Features

Claire Rachel Howard – HP Hood LLC

Childhood love of ice cream leads to a legal career with the manufacturer

Growing up in New England, Claire Howard knew exactly what to expect every time she opened the fridge: HP Hood products, from milk and ice cream to cottage cheese.

Hood has always been a constant and trusted brand for her family. The company’s headquarters are in her home state of Massachusetts—as is its iconic landmark: A 40-foot-tall wooden milk bottle, which has stood in the center of Boston’s Children’s Wharf Harbor since 1977.

Decades later, Howard’s still opening the door to HP Hood products—except now they’re in the company’s massive industrial chill freezer inside the food and beverage manufacturer’s Suffold, Connecticut, plant. Whenever she opens her parents’ refrigerator, she’s sure to find Hood chive cottage cheese and Brigham’s coffee ice cream.

Claire Rachel Howard | Assistant General Counsel | HP Hood LLC

Claire Rachel Howard | Assistant General Counsel | HP Hood LLC

“There’s something really special and nostalgic about the Hood brand,” says Howard, who became the company’s assistant general counsel in 2016. “It’s the ice creams I love and with which I grew up—and cottage cheese as well.”

Her particular favorites are from the New England Creamery line; its 14 flavors range from Cape Cod Fudge Shop and Rhode Island Lighthouse Coffee to Mt. Washington Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup.

Howard is also partial to Brigham’s Pistachio from HP Hood’s Brigham’s ice cream line. Her childhood home was only a couple blocks from the original Brigham’s ice cream shop, which makes working at Hood, now owner of Brigham’s, even more special for her.

“Like most of us on the legal team, I’m a generalist, covering everything from capital projects to trademarks—and I love all of it, especially having a hand in launching new product lines,” she says.

Cottage cheese by any other name 

HP Hood may be steeped in tradition, but it’s also constantly evolving and releasing new products. Howard is responsible for trademark clearance: logos, product names and brands. She also ensures no Hood product encroaches upon the visuals, names or taglines of other products.

“I make certain that our talented marketing team’s creations, from names to logos, won’t encounter any legal obstacles in the market,” she says.

For instance, HP Hood’s research and development team recently created a new dairy product: A dual cup, with cottage cheese on one side and mix-ins like granola, nuts or chocolate chips on the other. Howard worked closely with the marketing team on the painstaking process of finding the right name.

Claire Rachel Howard | Assistant General Counsel | HP Hood LLC

After rejecting dozens of names that were too reminiscent of other products, she gave her go-ahead on a few they all liked and the marketing team consumer-tested those, bringing back the top choice: Medleys.

Now, she’s handling all trademark related matters on the product, which is being launched in 2023.

“The dual cups are a fun new addition to HP Hood’s cottage cheese line, and I enjoyed being part of the process of getting them branded and ready for consumers,” Howard says.

She also helps with HP Hood’s growth and expansion through capital projects by working with the company’s 13 manufacturing plants across the country.

The company requires new machines and other equipment for new products. Sometimes, the pieces are so large that a plant may require expansion. Howard tackles all related matters from leasing and purchasing agreements for the equipment and construction contracts.

“HP Hood has always focused on quality and innovation, so such operational upgrades are key, and I’m delighted to provide legal assistance,” Howard says.

Machines to music

The constant advancement and variety of work is exactly what Howard loves about working at HP Hood, her first in-house role. For 13 years prior—ever since she graduated from the University of New Hampshire Franklin Pierce Law Center with a focus on intellectual property law—she had worked as an attorney for private firms.

“I was excited to come in-house with such an incredible company, despite it being a completely different work environment for me,” she says. “Family-owned HP Hood’s longevity and integrity, as well as its values, were extremely attractive—and I couldn’t refuse.”

Howard’s values drive her professional and personal life. In March 2015, she and a small group of friends started the nonprofit organization, Trust Without Borders, where she holds the title of founder and chief dreamer. Through mission trips, the organization provides resources to impoverished people in Honduras, the Philippines and other areas across the world. She and the group most recently went to Honduras in April 2023.

Claire Rachel Howard | Assistant General Counsel | HP Hood LLC

Howard had been running the organization with a close friend, who lost his battle against drug addiction and succumbed to an overdose in March 2020. The painful, heart-wrenching moment has lived with Howard ever since, and she’s found a way to help those battling addiction.

She helped open the Ray of Light Recovery Cafe, which was founded for and named after her friend. Located in downtown Haverhill, Massachusetts, it provides space where those struggling with addiction or those in recovery and their loved ones can speak with someone, receive information or simply have some companionship.

“We’re breaking the stigma and societal perceptions of addiction and helping people realize that this illness can affect everyone including your coworkers or family members most appearing to lead ordinary, commonplace lives,” Howard says.

She tries to bring joy to people any way she can, whether through her service to others and the community or by putting her bachelor’s in music from the University of Massachusetts at Lowell to use. She believes prayer and music can bring people together and help them heal. She and her husband are pastors in a church located in Haverhill, Massachusetts, and Newton, New Hampshire. They’re also part of a contemporary Christian worship team of around 15 musicians.

“I started classical in my career—private firms—and my music—a flute—and both evolved over time,” Howard says. “I’ve enjoyed every step of the journey so far and look forward to what the future holds.”

View this feature in the Vanguard Spring III 2023 Edition here.

Published on: May 2, 2023

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