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NORTH CAROLINA FIELD & FAMILY – Butterfields: A Sweet Taste of Nostalgia

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Candy maker blends tradition, big flavor into sweet treats.

For Dena Manning, President of Butterfields Candy Company, the decision to breathe life back into the years’ shuttered confectionary was a result of both diligent market research and her own very personal connection to their signature “Buds” hard candies.

“I was looking to purchase a business and knew that Butterfields hadn’t offered their candies since 2009 after being in operation for decades prior,” Manning says. “I knew they were very popular with a nationwide following. In talking with retailers I found the demand for Peach Buds and other flavors was still strong. I knew how good the candies were because I kept my mother supplied with Lemon Buds when she was undergoing cancer treatment. The long lasting, strong flavor stayed with her, soothing the dry mouth that accompanied her treatment. They were a special treat that helped lift her spirits.”

Known for intense fruit flavor and a creamy coconut sliver center, Butterfields Buds are offered in a variety of fruit flavors including Peach Buds, their most popular. Rounding out the mix of tangy sweet treats are honeybell orange, key lime, lemon, and cherry. Their holiday mix, available all year round, combines peppermint, spearmint, cinnamon, wintergreen, orange, and lime buds to evoke the perfect yuletide spirit.

Manning, who lives in Raleigh, is a former judicial interpreter whose self described entrepreneurial spirit led her to acquire and re-launch the company in 2012.

Originally established as the Cane Candy Company in Winston-Salem and later moved to Greensboro, the family owned confection maker operated there from1924 through the mid-1950s. The tradition continued on with the Wilson Candy Company, so named by new owners who relocated the company to Wilson and on to Rocky Mount some years later. Sold yet again in 1989, the company made its most recent move to their current 10 acre site in Nashville, NC in 1994. They adopted the Butterfields name in a rebranding campaign in 1998.

Food Network Star Favorite

“At one point the company was distributed in all 50 states and several countries overseas,” Manning says. “After Food Network star Rachel Ray featured Peach Buds as one of her favored treats on TV in 2007, they couldn’t keep up with production because the demand became so great.”

Butterfields experienced some drama and decline some years later, and according to Manning lost operational focus after the couple that owned the company divorced, ultimately going into foreclosure prior to Manning’s acquisition in 2012.

Manning overhauled the production facility, reengineered, and retooled the manufacturing process to meet contemporary standards. Undaunted, Butterfields has come back strong, producing upwards of 2000 pounds or 100,000 candies each week.

“We are featured in about 30 states, with a very strong presence in the southeast. We are steadily growing, says Manning.”

North Carolina fans of the tiny treats with the big flavor can find Butterfields Candy at Harris Teeter, Publix, Southern Season, and a variety of specialty retailers as well as hospital gift shops.

North Carolina Packaging

Butterfields employs eight employees during their high season, from August through the holidays, and takes extra pride in using North Carolina suppliers for its packaging needs.

“We looked to Raleigh graphic designer Dan Early to create the colorful fruit art for our upgraded packaging,” Manning says. “The packaging for the gable bags is made by EastCoast Packaging out of Middlesex, NC and our cellophane is supplied by Global Packaging Solutions in Oakboro.”

Traditionalists longing for the hard candy inspired memories of treats from granddad or grandma revel in the notion that the candies are still made by hand, created in small batches in well worn copper kettles, using time treasured recipes.

“The flavors are mixed by hand throughout the candy,” Manning says. “It’s why the flavor lasts the whole way through.”

While manufacturing treats is a pretty sweet gig, Manning says one of her favorite aspects of the job is hearing from Butterfields enthusiasts far and wide.

“I get letters and calls all the time. I heard from a woman in California who tells me how great Key Lime Buds are mixed with her vodka. Others tell me Peach Buds make the perfect Bellini when dropped into champagne, and I’ve even heard from a North Carolina microbrewery about using buds to create a special beer. People really love them. That’s why they’ve been disappearing from candy jars since 1924.”

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