Economic development officials recently began marketing the former Robert Rothschild Farm property in Urbana, with a goal of attracting new jobs and investment to Champaign County.
The property has an unusual history in Champaign County and was home to one of the county’s best-known businesses for years. Here are a few quick things to know about the property.
How it began
The company’s website says the business was established in 1984, but the farm was initially started earlier when Robert and Sara Rothschild moved to the area from California in 1976. Just a few years later, they began selling raspberry preserves and eventually began selling other specialty food products.
A national brand
The business developed over several years, and its owners continued to experiment with a variety of other products including dips and sauces. Over time, the business evolved into a nationally known food manufacturing company that made items like dips, mixes, condiments and preserves under various brands, including Robert Rothschild Farm, Game Day Gourmet, Made in Napa Valley and Vineyard Pantry.
A local investment
Local leaders made a significant investment several years ago to extend a sanitary sewer line to the business to allow for an expansion and keep Robert Rothschild Farm in Champaign County. The city of Urbana agreed to spend $160,000 from the city’s sanitary sewer fund to extend the sewer line to the business. The Champaign County commissioners also applied for a $160,000 Community Development Block Grant to pay for a portion of the project, while the company picked up the remaining $467,000 cost. At the time, company officials said line was needed because the business was rapidly growing.
Chicago-based Glencoe Capital Management acquired Robert Rothschild Farm last year and consolidated its operations with Cincinnati-based Clearbrook Farms, a fruit-based food manufacturer Glencoe acquired in 2016. Glencoe, founded in 1994, is a privately held company involved in various industries, including food products, specialty chemicals, plastics and packaging, and early childhood education.
In Cincinnati, Clearbrook Farms produces preserves, butters, fillings and sauces.
A big industry
Overall specialty food sales in the U.S. totaled more than $127 billion in 2016, according to information from the Specialty Foods Association. The industry saw a 15 percent jump in total sales between 2014 and 2016, according to the “State of the Specialty Food Industry”, an annual report published by the Specialty Food Association and Mintel. By comparison, all food sales at retail grew by about 2.3 percent, according to the report.