A home milk delivery business, in Pennsylvania, US was initially set up to deliver milk to local communities who found that it wasn’t always convenient to get hold of fresh farm products. The delivery business, Cow Belle, sought to meet local demand and needs. Since 2016 Cow Belle has seen a steady upward growth, however in recent weeks the business has been experiencing massive demand and exponential growth. So much so they are having difficulty keeping up with deliveries.
Cow Belle was set up in 2016 by Angie Rondolet. She saw a gap in the market and a need for home milk delivery in Pennsylvania. Angie says, “I noticed that more and more families were looking for local, organic milk and other farm-fresh products and it wasn’t always convenient to get them. So, I decided to fulfil the need and bring the farm to their homes.” Currently Angie runs the business with her husband and one other person to help keep up with the skyrocketing demand for deliveries.
Cow Belle owner Angie Rondolet runs a home milk delivery business, which has seen exponential growth over the last weeks. Photo: Cow Belle
Pennsylvania (PA) is one of the top 10 US states with the highest number of milk cows (see table below). It accounts for approximately 15.9% of dairy farms in the US. For Angie, choosing the right farm to work with was vital in making Cow Belle a success - the right farm needed to fulfil some criteria including welfare and location. “This was an extremely important decision and it took some time to make.
“It had to be an organic farm, it had to be a farm that treated the animals well and also within driving distance of the communities I serve to ensure that the milk would arrive fresh from the farm. We chose Apple Valley Creamery, it was the perfect match for us! It’s a local farm with organic milk. This small family-owned farm is located in East Berlin, PA. Plus, it’s Animal Welfare Approved, which means the farm meets the highest standards for animal welfare," Angie states.
Milk and other products are delivered straight to the front door. Photo: Cow Belle
Cow Belle’s products
Customers can place their orders via the website: homemilkdelivery.com where currently Cow Belle offers raw milk, whole milk, 98.5% fat-free milk, chocolate milk, whole cream line milk, skim milk, half and half, and heavy cream. It also delivers a wide variety of other farm-fresh products like butter, yogurt, eggs, juice, cheese, beef, poultry and pork. Angie says that customers also enjoy specialty items like pickled products, granola, jams, nut butters and coffee. We also have a nice selection of locally made soaps and some helpful items like milk spouts and carrier baskets.
I had to stop accepting new customers so that my level of service wouldn’t slip
Deliveries are made to Monroe, Lehigh and Northampton counties and Cow Belle typically delivers about 1,200 half gallons (1,200 x 1.9 litres) a week, with prices starting at US $1.99 for a pint of milk.
Cheese and milk are amongst the products offered by Cow Belle. It also delivers a wide variety of other farm-fresh products like butter and cream. Photo: Cow Belle
Waiting list since Covid-19 hit
When the coronavirus pandemic hit a few weeks ago in the US, it also led to many farmers having to dump enormous amounts of milk, not only in the US but also in Canada and in the UK. Amidst the pandemic and the milk dumping, Cow Belle experience a tremendous surge in demand. At the moment, Angie finds it difficult to keep up with this explosive demand to serve locals in Pennsylvania. Angie says, "I had to stop accepting new customers so that my level of service wouldn’t slip. I couldn’t fit any more products in the van. I’m still getting many inquiries a day from potential new customers. I have started a waiting list, so when I’m able to bring on a partner who can take over a route, that person will immediately have a great customer base waiting for them." Prior to the pandemic, Cow Belle made 120-160 deliveries a week and now Angie is making about 325 weekly.
Owner Angie Rondolet wants to eventually expand the service area and have many partners who can run their own route. Photo: Cow Belle
Typical delivery day
Angie says that a typical delivery day usually starts at 3am - it takes about an hour to load the van up with orders and loading is normally done by 4am. Before coronavirus, she delivered 3 days a week covering a different county each day. “In the past, my deliveries were usually wrapped up by 3pm, however, since the pandemic, I’ve been delivering 5 days a week and have had many 24-hour shifts. I’m looking to hire and find people to help with this surge in demand.”
To keep up with this demand and to grow Cow Belle even further, Angie’s future plans are to eventually expand the service area with more partners who are able to run their own route, manage their own deliveries and build relationships with customers.
“If someone has their own delivery van, I can train them. They’ll immediately get an equity stake in the route they take over and will gradually increase their equity over time. I’m really hoping to find a partner as soon as possible who can help me manage this explosive growth,” she says.
A look at Pennsylvania’s dairy sector
Pennsylvania's average herd size is around 80 cows, with 99% of all dairy farms in Pennsylvania family-owned. According to the Pennsylvania Dairy Study 2017, the state’s dairy industry is a major contributor to overall economic activity, generating an estimated 52,000 jobs and US $14.7 billion in economic activity in 2015. Both the farm and processing sectors are important contributors to employment and income, with farms contributing about 46% of dairy-industry employment and 36% of the total economic activity generated by the Pennsylvania dairy industry.