Our co-op works with nearly 500 local vendors and has more than 3,000 local products on its shelves. Last year, local products equaled 40% of our overall sales. Each month, we shine the spotlight on a featured local vendor to help share their stories and celebrate their role in our community.
We recently spoke with Claire Georges, the owner and developer behind Butterfly Bakery of Vermont. The following are edited excerpts from our conversation.
When did Butterfly Bakery get its start?
I started Butterfly Chocolates as a natural foods chocolate company in October of 2003, while working at Hunger Mountain Co-op in the kitchen as a baker. After leaving the Co-op at the beginning of 2004, I switched it to Butterfly Bakery and started selling baked goods to Hunger Mountain Co-op and other local natural foods stores.
In what ways has Butterfly Bakery grown and changed since it started?
It has changed SO much since the beginning. I started the bakery with selling scones, apple granola, chocolate chip cookies, and peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. We don’t sell any of those products anymore, but instead over 65% of our business is now hot sauce, with co-packing being our fastest growing sector.
What was the motivation or inspiration for the other items you have added?
In the summer of 2012, farmers market sales were slumping, and I needed to either do something else with my Saturday mornings or figure out what farmers market customers want to buy. So I started making “Farmers Market Specials” in which I experimented with different new things each week. Initially they were sweets, like cake, macaroons, jam, and lemon curd. However, then I started playing around with savory items utilizing leftover ingredients from farmers market farmers. I made things like bruschetta, pesto, compound butters, and most notably, hot sauce. The hot sauce catapulted into popularity, and now it’s taken over.
What was the most challenging or exciting item to add to your lineup?
Mustard was a real challenge. I sometimes refer to the “year of bad mustard” when every batch of mustard that I made was beyond bitter and disgusting. I almost gave up, until it finally clicked that I had been cooking it in an aluminum pot and the mustard and vinegar were reacting with the pot. However, even after that there were many challenges. Mustard is a humbling project.
What makes your baked goods, like cookies and bars, unique?
All of our baked goods are vegan, maple syrup sweetened, and made with whole grains.
What makes your sauces and mustards unique?
We use 100% Vermont grown produce. We have become the #1 purchaser of Vermont grown peppers in the world. We also keep our recipes un-fussy to let the flavor of the peppers really shine through.
Do you have a favorite among all of the products you make?
My favorite product to make is still the chocolate chip cookies from way back when. We don’t sell them anymore, but I still make them for my kids sometimes. My favorite product to eat is our Rum Barrel Fermented Smoked Jalapeño holiday hot sauce. This holiday season will be the first year that we open it up to wholesale accounts.
Can you elaborate on your “commitment to slow, sustainable growth using local ingredients?”
We won’t grow the business just for growth sake. We’re committed to growing in a way that we can continue to support our employees, our customers, and our community.
How much of your ingredients are, in fact, local?
By dollars, about 60% of our ingredients are grown (or brewed) here in Vermont. Also, that percentage will keep growing, as our local ingredient products (like hot sauce) are our fastest growing product lines.
Do you have an overriding philosophy or mission statement behind your products and your business?
It’s one of support, love, and inclusion. Humans are social creatures, and we will fail as a society if we don’t support each other in whatever way makes sense for each of us. I want to put my business dollars into businesses and people that I want to keep seeing around.