Ann Clark Cookie Cutters want to color the cookies it cuts.
“We think the cookie cutter market is about this big,” CEO Ben Clark — son of the company’s eponymous founder — said, holding his hands in a circle. “We own it. ... We think the food coloring market is this big.”
With that, Clark held his hands about a foot apart. Then he outstretched his arms to show the size of the cake market — a longer-term ambition for Ann Clark, which has already started offering rolling pins, parchment paper and chef’s jackets.
Ann Clark, which manufactures cookie cutters in its Quality Lane facility and ships them to customers and retailers all over the world, has begun making its own food coloring and plans to expand into other cookie ingredients in the near future. Clark said two test batches were promptly gobbled up by Amazon pre-orders and the operation will shift into high gear on Monday.
Ann Clark made 5 million cookie cutters a year during the past two years and are projected to hit 7 million this year, which Clark said makes them at least the biggest cookie cutter manufacturer in the country.
“We’re pretty sure we’re the largest in the world, but we can’t prove it,” he said. “We started saying, what else are people buying. Amazon tells you that. They have ‘also bought with,’ and what we saw was food coloring.”
The company started buying food coloring from a supplier and branding it as their own. It sold out twice, Clark said.
“Then we put in the big order for this year, and we couldn’t get any,” he said. “Steve (Montanez) walked into my office and said, ‘We can make this.’”
Montanez, who was co-owner of Vermont Truffle Co. before coming to work at Ann Clark, set up a lab in the breakroom kitchen and started experimenting. He said he had not worked much with food coloring when he was making truffles.
“This was a new experience for me,” he said. “The background was there. The tools were in the toolbox. ... It was a fun process.”
Montanez said food coloring is made from water, sugar and dye.
“The dye is an artificial compound,” Montanez said. “It’s a salt-based material. Don’t ask me how it’s made. I have no idea.”
So while the food coloring may not be “all natural,” Montanez said it is GMO-free, allergen-free and vegan. The dye isn’t sourced locally, he said, but it is at least from a U.S. supplier.
Mary Crockett, an in-home caterer living in West Rutland and specializing in baked goods, said she got to try out some of the product through a customer with a friend who works at Ann Clark.
“It’s really nice,” she said. “Some of the other colorings take a lot to get the icing the color you want, and then it has a funky taste.”
The Ann Clark coloring worked in smaller amounts, she said, without messing up flavors. She said the price was comparable to other colorings she’s used.
“If I could get it in a bulk size I’d probably use it more because I go through so much,” she said
Clark said the food coloring will be initially available though the company’s website and Amazon, with one tube selling for $2.99 and a 12-pack for $29.99.