Sonoma is not as brash or sassy as its neighbors to the east and south. Its economy built around agricultural products like apples and milk, Sonoma has quietly been gaining on San Francisco and Napa as a hub of new innovations. From cider to cheese, coffee to kombucha, companies are built and trendsetters flock here to launch a name for themselves and for their pioneering products. We want to share a few examples of innovation, our favorite local food and beverage businesses, trailblazers all.
Sonoma Brands – Züpa Noma and Smashmallow launch Sonoma far beyond Wine
Bucolic, sleepy Sonoma is a hot hub of food entrepreneurship and culinary innovation in no small part because of companies like Sonoma Brands. Named for CEO and Founder John Sebastiani’s hometown, Sonoma Brands was launched to develop new packaged food brands. A lover of innovation and category disruption (his KRAVE Jerky reinvigorated the moribund category), Sebastiani is off to a roaring start, creating an entirely new food category with the gourmet, snackable marshmallow company, Smashmallow. Züpa Noma, a line of chilled soups, also launched in 2016, with flavors like organic beet and orange basil that honor the culinary traditions of Sonoma. “Smaller, more innovative brands are going to drive the change in what and how we eat,” said Sebastiani. Either way, it is all snackable and, dare we say, Krave-worthy.
Making kombucha hip seemed like a far-fetched dream in 2010 when Sean and Rebekah Lovett launched Revive Kombucha out of their garage. (Well, really at the Santa Rosa Farmer’s Market.) But batch after batch moved like hotcakes at the local diner on a Sunday morning and the Lovett’s soon built on the success of the original flavor, Boogie Down Craft Cola Redux to include 8 more varieties, some available on draft, all available by the bottle.
Taylor Maid Farms
On a hundred acre farm (dare I say hundred acre wood?) in western Sonoma County, Chris and Terry Martin launched fortuitously into coffee and tea after a friend suggested they start roasting beans in an old barn on the property. From this simple suggestion, a coffee and tea enterprise was born, supporting organic, sustainable coffee production from Columbia and Ethiopia to Brazil and Bali and even the Martin’s farm. (They now partner with Marin’s Silk Road Teas for tea sourcing.) The Martin’s have quietly built a rabid following of coffee lovers for Taylor Maid Farms, fans who pursue with single-minded dedication the unique terroir and qualities of single-origin coffee.
These are just a few of the new innovations in food businesses that call Sonoma home. Maybe it is the mineral-rich soil and abundant sunshine that attracts farmers and food artisans to this part of the world. No matter what brought them here, Sonoma’s culinary innovators find what they need to thrive among Sonoma’s mix of agricultural and packaged food business. With trailblazers like these on board, Sonoma’s future as a hub of culinary innovation is assured.