Douglas Sweets, our Featured Vendor for the month of July, began in 2010, in Debra Townsend’s home on Bolton Valley Ski Mountain, where it stayed until October of 2016. Since that time, her company has grown quite a bit, moving to a facility in Shelburne, VT, and acquiring customers across the northeast. We spoke with Debra’s daughter, Hannah, who now co-owns and co-manages the business, about their Scottish shortbread and what makes it special. The following are edited excerpts from our conversation.
Why Scottish shortbread?
Shortbread is a piece of home for us! It has always been very much a part of every generation’s childhood and we have enjoyed sharing our family’s sweet treat with others.
What is the baking process like?
The baking process for shortbread is long and very precise. Each step takes careful attention to achieve the same delicious buttery yet dry texture. It has always been very important to us that with each bite our customers enjoy premium-quality shortbread.
What is the process (or some of the different processes) you’ve used for selecting flavors?
Selecting flavors has always been easy for Debra. She loves food from all over the world, so experimenting with new spices and flavor concepts comes very naturally to her. Our biggest challenge is trying to not overwhelm our customers with too many options. We have over 30 flavors available right now!
Are there any flavors that surprised you or turned out to be even more successful than expected?
Our Traditional & Dark Chocolate is one of our simpler flavor options and yet it’s our most successful product. We do have more unique options like Strawberry Basil & Dark Chocolate, Spicy Indian Curry, or Pistachio Lavender & Dark Chocolate that hold their own on the shelves.
Was there a flavor that just didn’t work out or succeed?
Absolutely. We have had a couple flavors struggle. To our surprise, one of the least successful flavors we introduced was our Maple Shortbread & Milk Chocolate, a flavor we removed from our product list 4 years ago. We also have a Thai Sweet Basil and Peanut available right now that has been less successful on shelves. This flavor is definitely more adventurous for what is traditionally known as a sweet biscuit, but we really enjoy introducing it as one of our savory shortbread products.
What’s your favorite flavor?
Debra’s is Traditional as it reminds her of her mother, Joan, the original recipe creator. Mine is Pistachio Lavender & Dark Chocolate.
How much of your ingredients are local?
We use King Arthur Flour and Cabot Butter. We also grow our own basil and rosemary herbs for our savory shortbread products.
Do you have an overriding philosophy or mission statement behind what you do?
For a company that loves introducing fun and complex product flavors, we try to always have the same simple philosophy, which is to make premium products that taste wonderful. As customers of other New England companies, we remind ourselves that it just has to be that simple. We all want to enjoy what we eat on many levels, including knowing what’s in the ingredients, hearing the producers’ stories, and understanding the process by which a product is made.
What would you like shoppers to know about you, your company, or your products?
We are both a woman and family-owned company. As a mother-daughter duo, our business has grown in a very wonderful way. There is so much care that goes into Douglas Sweets and the products we produce, it’s important to us that customers can recognize this even if it’s just from a bite of our shortbread!