I’m the first to admit that I can’t follow directions. Not even the cartoonish Ikea directions that are supposed to be interpretable in every language.
When you have a hard time following directions, baking can be a challenge. I pride myself on being able to open up the fridge and throw together a tasty meal with whatever I have on hand. But baking and I don’t get along. There’s no room for experimentation or creativity—except maybe when decorating them—and I’m simply not wired to follow a prescribed path in really any part of my life. Recognizing it is the first step to recovery, right?
After inheriting a huge tin of antique cookie cutters over a year ago, I became determined to learn the proper way to measure dry ingredients. I bought new spices and sodas and was determined to really, really focus when following a cookie recipe. My first batch of from-scratch cookies were Raspberry-Jam Filled Linzer Cookies that were to-die-for. I credited Ina Garten and my Kitchen Aid mixer. I thought my out-of-the-date success must have been a fluke. But, now everyone who tried those perfect morsels of buttery goodness ask me to make cookies on the regular.
Enter Ann Clark Cookie Cutters: high-quality, American-made cookie cutters available in every shape imaginable that are manufactured in Rutland, Vermont, of all places. I figured if I can’t ensure my cookies will always taste good, rise correctly or be the perfect golden brown, at least they can be cut into cute, Vermonty shapes, right?
I had absolutely no idea that there were cookie cutters made in Vermont. Imagine my surprise when I learned that the largest manufacturer in the US is right down the road in Rutland, creating more than 2.6 million cookie cutters in over 2,000 dies annually in heir 16,300-square foot facility that previously was a Keebler® factory. The company employees 24 Vermonters with 10-15 more added during their four-quarter production surge and they sell their cutters throughout the US and Canada, and have also shipped to Europe, the Middle East and Australia.
I spent some time with Ben Clark, son of Ann Clark who launched the Vermont cookie cutter business in 1989, to chat about what makes their cookie cutters unique and how being a Vermont business impacts their product line.
Get to Know Ann Clark Cookie Cutters:
Interview with Ben Clark, CEO, Ann Clark Cookie Cutters
How did you get started in the cookie cutter manufacturing business? My parents launched the business out of our home, and it began with pig-shaped cookie cutters, cutting boards and Christmas tree ornaments. My mom is an artist; she designed recipe cards that were attached to cookie cutters purchased from a supplier outside of Philadelphia. The cookie cutters and other items were assembled into packaged gift sets and sold to retail outlets throughout the country. Several years after, we decided to manufacture cookie cutters ourselves and bought out that original supplier.
What does the production process for making cookie cutters look like? We have machines called roll formers that cut and roll tin—plated steel—into specified lengths depending on the cookie cutter shape. These metal strips are then welded into closed rings. The rings are placed over a metal die and bent into shape on our custom designed forming tables. It takes less than a minute to cut, weld and form each cutter.
What are your most popular cutters? Usually it’s dependent on on seasons and product lines, but generally our most popular cookie cutter shapes are the moose, mountain bear, butterfly, dog bone, snowflake, maple leaf, gingerbread boy, Christmas tree, heart, mason jar, snowman, plaque, owl and horse.
How do you decide which new cutter designs to add to your line? We look for trends in the marketplace and get feedback from customers and cookie designers. We can move from idea to design to cookie cutter pretty fast, so we can launch a new shape and watch how the marketplace responds to it.
What makes your cookie cutters unique? What makes our cutters unique is the extensive variety of shapes and the quality of the detail. They also work well to cut dough.
Why Vermont? How has the Green Mountain state shaped the inception and success of your business? Vermont is where my parents moved to in the 1960s. So it’s home. It’s also a perfect fit for the type of business. We’re essentially a cottage business making a folksy product that keeps growing and improving. We’re big on quality in terms of our product and work environment for our employees.
How does the “Made in USA” label impact your brand and bottom line? We think that Made in America is what defines us and differentiates us from our competitor who imports millions of cookie cutters each year from China. The issues involved include economics, politics, and product safety. It’s so important to us that in 2014, we filed a lawsuit in federal court because our competitor was not marking that the imported product was made in China as required by law. We spent thousands of dollars on this action to make sure that consumers clearly see where products are made.
How do you keep your price point relatively low to compare with non-USA made cutters? To compete with low-cost products made in China, we have to be more efficient and keep looking for competitive advantages. In that regard, we have embraced lean manufacturing, which are principles and procedures to identify and eliminate waste from the manufacturing process and administration. It’s an ongoing process of improvement in all areas of operating the business. To improve we have to measure our efforts and constantly look for ways to get better.
Tips for Using Ann Clark Cookie Cutters
- Want to get your hands on Ann Clark Cookie Cutters and try them for yourself? Their cookie cutters are sold to hundreds of retail outlets including Sur la Table, Williams Sonoma, Crate & Barrel, Bed, Bath & Beyond, Wegmans and others. They also sell direct-to-consumer through their website and on Amazon.
- Making cookies for a special occasion like a baby shower or wedding? Ann Clark makes a huge variety of really cute cutters for just about any occasions you could imagine.
- Want to start your kids out baking, so they learn to follow directions (unlike me)? Ann Clark Cookie Cutters offers a variety of kid-inspired cutters from dinosaurs to ballerinas and bulldozers to robots and rockets.
- Need cookie recipes to use these cute cutters? Find a whole host of cut-out cookie recipes, dog bone recipes and Christmas cookie recipes from Ann Clark herself here on their website.
- Own a business? Ann Clark will make custom cookie cutters, as they’ve done for Geico, Michelin, MetLife, etc.
Categories: Made in Vermont