Imagine a world with only vanilla ice cream or plain yogurt, Chris Buono challenged.
“Of course, it’s inconceivable now because we have hundreds of different flavors of each of those,” said Buono, founder and CEO of Overland Park-based Buon-Riche Foods. “But I feel like that’s kind of where we are with butter and I just think there’s a huge opportunity.”
To fill the gap, Buono recently launched Bijoux Crème, a line of gourmet flavored butters. He launched the business in January and started selling jars in July.
Now with six flavors — raspberry passion, maple pecan nirvana, mango habanero obsession, honey orange bliss, sriracha lime sizzle, and roasted garlic and herb soulmates — he plans to add two more in the new year, including farm bleu charm and a yet-to-be-announced flavor. (For the purists, there is also beurre demi-sel — a lightly-salted butter.)
“Flavored butter probably isn’t going to take over the baking world,” he said. “But are we going to see raspberry croissants made with raspberry butter? Maybe. This is an adornment to other foods — like on a croissant or even a savory butter that you can put on a grilled steak or grilled chicken or vegetables, baked potatoes. There’s just huge potential.”
The European-style butter used to make the Bijoux Crème is organic and sourced from grass-fed, pasture-raised cows on an Amish farm in Iowa, said Buono.
“I went and searched for the best butter I could find,” he added. “Then I kind of work my magic on it to make it something else.”
He makes the flavored butters in the commercial kitchen on the Olathe Campus of Kansas State University.
“Without something like the K-State Olathe Food Innovation Accelerator, run by (manager) Bryan Severns, this would have been essentially impossible,” Buono said. “I would not have been able to or I would have had to drive somewhere much farther. And it would have made it a much more intensive and costly proposition.”
The glass jars of Bijoux Crème — no plastic used — can be purchased online and in six Kansas City grocery stores (three Hen Houses, two Price Choppers, and one Sun Fresh), as well at the Overland Park Farmers Market and other pop-up events like the KC Holiday Mart. Buono is hoping to expand into more grocery stores next year.
Click here to find Bijoux Crème in a grocery store near you.
Buono noted he is close to surpassing his goal of selling 2,000 jars by the end of the year and said feedback so far has been amazing and validating.
“When I’m there at a farmers market or an event, I’ve had women pull their friends over, ‘You have to try this,’” he explained. “I had a woman tell me she loves me. I mean, it was an older couple at Overland Park farmers market and her husband was right there. It was James and Charlotte. I still remember their names. And she was just like, ‘I love you.’ And I’m like, ‘Well, now I love you, too.’”
‘Wife-funded’ waves of inspiration
Buono’s 11-year-old daughter takes most of the credit for the business idea, he noted.
After moving to Overland Park from Massachusetts three years ago for his wife’s job, Buono — whose background is in tech, although he’s always loved to cook and had dreams of being a chef as a child — worked on several local projects, but nothing stuck, he said. So he began to explore entrepreneurial ideas.
Last year on vacation with his family in Miami, while out for a walk on the beach with their friends, his daughter and her friend started chanting “exotic butter.”
“There’s trees on one side, water on the other, no billboards, no buildings, no signage of any kind,” he explained. “I have no idea to this day — no one really knows — why or who exactly started it. (It was) one of the two of them. My daughter very much takes credit for it. We’re just walking along and chatting and I’m thinking to myself, like, ‘So weird, exotic butters. What is that? What does that even mean? Does anyone make exotic butter, whatever that might be?”
Buono said he started to wonder if he could make exotic butter or flavored/compound butter.
“So I came back home, got in the kitchen, and started with 30 concept recipes,” he continued. “I whittled it down to 10, did focus group testing, whittled it down to eight, more focus group testing, and then came up with my initial six flavors.”
The business venture, so far, has been self-funded — or wife-funded, as Buono put it — and he is starting to look for a co-founder; someone he describes as great at marketing — especially social media — comfortable in the kitchen, and willing to work for equity.
“The accumulation of my education — including an MBA — and my career experience and my leadership experience in my entrepreneurial endeavors have kind of led to where I am now,” he added. “But there are still gaps in my ability. … But it’s not like I can afford to pay somebody any kind of salary. So essentially, they would be buying on as an equity partner for the hopes of what things could become.”
On trend and on board
When Buono started the business early in 2022, he didn’t anticipate the recent TikTok butter board trend. But he’s on board.
“When I first conceived this, let’s say a year ago, and then became an official business eight months ago, butter boards were not even a glimmer in anyone’s mind,” he said. “So in that sense, I feel grateful because the timing is great. I think it’s a great idea.”
Instead of just using salted butter and adding herbs and other topping to the butter smeared on the board, he suggests starting with Bijoux Crème.
“I think using flavored butter just adds to that (and) it takes it to another level,” he continued. “On one hand, it means you have to add less stuff to it to make it good, but it doesn’t prevent you from adding more stuff.”
But if butter boards aren’t your thing, Buono said, there are plenty of other ideas for his flavored butters. He likes the mango habanero on chicken wings or suggests melting the sriracha lime on popcorn. The sweet flavors pair well with bagels or waffles.
One of his new favorite ideas, which he received in customer feedback, is using the butters to make grilled cheese.
“Now what’s great about that is, every flavor that’s available, you now have made a different kind of grilled cheese sandwich,” he said. “Maybe an American cheese is gonna go best with a sriracha lime flavor. But you use Swiss, and all of a sudden that goes better with — I don’t know — I’m going to say honey orange. When someone mentioned to me, I’m like, ‘That’s genius.’”