If you have not tasted the locally produced caramels from Cream City Caramels then you are truly missing out on a delicious morsel. If you can continue on and read this interview with business owner and caramel extraordinaire, Gregg Hutterer, and not feel the sweeping urge to eat a buttery and soft caramel then you may be not of this earth. These beautifully packaged delights are a perfect gift for someone you love or better yet yourself. With seasonal offerings, confection classics, and the more creative caramels such as salted potato chip there is something for the sweet and salty tooth in everyone. Owner and caramel creator, Hutterer took some time to answer some questions about his process, business, and everyone’s favorite gift, the sweet treat.
Maker Market: How and when did Cream City Caramels get started?
Gregg Hutterer: The idea for Cream City Caramels began about 5 years ago. I had a job where I had time to make cookies and candy during the holiday season. It was the end of the recession; and Milwaukeeans were getting into the local food movement. I started making more and more caramels each holiday season to see if people really liked them. They loved them! From there it was a matter of finding a commercial kitchen, getting licensed by the state, branding, packaging, and so on.
MM: What were your favorite sweet treats as a kid?
GH: My favorite treats were always the ones that contained fat! Things like chips, cheese, chocolate, caramels, donuts… things like that.
MM: How and when did your interest in candy and caramel making begin?
GH: I began making caramels back in the mid 80s, when my sister acquired a family caramel recipe. I love caramels; so I decided to give the recipe a try. They were delicious! Immediately relatives told me that I should sell them. I didn’t take that advice seriously until about 25 years later. Since then, the basic recipe has improved, and we’ve developed variations for other flavors.
MM: How did you decide to take this from hobby to business?
GH: At the time, my job was in sales. If I didn’t sell, I didn’t make a living. It was also the recession; so I figured I didn’t have much to lose by trying to make a living making and selling candy. I’d always been an entrepreneur; so aside from being a bit scary, this was right up my alley! It also helped to get encouragement from other people I knew who had started businesses of their own.
MM: What ingredients can you source locally? And why is that important to you?
GH: The main ingredients in caramels are sugar, milk and butter. Living in Wisconsin, you have to figure that we source all of our dairy products locally. It would be silly not to. Aside from having lived most of my life in Cream City, we also chose the name because of our location in the America’s Dairyland. Instead of using cane sugar, we choose to use beet sugar whenever we can, since it can be produced closer to home. Our spices come from Penzey’s. The ribbon on our packages comes from Cream City Ribbon right here in town. We want people to support us because our caramels are really delicious; but we’re a local company and we want people to support us for that reason too. In turn, we try to support our local economy and local small businesses as much as possible.
MM: What inspired you to do traditional German candies?
GH: Well, first off, we don’t make our German candies. Our German candies are produced in small batches by a family-owned German candy maker… a company much like ours in many respects.
Many of our customers remember these candies from their childhood. We wanted to import and sell these candies, in traditional flavors and shapes, for a couple reasons: One reason is that, being of German descent, one of the types of events that we wanted to get involved in, to sell our caramels, is the European Christmas Markets that we’re beginning to see happening in our area. There’s a big one, the Christkindl Market in Chicago, the Old World Christmas Market at the Osthoff Resort at Elkhart Lake, and now the Best Christkindlmarket Milwaukee, taking place at Best Place at the Pabst Brewery development in Milwaukee. Our feeling is that we’ll have lots of fun selling there; and we think they will be profitable for us! They’re much like the NEWaukee Night Markets in many respects… entertainment, culture, food, drink, and shopping! So, that’s one reason… they fit into my heritage.
In addition to our German candies being produced in small batches, by a family owned candy maker, they contain only natural, gluten free and dairy free ingredients derived from plants. No animal products are used, and no GMOs… and they’re really good!
MM: What are some of your top sellers? And do you have any new treats for shoppers at the upcoming Maker Market?
GH: Our top selling caramel flavor will probably always be our Salted Vanilla Caramel! They’re so sweet, buttery, and smooth; and that that extra salt makes them so yummy and delicious!
Our best selling assortment is our Chocolate & Vanilla Assortment. You just can’t go wrong with chocolate and vanilla!
We’re hoping to have our holiday flavors available at the Discovery World Maker Market. The best selling holiday flavor from last year is our Peppermint Bark Caramel. To make them, we take our salted vanilla caramel and flavor it lightly with peppermint, then we layer chunks of chocolate in the middle and top it with crushed peppermint sticks. Delicious! Other flavors that we’re working on are Dark Chocolate Lebkuchen (gingerbread), Eggnog, and Orange Cranberry.
We have a wonderful assortment of autumn flavors too, which will still likely be in stock. Those flavors are Pumpkin Spice with Pepitas, Caramels Apple, and Vanilla Pecan.
MM: Outside of the upcoming Maker Market where can people find Cream City Caramels?
GH: The best way to find our caramels is to go to our website CreamCityCaramels.com. They can place orders there; or they can click the “Find Us” tab to find out where we’ll be selling in the Milwaukee Area!
MM: What is currently inspiring you? Music? Movies? IG accounts? Blogs? Cook Books?
GH: Our inspiration for our caramel flavors come mostly from things we eat, or are seeing other people eat. During this time of year, you can’t help but be inspired by all the scents of the seasons, cooking magazines and shows, even advertising.
MM: What is your favorite holiday tradition?
GH: My favorite holiday tradition is being with friends and family… not necessarily big elaborate gatherings, but smaller, more informal ones, where we feast on our favorite foods and drinks, near a fireplace if possible. Gift giving is a favorite too; but as I’ve gotten older, what I give has changed. I spend less money now; and I buy more local things… art, crafts, foods.
Try a tasty treat of your own at the upcoming Maker Market at Discovery World on November 14th or to order online find Cream City Caramels at http://www.creamcitycaramels.com/