Smoother than Honey

The success of Velvet Bees Honey Butter shows the Twin Cities can hold sweet rewards for a family business

By Kiley Petersen
Thursday, August 18, 2016

Krista and Steve Aspinwalls’ story begins during a rough patch in 2010 — with the economy on the downturn. The couple decided to leave their home in New Mexico for Krista’s native Minnesota, hoping that the traditionally thriving, innovative Twin Cities would be kind to them. Krista’s mother provided the couple with the idea for Velvet Bees Honey Butter. “My mom was making honey butter to give to friends and family and sell at church for a little extra cash,” Krista says. “She gave us this old, old recipe. It came from a church cookbook that she found way up in northern Minnesota. Well, the recipe stuck and we got our license and started selling it at farmers markets and craft shows in 2011. The rest, as they say, is history.” The couple began KAFFA Family Foods and started working out of a shared commercial kitchen in St. Paul, originally selling to farmer’s markets and other small retailers.

The popularity of their Velvet Bees Honey Butter is due to simple ingredients and a secret process similar to canning (like most recipes, some things need to stay in the family). “We use five ingredients: honey, butter, heavy cream, 100% pure cane sugar and vanilla extract,” Krista says. “When we started we were small enough to use local beekeepers, and we still look for true source certification. That’s our assurance that the honey is 100%, not corn syrup, and ethically sourced. Our dairy is from the Hastings Co-op Creamery and Polka Dot Dairy. Our vanilla is natural, GMO-free and organic.” The honey butter is famous for its smooth velvet-like texture (hence the name) and can be found locally in Kowalski’s, Lunds & Byerleys, Surdyk’s, various co-ops, and also began selling in Midwest Whole Foods stores.

What’s next for the small family-owned business? “World domination!” Krista jokes. Velvet Bees is looking for ways to increase production, sell in larger stores and branch out into different flavors of honey butter. The Aspinwalls’ success is due in large part to their planning and perseverance despite financial obstacles. Turns out that you can catch more flies — or bees, or customers — with honey.