‘The Toffee Lady’ Has a Sweet Business

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By Jill Fales | NB Indy


Newport Beach is now an even sweeter place to live, thanks to Betsy Thagard, Newport Beach mom turned entrepreneur, and her handmade toffee.

After making toffee for friends and family for years, it was those same friends and family always wanting more who urged Thagard to turn her passion into a business.

After experimenting with and perfecting different recipes, Thagard was finally satisfied with one she could call her own; the perfect blend of premium quality Guittard chocolate, rich butters and locally grown fresh pecans.

In January 2009, B. Toffee was officially launched.

Less than two years later, B. Toffee is being sold in many specialty shops around town, has taken a bite out of the corporate, gift basket, and party favor market and is being shipped to stores in Northern California, Arizona, Colorado, Texas, and New York.  In addition, an ever-growing on-line customer base orders directly from the B. Toffee website.

When asked about the transition from hobby to business, Thagard said, “The only hard part for me was moving into a certified health inspected kitchen in order to sell it to the public, because I love cooking in my kitchen so much.”

In Newport Beach, B. Toffee can be found in Promelis (both the Westside and Seaside stores), A Market, Hi-Time Wine Cellars, The Meat Market,  Irvine Ranch Market, Where’s the Party, and The Cellar.

B. Toffee’s signature packaging is a see-through canister, so rather than rely on an enhanced photo like some food packages do, customers can see the delectable treat, as well as the exact amount they are buying.  The simple, sleek, canister is sealed with a label on top that says, “Handmade in Newport Beach.”  It’s been a big hit among locals and with tourists, who love buying something that is made in Newport Beach to bring home as gifts.

Mike Matthews, owner of Promelis’ Seaside location and manager of the Westcliff store, says he is selling out of at least two cases a week.

“People love it,” he said. “Betsy has a great local following and we like to showcase local products, so it’s a win-win for both of us.”

Matthews explains that something else that separates B. Toffee from the other quality products on his shelves is the “personal touch that Betsy brings.  She personally delivers the toffee to the store will come in and do demos.”

Thagard also sticks samples in a bag for the employees.

Matthews says that “customers love the see-through packaging. What you see is what you get. People want to know what they’re getting for their hard earned money these days.”

In addition to her small-town business values and her expertise in the kitchen, Thagard has an unparalleled flair for style.  She has expanded her line to include gift boxes of different sizes, which are customized with a certain color bow and custom label, depending on the occasion; anything from hostess and teacher gifts, to sporting events, birthdays, anniversaries, college send-off parties or weddings.

The gift boxes are “classy, classic and simple,” says Candy Hirte owner of Where’s the Party.

Hirte has worked with many customers in Newport Beach, planning parties or baby showers, incorporating small gift boxes of the toffee for party favors.

“Betsy can put the baby’s name or incorporate any theme into the label on each individual box. We’ve done some really great stuff.  And because (Thagard) is local, there is a quick turnaround.”

But at the end of the day, no amount of style can replace taste. Says Matthews: “My customers say once you start eating the stuff you can’t stop.”

Many people can follow a recipe, but to make great toffee, Thagard says you really have to master it.

“You can easily burn toffee, or it can come out chewy.  B. Toffee is a flakey, crunchy perfection of sweetness accented with the extra crunch of fresh nuts, and a generous layer of rich chocolate. Not too brittle, not too soft.”

Many people have started referring to Betsy Thagard simply as “The Toffee Lady.”

Thagard is still having fun and is more passionate than ever as B. Toffee grows.

“Sometimes I wake up at night with lots of great ideas and then I have to tell myself, let it go until morning,” she laughs.

One of her ideas came to fruition last year during the holidays.  Thagard formed a partnership with the Culinary Arts students from Newport Harbor High School. She hired the teens to help in the kitchen making the toffee, a partnership that continues on an as-needed basis for large orders, corporate events, and holidays.

“It makes a difference hiring kids with a passion for culinary arts,” she said. “The first time I had a group of kids walk into the commercial kitchen, their eyes just grew. They were able to see real chefs finish up their shift before we began ours.”

Asked what she is most proud of with regards to B. Toffee, Thagard answers that her kids, now both away at college, are proud of her.

“When they started seeing it on the shelves in stores they were so excited.”

Then, spoken not like a business owner, or a Toffee Lady, but rather as a mom, she added, “I love that.”

For more information, visit the B. Toffee website at www.btoffee.com.




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