Flavors of the Mountains: Olivia's Croutons - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Flavors of the Mountains: Olivia's Croutons

New Haven, Vermont - December 1, 2010

It all started in Francie Caccavo's home kitchen and over the years has moved into her renovated barn-- production of Vermont-made Olivia's Croutons.

"I want to be successful and I want to make a product that everybody enjoys eating and I want to be proud of that product," Caccavo said.

Proud she is, but Caccavo realized quite quickly that she would need to sell her savory bites outside of Vermont.

"When we started Olivia's Croutons it became clear very early on that if we were going to survive we needed to sell out of state-- to go someplace where someone really valued the Vermont brand and Vermont name," she said.

One of her first years at the Fancy Food Show in New York City, Caccavo was approached by a hospitality broker who has pushed her crispy croutons nationally. But even with a broker she still looks for business on her own, like at the Vermont Local Foods Matchmaking Event where over 40 buyers and 50 sellers attended.

It allows food sellers to sell on the national level by arranging meetings with potential clients-- big and small-- in a quick, speed-dating format.

"I think you can get the message across. Even the first two meeting this morning I felt like I had more than enough time in 10 minutes," Caccavo said.

"It takes a short period of time to have the conversation and make that connection and it's on their onus beyond that," said Meghan Sheradin of the Vermont Fresh Network.

While she was there, Caccavo met with several buyers including retail giant Walmart.

"Food is a growing business for us," said Lucas Coon of Walmart.

Caccavo wasn't sure if it would be the right match for her, but like any relationship took the first step and introduced herself.

"I think it's extremely important to create that sense that we're a part of the local communities-- which we are," Coon said. "It's not just the associates that work in the stores that live locally, it's the farmers that are producing stuff locally."

"Whether I sell somebody today or not I think we've increased awareness about our product," Caccavo said.

It all started in 1991 and by 1992, Olivia's Croutons was selling out of state. Today they sell all around the U.S. and even to cruise ships and airlines. She now sells an average of 20,000 pounds of croutons a month. Olivia's even incorporate its own flour into the bread and experiments with its own garlic-- what Caccavo says is all part of the Vermont experience.

"I'm a dreamer," Caccavo said, "which I think you kind of have to be a dreamer to create some of these visions and I saw us as being successful so we are."

Asked about her biggest goals, Caccavo answered, "I think to live-- to be happy."

Happy to sell her croutons to the world from her Green Mountain kitchen.

Earlier this year Walmart announced a program focusing on sustainable agriculture in order to reduce its impact on the environment. Part of that initiative is investing in local food. Currently Walmart is the world's largest grocer. Some critics say that will make its local movement a pretty hard task. Olivia's Croutons still isn't sure if it be on Walmart's shelves but says you never know.

Gina Bullard - WCAX News

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