How it all began:
Z Specialty Food is “based in Woodland and run by a Davis grown family!” Even if you don’t recognize the name Z Specialty Food, if you shop at the Co-op you know Moon Shine Trading Company and Island of the Moon Apiaries, two of the brands under the umbrella brand of Z Specialty. The third is Cowboy Caviar, which the Co-op does not currently carry.
Moon Shine Trading Company was founded in Winters by Ishai Zeldner in 1979. In 1981, his future wife Amina Harris, joined him and together they built a thriving business. Around the same time Ishai was starting Moon Shine, Island of the Moon was getting started as well in Esparto. When the owners were ready to move on to something new, Ishai bought the company and decided to keep it as a separate brand. In 1998, having outgrown their space in Winters, they moved to their current location in Woodland.
Carefully Sourced and Minimally Processed:
From canning jars full of Yellow Star Thistle Honey, Z Specialty Food now processes over 30 different varieties, 70-80% of which are sourced from local beekeepers. The 20-30% that aren’t local are specialty varieties that are very hard to get. Some, like a sourwood honey from the East coast, are so special they can only get a few buckets, not even a full drum. These are labeled as reserve honey.
Most of the honey does come in large drums directly from the beekeepers. When ready to process, the drums are moved into the warming room, which is kept at 120° for 3-5 days. The honey is then pumped directly from the drum, though the filter into the bottling room. Many honey companies would just bottle the honey now, but here, to ensure the clearest honey possible, Z Specialty Food takes an extra step and allows the honey to sit in the tank overnight to settle. As it sits a fine layer of beeswax rises to the top and is skimmed off before the bottling.
Z Specialty has received many awards for their products, all of which are certified Kosher. But the product is not the only thing in their business they show great care for. Their employees all make living wage and are provided with healthcare, paid holidays and sick leave and retirement planning all on top of working for a small company that feels like a family.
A look to the future:
The company is staying in the family through the next generation. Ishai and Amina’s son Josh, the “Nectar Director”, has stepped up as head of the company since his father’s passing in early 2018. His mother and sister are both still involved in the company and Amina is the Director of the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center. Josh has been expanding their local partnerships as well. They have partnered with the Sacramento area’s only local meadery, Strad, as well as many local breweries including Yolo Brewing in West Sacramento, 50/50 in Truckee, New Glory in Sacramento, Moksa in Eldorado Hills, and Moonraker in Auburn.
Z Specialty Food also participates in a number of events in the community, including being one of the companies organizing the California Honey Festival, as well as hosting Warehouse sales at their facility around the holidays.
The next exciting step in their journey is building a new facility, as they are once again outgrowing their space. The property this will be built on is just down the street from the current warehouse. As well as a larger manufacturing and packaging space, the new facility will have a series of pollinator gardens designed with Whole System Designs and room to grow in the future. They hope to break ground in May of 2019.
When asked for a quote that captures their business philosophy, Josh wrote: “Life is the flower for which love is the honey."