Butter is one of the most versatile ingredients out there; You can use it to baste steak, bake cookies, spread on bread, or even carry condiments to flavor your food. To add to the humble fat, ButterBae.Co (ButterBae) makes kombu butter (edible seaweed), a bougie butter mixed with kombu marinated in spices like shoyu, dashi, and even caviar.
Its founder, Samantha, recommended how it could be used: “On bread, thick layers on crackers, on steamed vegetables, on grilled seafood and meat, in your favorite pasta sauce or as the finishing touch to your warm bowl of soup. "
Turning daily bread into caviar sandwiches / Photo credit: ButterBae.Co
She added that customers have also fried Chicken and Beef Wellington with their caviar butter to make fine dining at home.
A true blue foodie
The creator of ButterBae is a Penang housewife and self-proclaimed true blue foodie who lives to eat. It was only during the MCO that her inner chef was rekindled and discovered that other gourmets like her were again asking for good culinary experiences. This was also linked to the increase in the number of Malaysians baking bread at home during the lockdown.
"I thought it would be interesting to start a line of butters that can be enjoyed with home-baked sourdough (as a spread), as I noticed that a lot of talented bakers have emerged after the MCO," she said.
The fancy girls / Photo credit: ButterBae.Co
Samantha shared that learning how to make butter was a personal journey. She watched videos and recipes online to learn the skills of making simple kombu butter. "I recognized the healthy properties of seaweed in general, but also that it gave butter and foods a delicate umami burst," she explained.
After she got the hang of it, she began experimenting with her own flavors and developing recipes to make variations like caviar, truffle, and truffle bacon butters. In addition, they also make vegan butter to suit this segment of the market that may not have many options.
After countless trials and errors, she began distributing samples among her friends, who then asked them to start selling the products. ButterBae was launched in August 2020.
Who Eats This Bougie Butter?
"We believe our butter really is for everyone. We have lots of little fans and elderly people who enjoy it, as well as foodies," Samantha replied to the Vulcan Post.
Typically used in gourmet cuisine, Entier French Dining was one of the first Malaysian companies to bottle the umami butter during the MCO. The restaurant sells its kombu butter for 60 RM for 3 glasses of 80 g each.
For ButterBae spreads, a 100 g jar can cost between RM 18 for original kombu butter and RM 38 for truffle caviar. Other variations include truffle bacon (RM 23), Miso Kombu Butter (RM19) and Vegan Kombu Spread (RM18), to name a few.
When ButterBae first came out, they were often compared to the restaurant, which helped educate the public about such a product. On the other hand, it exposed Samantha to competition.
"We have always tried to advise our customers to be open about testing our products," she said. To keep her place in the market, Samantha tries to maintain the consistency of her butter by making it in small quantities. Unfortunately, this leads to other problems.
It's like shipping the COVID-19 vaccines
Another challenge that arose from selling such a product was convincing customers to buy the butter in the first place given its shelf life of just one month. In addition, customers are advised not to stock up as the quality of the product will degrade if it is kept for too long.
Therefore, Samantha has to patiently explain that the butter is made without preservatives and stabilizers, which helps customers gain confidence in the spread.
Butter is cuddled in insulated freezer bags to survive its travels / Photo credit: ButterBae.Co
But that's not all. As the news spread, KL buyers began to gain interest, which posed a new problem for Samantha: shipping. For the sale of cold-dependent products, cold trucks have to be delivered interstate, which is not cheap.
For example, orders of up to 3 kg via couriers from Butterworth to KL cost around 30 RM. In Penang it would only be RM12. It would therefore make sense for international customers to make group purchases, where the municipalities can consolidate their orders and share delivery costs.
That was an issue Samantha faced during the lockdown when interstate travel was banned. If this was not the case, she personally traveled to KL with the butter in an ice cooler every month and had her customers pick up the products from a central location or Lalamove.
For me, this is not a sustainable way of handling the logistics for a company hoping to grow. However, should Samantha's plans work as intended, she would eventually attract delivery partners and distributors who can cut those shipping and travel costs to make the products more accessible to customers.
For now, however, their methods seem to be working. ButterBae sold 2,080 jars at the end of March 2021 as loyal customers top up their butter every time they empty a jar.
- You can find out more about ButterBae.Co here.
- More startups that we have covered here can be found here.
Selected image source: Samantha, founder of ButterBae.Co