By Kim Burns, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets
The Covid-19 pandemic posed supply chain challenges to value-added dairy producers, but an unexpected anomaly emerged from the unprecedented healthcare crisis: the butter boom. Sales skyrocketed for the spreadable staple in 2020. The increased demand for butter exposed both a soft spot and an opportunity for Ploughgate Creamery of Fayston, Vermont. This small Vermont business was able to meet this demand for their existing product line with the help of a Dairy Marketing and Branding Services Grant from the Northeast Dairy Business Innovation Center (NE-DBIC).
Ploughgate Creamery has a crew of five butter production personnel and manufactures 700 - 1,000 pounds of cultured butter a week. The company was founded on a passion of reviving butter-making tradition that drew upon founder Marisa Mauro’s background in farming and cheese/butter product development. Mauro identified a need to strategize as the supply of cream plateaued and the demand for butter increased.
The NE-DBIC grant awarded Ploughgate Creamery $24,800 to create a digital marketing strategy and overhaul its website. The project sought to increase profit margins and to ensure the financial success of the business in the long term. Through the grant, they contracted Pivot Marketing, a digital marketing agency to convert its website to a more e-commerce friendly platform. This allowed Ploughgate to moderate website traffic and maximize sales. Pivot Marketing also completed a Search Engine Optimization Audit which is a process that analyzes the website’s presence on search platforms, such as Google.
Ploughgate Creamery also contracted web designer and graphic designer Andrew Dernavich to develop the necessary marketing materials to drive web traffic, engage customers, and improve the quality of the products that are shipped. He also helped create a branded and recyclable shipping box. Local artist, Caitlin Hirshberg, did informative drawings and watercolor paintings that suggested creative ways to use the butter.
According to Mauro, Ploughgate has exceeded their marketing and branding goals. In 2020 Ploughgate Creamery had $17.6k in online sales. In 2022, with the help of the grant, Ploughgate Creamery had $40k in online sales. Mauro noted that the grant helped her feel more connected to staff, customers, and the outside world during the isolating pandemic. When discussing the benefit of the NE-DBIC Dairy Marketing and Branding Services Grant, Mauro said, “I feel lucky to be a small business owner in Vermont.”
Check out Ploughgate Creamery’s new and improved website at www.ploughgate.com .
Photo Courtesy of Ali Kaukas