's stated goal is to work with entrepreneurs “to help them crate, loyal, passionate consumers and fulfill their founding vision and the authentic promise of their brand.” The firm works with clients in the food business, as well as beverage, household products, personal care, pet care and wellness producers.

The conference will also feature the leaders of two pioneering food companies in the North Bay.

Marcus Benedetti is chairman and CEO of family-owned and -operated Clover Sonoma. Introduction of iconic mascot Clo the Cow in 1969 and creation of Clover Stornetta Farms Inc. in 1977 hallmarked the firm's modern day rise to a well-known food company. In 2000 it was the first diary in the U.S. to be certified by the American Humane Association.

Benedetti took the company's reins as president in 2006, CEO in 2011 and chairman in 2015. Two years later, the firm rebranded as Clover Sonoma in 2017. He has established new markets for the brand including Sacramento, Southern California, the Rockies and the Southwest.

Also speaking will be Chris Glab and Rick Goldberg, founders of Wildbrine, a Santa Rosa firm specializing in organic, probiotic-rich fermented foods. A “chief mentor” of teens involved in the area Ceres Community Project, he prepared large quantities of kraut. Goldberg and Glab helped Ceres sell the product raise funds for the nonprofit, which provides healthful meals to clients, including those facing health challenges.

That venture blossomed into the Wildbrine business in 2011, branching out also into kimchi, salsas and fermented beverages.

Other speakers delivering insights on the food industry are set to be Serafina Palandech, president and co-founder of Hip Chick Farms; Santosh Padki, CEO of Bare Snacks; and George Kuhn, founder and principal of Sonoma FoodBev Solutions.

Hip Chick Farms produces organic, sustainable and humanely produced meals. The Sebastopol-based firm came to be after Palandech spent 15 years helping nonprofits access private funding. She also operated Tugboat Events, an event production company.

Bare Snacks makes fruit and vegetable chips. It began with the founders' slicing and baking apples from the family farm in Washington. The company uses a proprietary, multistep process of drying and baking its products to create “crunch.” Last May, PepsiCo. Inc. announced an agreement to acquire the company.

Sonoma FoodBev Solutions provides sales, strategy, commercialization and route-to-market advice to companies. In a career spanning 30 years, Kuhn has served as vice president of sales with Revive Kombucha of Petaluma and developed sales strategies for Kevita, O.N.E., Coconut Water, Naked Juice and Izzie.

Tickets for the Feb. 28 conference are $75 per person or $765 for a table of 10. Register online at The conference is sponsored by BPM and the Healthcare Foundation of Northern Sonoma County.

North Coast Specialty Food & Beverage Industry Conference

Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019, 7:30–11:30 a.m.

Hyatt Regency Sonoma Wine Country, 170 Railroad St., Santa Rosa, CA

Register by Feb. 26:

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