Home News and Features Butterfly Bakery Expands: Now Carries Goats Milk Caramel

Butterfly Bakery Expands: Now Carries Goats Milk Caramel

Nate Bregoli, caramel production manager, who worked previously at Fat Toad Farm, is in charge of the simmering vats of caramel at Butterfly Bakery in Barre. Butterfly Bakery is owned by Claire Georges, at right. Photo by John Lazenby.
When two local businesses set up at the Capital City Farmers Market a few years ago, neither could have guessed they would end up as one someday. But with Butterfly Bakery’s recent purchase of Fat Toad Farm, the two are moving forward together.

Butterfly Bakery produces its signature hot sauces, along with other branded hot sauces and specialty foods for other companies, through a practice known as co-packing, at their Barre manufacturing facility, said owner Claire Georges. 

Fat Toad Farm, meanwhile, had been producing its signature goats’ milk caramel since 2007. It was always a family affair, with Judith Irving co-founding the company with husband, Steve Reid and daughter Calley Irving, and daughters Josey Hastings and Hannah Reid involved at various points along the way, Judith Irving noted in an email. 

But Hastings and daughter Hannah “moved on to other life adventures,” said Irving.

And then, “Two years ago, Calley took a dream job with the Farm Viability Program while keeping a hand in the business, developing long-term strategy, etc.” 

Irving and Reid, along with “a great group of employees, carried on through the pandemic,” Irving said. But in the last year, Irving said, she and her husband decided “It was clear it was time to find another owner who would have the ability to carry Fat Toad Farm forward.”

The search did not produce the perfect fit, Irving said, until one day something clicked. 

“Just toward the end of the journey, Claire and Butterfly Bakery of Vermont showed up and it seemed like the best match we could have hoped for,” Irving said. “Claire and her staff have the experience creating, manufacturing, selling, and distributing specialty foods of many kinds, so taking on Fat Toad Farm caramel seemed a good fit.”

Claire Georges, owner of Butterfly Bakery in Barre, has recently acquired Fat Toad Farm and has added its signature goats’ milk caramel to her offerings. Photo by John Lazenby.
Georges admitted that at first she was skeptical. “I like making things, not buying things,” she said. She initially offered to take on the co-packing aspect of the caramel production, if someone else would purchase the company and manage its other aspects, such as marketing. 

But as they began to move forward, Georges said, they realized “the caramel is a very logistically complicated product.” A specific type of milk was needed, and Butterfly Bakery needed to gain certification to handle milk. Plus, “there’s a lot of things that can go wrong in production,” Georges said. 

While she enjoys handling the logistics of co-packing, Georges said, “I started to realize that there was a lot involved in the production of this, and that I preferred the idea of doing that for our own brand rather than for somebody else’s brand.” She contacted Calley about purchasing the business.

There are many similar aspects of the businesses, Georges noted, including making and shipping shelf-stable sauces in glass bottles.

“I like to say that we’re in the same stores but not the same aisles, so we’re not going to be competing with ourselves,” Georges said.

“There’s a lot of duplication there that we can eliminate,” said Georges, “and the two businesses actually sync really well together.” And, she noted, many aspects of the businesses don’t overlap, presenting new opportunities for both. Georges later noted she’d long admired Fat Toad Farm’s branding and felt there was much she could learn from the company when the purchase opportunity arose.

The logistics of obtaining goats’ milk also worked out, Irving noted. “In addition, her facility is a half hour up the road, so she could continue to source excellent fresh goats’ milk from Ayers Brook Goat Dairy in Randolph. Since goats’ milk represents 85% of the ingredients in (Fat Toad Farm) caramel, this connection was essential.”

The companies’ values also aligned. 

“Our two companies also share so many values in terms of clean and local sourcing of ingredients, supporting the local economy, and creating a working environment that helps meet the needs of local people,” Irving said.

“In terms of environmental responsibility and that sort of thing, there’s a lot of overlap between our two companies with their commitment to the working lands in Vermont,” Georges said. “So we get all of our peppers within 200 miles, almost exclusively within Vermont. And then they get all of their goats’ milk from a farm 20 minutes down the road from here. And that commitment to making value-added products that sell all over the world out of Vermont-grown ingredients is a huge overlap between our two companies.”

The closing took place in late August. Equipment installation was needed, and supply chain issues were challenging. But now, caramel is in production. 

“We’re making caramel,” Georges said. “We’re shipping it out. It’s great. It’s all working out.”