San Rafael company cites Petaluma's rich dairy history, experienced employees

  • German Valencia, left and Francisco Bricero package organic ice cream at the Three Twins Ice Cream plant in Petaluma, Thursday April 29, 2010. Co-worker Edith Hernandez prepares the next round of packaging. (Kent Porter / The Press Democrat) 2010

Just because ice cream is labeled organic, that doesn't mean that too much is good for you.

"It will clog up your arteries just like any other ice cream, but you'll have more fun doing it," says Neal Gottlieb, founder of Three Twins Ice Cream.

Gottlieb has staked his claim in the organic ice cream market by focusing on the fun, from the company's homey name to his trademark green shoes. But when it came time to open a new production facility, he was all business.

Three Twins opened a new 4,200-square-foot production plant in Petaluma this year. It joins Clover Stornetta Farms, Straus Family Creamery, Cowgirl Creamery and Spring Hill Cheese in the town with a long history of dairy processors.

Gottlieb said he chose Petaluma in part because of the "very good availability for skilled workers" and also because he could locate on First Street in the same building with Cowgirl Creamery, an artisan cheese company. The two businesses share such equipment as a boiler, an air compressor and cooling towers.

Three Twins began in San Rafael in 2005 and gets its name from a time when Gottlieb lived there with his twin brother and his wife, also a twin. They called their home Three Twins, and Gottlieb said he liked the "cognitive dissonance" of the name so much that he took it for his business.

He wanted to start an "Earth friendly" business and felt that the industry was lacking. Too often, ice cream is made with ingredients "that you wouldn't put in it if you were making ice cream at home," he said.

With a product containing 14 percent milk fat that is loaded with sugar, he said, "you're not thinking about the healthy side of things. .<TH>.<TH>. People don't buy organic ice cream for the same reason as they buy organic milk."

Most people won't pay extra for environmentally friendly practices, Gottlieb concluded, but they will spend more for a quality product.

He believes that consumers will appreciate the practices of organic farmers, and he believes the "really good, clean tasting milk" will provide them with the moments of pleasure they expect from ice cream.

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