Butter is one of the most versatile ingredients out there; you can use it to baste steak, bake cookies, as a bread spread, or even as a carrier for seasonings to flavour your food. To elevate the humble fat, ButterBae.Co makes kombu (edible kelp) butter, a bougie butter that’s blended with kombu marinated in seasonings like shoyu, dashi, and even caviar, for instance.
On how it could be used, its founder Samantha recommended, “On bread, thick layers on crackers, tossing them onto steamed veggies, on top of grilled seafood and meats, adding it into your favourite pasta sauce, or as a finishing touch to your warm bowl of soup.”
She added that customers have also roasted chicken and beef Wellington with their caviar butters to recreate fine dining dishes at home.
A True Blue Foodie
The creator of ButterBae is a homemaker in Penang and self-proclaimed true blue foodie who lives to eat. It was only during the MCO that her inner chef was rekindled, realising that other foodies like her were aching for fine dining experiences again. This was also coupled with the rise in Malaysians baking bread at home during the lockdown.
“I thought it would be interesting to start a product line of butters to be enjoyed (as a spread) with home-baked sourdough as I noticed that many talented bakers have also come forth post-MCO,” she recounted.
Learning to make the butters was a personal journey, Samantha shared. She followed videos and recipes online to pick up the skills of making basic kombu butter. “I recognised the healthy properties of kelp in general, but also that it lent a delicate burst of umami to butter and foods,” she explained.
After getting the hang of it, she began experimenting with her own flavours, developing her own recipes to produce variations like caviar, truffle, and truffle bacon butters. Moreover, she also makes vegan butters to cater to that market segment that may not have many choices around.
After countless trials and errors, she began distributing samples amongst her friends, who then urged her to start selling the products. Thus, ButterBae was launched in August 2020.
Who’s Eating This Bougie Butter?
“We believe our butters are for everyone really, we have many little fans as well as elderly who enjoy it, as well as foodies,” Samantha replied to Vulcan Post.
Typically used in gourmet cooking, Entier French Dining was actually one of the first Malaysian businesses to bottle up the umami butter during the MCO. The eatery sells their butters at RM60 for 3 jars containing 80g each.
As for ButterBae’s spreads, a 100g jar can cost between RM18 for Original Kombu Butter to RM38 for Truffle Caviar. Other variants include Truffle Bacon (RM 23), Miso Kombu Butter (RM19), and Vegan Kombu Spread (RM18), to name a few.
When ButterBae first launched, they were often compared to the restaurant, which aided in educating the public about such a product. On the down side, it exposed Samantha to competition.
“We always tried to advise our customers to have an open mind whilst trying our products,” she said. To preserve her place in the market, Samantha tries to maintain her butters’ consistency by making them in small batches. Unfortunately, that leads to other problems.
It’s Like Shipping The COVID-19 Vaccines
Amongst other challenges that followed from selling such a product was convincing customers to even buy the butters in the first place, given their shelf life of just one month. Moreover, customers are advised against stocking up, as the product’s quality will deteriorate if kept for too long.
So, Samantha has to patiently explain that the butters are made without preservatives and stabilisers, which tends to help customers gain confidence in the spread.
But that’s not all. As word spread, buyers from KL gained interest too, which presented Samantha with a new problem: shipping. Selling refrigeration-reliant products requires cold trucks to deliver them interstate, which isn’t cheap.
For example, orders of up to 3kg via couriers from Butterworth to KL will cost about RM30. Within Penang, it would only be about RM12. Thus, for interstate customers, it would make sense to group buy, where communities can consolidate their orders and split the delivery costs.
That was a problem Samantha faced during lockdowns when interstate travels were banned. When it wasn’t, she personally made the trips to KL herself on a monthly basis with the butters in an ice cooler, and got her customers to pick up or Lalamove the products from a central location.
To me, this doesn’t sound like a sustainable way to handle logistics for a business hoping to grow. But should Samantha’s plans work as intended, she would eventually secure delivery partners and stockists that can reduce these shipping and travel costs to make the products more accessible for customers.
For now, however, her methods seem to be working. With loyal customers restocking her butters every time they’ve emptied a jar, ButterBae has sold 2,080 jars as of the end of March 2021.
Featured Image Credit: Samantha, founder of ButterBae.Co