Eleven years ago, brothers Noel and Rolland Rosa knew they had to make a change if their three-generation family dairy business had any hope of continuing for a fourth.
The commodity milk industry was changing, and the future of their co-owned company hung in the balance. They decided to switch from producing milk for other brands to building a unique, quality-driven brand of their own with Rosa Brothers Milk Company.
“Very stressful,” Noel recalled of the decision, investment, planning, and building of their company. “We basically had to bet it all. It was a large capital investment, and there was really no shortcut.”
That gamble has paid off handsomely. The brothers and their staff of 40 have successfully pivoted, rebranded, diversified, and expanded to the point that they now have a distribution network that’s put their milk (including seven exotic flavors), 15 flavors of ice cream, five flavors of coffee creamer and seasonal eggnog in more than 800 stores throughout California. Rosa Brothers was named the 2018 Tulare Chamber of Commerce Large Business of the Year.
Business is booming. Enough so that the company is now underway with a 9,000-square-foot office and cold storage expansion in Tulare. That goes along with their 6,000-square-foot creamery in Tulare and 500-acre and 1,000-cow dairy farm near Hanford.
The key to their success, said Noel, is a simple, nonnegotiable business model: locally sourced dairy with the bare minimum of additives and, in the case of milk, glass bottles. Tours are available to allow for complete transparency.
“Our motto from the beginning was, ‘Fresh, local, and natural,’” Noel said. “We wanted to make the freshest product that we could.”
In other words, Rosa Brothers is doing dairy the old-fashioned way. And they have plenty of firsthand knowledge about the industry’s history.
Noel and Rolland’s grandparents immigrated from Portugal’s Azores Islands to Central California around 1900. Their grandfather began milking cows to make a living and eventually bought the same land near Hanford where Noel and Rolland still operate. Their grandfather, and then father, owned the dairy before the brothers bought it in 1998. Now, much of their model is a return to the roots of how their grandfather would have operated initially — pure, fresh dairy.
Noel said that they owe a lot of their success to tremendous support from their Rosa Brothers team, their local communities, and the dairy industry.
“Really, farming and dairy is family,” Noel said.
Family. An important theme in the Rosa Brothers story.