Scotland’s food and drink scene is filled with entrepreneurs of every stripe; from farmers seeking extra income to young professionals tired of the rat race, and even celebrities using their star status to fulfil whatever passion has taken their fancy of late.
Usually, their chosen products are trending drinks like craft cider and small-batch gin or fashionable foods like cheeses, chutneys and even hot sauce. However, a pair of enterprising foodies based in Edinburgh has decided to do things a little differently.
“We’ve bet it all on butter,” Nick Sinclair explains, when asked about their exciting new business that’s seen its products listed in some of Edinburgh’s most prestigious hotels, restaurants and delis. “My wife and I are both heavily into food, we love butter and had been looking for a way to make our passion our job.”
Having worked in London at various financial institutions for over a decade, Nick, who is originally from Inverness, decided to move back home to Scotland after meeting his wife Hilary and deciding to start a business with her.
He explained: “We originally set up and ran a successful pop-up restaurant in our house, called Stockbridge Social Club, in 2016.”
After spending two years running dinners for hundreds of guests, Nick and Hilary quickly realised that the thought of taking the Supper Club to the next level and opening a restaurant didn’t fill them with joy.
It was only after a fortuitous trip to see friends in Australia, that the pair, impressed by the local small-batch artisan cultured butter they discovered there, realised that this was something they could create themselves back home in Scotland.
“When we got back we started testing many different flavours of butter and various techniques of production (for the cultured butters) - thankfully we had many willing taste testers in the form of our Supper Club guests.”
After a period of experimentation they decided to stop the Supper Clubs and focus on the potential butter business,
Nick said: “The Edinburgh Butter Co was born in 2018, initially we soft launched to our distribution list of diners that had been to our dinners but it wasn’t long before we realised that we might be on to something.”
With Nick still working full time, Hilary, the more experienced of the two when it comes to cooking - having trained at Ballymaloe in Ireland - initially took the lead on production, churning the butter in the kitchen before driving around Edinburgh delivering one or two sticks of butter to the people that had agreed to buy some. It wasn’t long before some more exciting potential customers began to take notice.
Hilary stated: “Very quickly we started getting enquiries from Edinburgh based delis and restaurants, the most prominent and one of the earliest was The Balmoral hotel, who really allowed us to grow so quickly. We owe a lot to their willingness to support us.”
After a few months of supplying butter to various businesses, it became clear that the Cultured Butter was their lead product and that actually the demand for that was such that they would have to drop the other flavours for the time being.
Now stocked in restaurants such as Contini Canonball and Kyloe as well as delis such as Weigh To Go and Craigies Farm Shop demand for their products shows no sign of slowing - and it seems they might already have some had famous faces trying their butter.
"Well The Rolling Stones were staying at The Balmoral last year, at the time our butter was being used only in room service (we’ve since taken on the full events side too) - we asked the chef if The Rolling Stones would have had our butter and the reply was 'yes' which was pretty cool.
"Although possibly even cooler than that was at our first meeting with The Balmoral, we had been discussing uses of the butters and how we could work with them, it was at that point that the head chef said they might be in touch if the Queen ever comes for lunch to do a special flavour release, it was at that point that we thought we might need to up our public liability insurance cover."
So where next for this thriving new company?
Nick said: “We’ve grown from 0kg a week to around 70kg in just over a year, which is incredible, but we’ve had to be very careful to ensure that we can scale slowly, retaining the quality of the product, which for us is key.
“It’s a rare thing to be making cultured butter in Scotland at the moment but we have the resources to compete with the high-quality French imports. The difference is we’re local, there is no need for any great Scottish restaurant, cafe or deli to be importing French butter, we’re right here.”