Mill Cove Baking Co.
What was the inspiration behind Mill Cove Baking Company?
For a long while I'd dreamed of opening my own brick and mortar bakery. I found it so challenging to visualize the transition between baking as an employee of a company to suddenly being an employer and manager of my own retail baking establishment. I decided the best way to dive in would be to start very small and to choose one or two specialty foods to make and sell as a wholesaler. I could work alone to begin with out of a community kitchen and then as the company grew, I could take it step-by-step. I didn't always intend to make crackers, but thought that they might be a small niche in a largely saturated specialty food market. People tend to eat a fair amount of crackers (or at least my people do!) and I love being able to add another flavorful and local option to the snack market. Now that I'm a full-time cracker lady, I really enjoy the freedom of a wholesale food business and may never transition to the brick and mortar retail bakery that I'd once coveted.
What are your key products and can you describe the production process?
I currently make two varieties of crackers: the "Every-Thin," and the "Real Dill." The Every-Thin is a butter based cracker with sesame, poppy, onion and garlic, and it tastes much like a crispy buttered everything bagel. The Real Dill is a thin and salty olive-oil based cracker with a hint of dill, and is a naturally vegan snack. I use a large 30-quart mixer to mix my cracker dough in 12 pound batches. I then divide the dough into 1 pound portions and use a sheeter, which is like a giant pasta roller, to roll the dough out into very thin sheets. I then hand-cut each sheet of cracker dough into diamonds or rectangles, sprinkle them with a little salt, and bake them until they're golden brown. I hand-pack the crackers into individual heat-sealed bags which are just the right size for a small cheeseboard or a large treat for a hungry snacker.
Where do you source your ingredients from? How are you involved at the local level?
I try to incorporate as many local ingredients as possible while also keeping the price of the crackers reasonable for my customers. Fifty percent of all the flour I use in my crackers is Maine Grain flour, milled in Skowhegan. All of my seeds and spices are organic and are sourced from Gryffon Ridge, a local spice merchant, and the butter I use in the Every-Thin is from Kate's Butter which is also made in Maine. Using local ingredients not only makes a better tasting product, but also brings you into a wonderful and supportive community of local sellers and makers.
How has Mill Cove Baking changed over the years and what is your vision for the future?
Mill Cove Baking Company just celebrated its one-year anniversary this spring, so the company is still quite new. The first year of cracker production taught me so much, and I have plans for steadily growing the business in the years to come. I currently work out of the Fork Food Lab, which is a shared-use commercial kitchen facility that allows food businesses to rent production space without having to invest in their own space and equipment. It has been an amazing platform from which to launch my business, but down the road I envision growing into my own production facility and having a small staff of cracker makers. I would like to eventually distribute my products to specialty food stores throughout New England and beyond, and to keep working to incorporate more and more local and organic ingredients.
What do you wish more people knew about your company?
I have so many ideas for new cracker flavors that I desperately want to roll out into production and to get on the shelves, but it is quite a process to add new products to your line. People are always asking when I will add a new flavor, or if I've considered making such-and-such a variety. I definitely have! But when you're a one-lady show, you have to recognize that keeping things simple and streamlined is often the most efficient way to operate, so new cracker flavors may have to wait for a time when I am ready to hire help and expand my production capacity. People also always want to know if I get bored of making the same product day in and day out. It's only been a year so far, but I use every day as a challenge to improve my production techniques and to phase out any inefficiencies. I also listen to a lot of podcasts while I'm rolling out crackers. I mean, a lot.